These are only partially gathered and semi-presented thoughts from the past few days amidst very complete exhaustion.
Monday was a better day. We had found temporary housing for nearly every family. We used some community funds to give a small amount to each family based on their size–either $15, $20, or $30. This primarily covered the rent they needed to up and pay in their new, more expensive homes.
Most are within walking distance. Most moved into concrete one or two room apartments, costing between $20 and $45 a month. They were paying $10 on the property across from us, so this was a big increase and may not be permanent.
A single mom and her son moved about two kilometers away into an already-built home for $15 a month. This is a $5 increase–about a day’s wage–but more doable. She is farther, but also in an established community there. She has also been our primary Karen translator, so we can visit to chat and keep in touch. We are already discussing how we can be helping her as she moves out of her comfort zone of community after her husband just recently left her.
A bigger family rebuilt at the migrant school they all attend nearby, and they’ll rent there for $15–a doable increase and more permanent solution. The father did such a great job at finding a plan on Saturday, getting the wood moved over Sunday, and having everything rebuilt by Tuesday. Amazing. He’s in his new house above, in the middle of loading in items–and he’s still smiling!
There is so much to be thankful for. They do have a solution for at least a month. We have been able to help move many people’s things, and their wood is currently being stored in our yard. They are waiting to see if they’ll be able to find a place to rebuild, or if they’ll just sell it in a month or two.
Stephen’s Burmese teacher has been an incredible help with translation and dealing with difficult conversations. We are so thankful for his help day after day.
It is odd to see what people value: what is thrown out, what is packed up. It tells you a lot about people.
It is also odd to see people pack up and move your trash. We loaded up big containers, old suitcases, old clothes, a broken drying rack, cupboards, broken shovels…all things we had thrown out or given away. Things with our names on them.
Another thing to give thanks for: Aung Moo! Does anyone remember his story? He was carried to our house by friends in October; he was seizing. We learned he had meningitis and it went to his brain, causing encephalitis. He was in the hospital for three weeks, miraculously lived, and was sent home unable to walk, care for himself, or see due to cordial blindness.
Now, by more miracles, he is able to see about three feet in front of him! He can identify colors, and he is doing really, really well. He recognized Stephen, and he seems to remember that we helped him. So sweet.
We are struggling to ensure he’s cared for. We asked a few families if they might take him in exchange for us helping with rent and food, but they all seem so overwhelmed by recent events, it is just too much for them.
For now, he is safe in his current home. We are providing food to a nearby family who is cooking for him and bringing food over. Otherwise, we are praying–for a family to care for him, for provision for the food, for continued miracles with his vision.
And otherwise, we are giving thanks for his improvements, all of which are a complete miracle.
Stephen is so good at this–at walking into situations and living life with people. On Friday morning, I was sitting inside and unsure what to do with the ten people sitting outside. They were so sad, I was so sad, and I didn’t know what to say.
Stephen came over and said, “They are all sitting over there, and I think we should just sit with them. Do you want to bring a couple toys over for two or three kids sitting around? Maybe they just need a distraction.”
I was skeptical. Just go sit with them? We can’t actually do anything. What if I cry? What if its awkward?
But he was completely right. I colored with two kids and crashed cars into each other. He practiced his Burmese. We sat. We let them know we cared enough to just be here.
I don’t know the word for it, really, but I want to say pastoral. Not in the sense of preaching or teaching, but in the sense of sitting with and living life with people. Loving the person in front of you. Looking for little ways to care for them.
He is perfect at finding a little thing that will help them. I remember the day he came in and asked if he could use some money to buy a new clay fire pot for one of the women. He said she dropped hers and it cracked, and she looked like she might crack, too. He just thought it might be something small that could let her know it was going to be okay.
He always thinks of those things: this person needs a hammer; this person needs a new pair of shoes. And he’s always right: it makes their day. I think less about whatever it is and more than someone is watching out for them. Someone has their backs, probably when it feels like no one does.
I’m so glad he’s here with me. I’m so glad that he helps me to see how to look into the situation, to look out for people, and care for them well.
After a couple busy weeks and a few Sundays busy with travel, we took a Sabbath last Thursday. We chose the day somewhat arbitrarily; we just knew we were wearing thin and asked Partners to take a personal day to rest.
The chaos started Friday.
God is just good like that.
On Friday I really wondered if this was the beginning of the end for our lives here. Was God simply calling us to move back to America? Was this the way it was going to end–walking away from a neighborhood of empty huts?
We have prayed about this over the past few days. What do we do next? What is God calling us to?
We are still praying, but for now we don’t feel this is a closed door. Instead, we feel that our lives are reshaping: that instead of our lives intersecting naturally day after day, we invite people over. We go to visit families. We bring rice to the single mother and sit to talk with her. We help her make friends and connections in her new community.
We remain stable for the kids. We open our home for playing and English; maybe we make a few trips to pick people up to come play or walk them home in the evenings.
But perhaps this is even a greater test of the friendship, a greater witness to God’s love for them.
I keep looking out across the changing landscape in front of our house. I wonder what I would prefer to look at; which would be the saddest. Would it be better to have a neighborhood of empty, abandoned houses reminding me of our sweet friends who used to live there? Would it be better if it were half torn down, remaining bits of concrete and old structures? What if they do come and burn it all? Would that be more painful to see or less?
They all make me quite sad. I’d rather dream about Stephen and I purchasing it to build something lovely–a playground for the kids to play on, a hut for teaching, a community center. I would rather dream of something lovely like that.
We started praying for God to somehow redeem it. To somehow make it a place full of hope.
One woman, a mother of seven, motioned something to me the other day. I don’t know what she was trying to say, but it was something involving Stephen, me, prayer, and help. Either she prayed, and we came; or we prayed and help came? Somebody was praying, and she was thankful that her family was going to be okay.
It made my heart really happy.
Dwell in the midst of us
Come and dwell in this place
Dwell in the midst of us
Wipe all the tears from our faces
Not our will but yours be done
Come and change us
Not our will but yours be done
Come sustain us
This is a song we used to sing at church, but I can’t find it anywhere. It has become my prayer over these past few days. The locations are changing, the place is changing; but dwell in us. Dwell in this community.
Wipe the tears from our faces.
And please, oh please, sustain us.
Please keep praying with us.
We have a funeral tomorrow. And we don’t know what comes after that.
Maybe the past few days have been the easiest. Maybe even with the lack of sleep, the work of hauling and moving from the wee hours of the morning to late at night, the shock of death, the families sleeping on our floor…maybe that was easier, because we were busy. We were distracted. We were able to help and wrap our arms around them.
Maybe the next stage, while we figure out what to do, how to love well, and how to re-shape the landscape: maybe that’s even harder.
Maybe the funeral isn’t the hardest part, but going on with an absence in each week.
Please keep praying–for His presence, His hope, His plans, His joy.