Nearly five years ago, we fell in love with a Karen family in Oklahoma City. We met them through my first job, when I took five of them to the hospital for shots and ended up losing my car in the parking deck. All six of us trekked all the way to the top and then all the way back down, where we had come out of the building just one curve away from my car. I’m super-organized like that. And then we spent more time with them in my next job, where we started a little crafting co-op and spent time sewing and embroidering a few times a week. Stephen & I learned some Karen from them, and we went on adventures together. We taught them games and new words and little pieces of American culture.Now, we come back to visit them when we can. We still play games and laugh. They have assimilated into American culture incredibly. Their English is absolutely unbelievable; they can drive and balance six jobs between four working adults. Now they teach us new things in American culture. The oldest, Thay, is in her first year of university and Htoo will graduate high school in just a few months. Aye is amazing at taekwondo and is as tall as his dad; both he & Htoo are amazing at photography and love their local youth group. Moo is an honor-roll third grader with more spunk that I know how to describe.
Just this week we celebrated Thay getting her citizenship just a few weeks ago. Her citizenship! This is incredible to me, as we live day-in and day-out with so many struggling to officially exist: papers are more valuable than I could describe. And she is now a citizen of the United States!
It’s amazing to see what they have accomplished and how well they are doing here. They are truly thriving, and it’s really, really beautiful. While we are here in Oklahoma, we’ve been visiting them when we can. We have spent a few afternoons over games of Jenga and Life; we laughed at old photos of us together and painted pictures. And Stephen taught them slow-motion video on their iPhone 6, of course.
And now, I can at least brokenly communicate with the mother, War Gay, in Karen–which makes our time there just so much more fun. I’m still working on understanding the father, Law Del Moo–the fast, low voices are really difficult for me. Really, we just thoroughly enjoyed our time with them this trip. We loved laughing with them and hearing them saying that things were “so not cool.” Because they are so cool now, and it’s just so fun to see! As we left one afternoon, War Gay put some money in my hand and insisted it was for the Karen shirts we had brought them. They had said they wanted to pay us back for them, so I took the money and thanked her, thinking it was a few twenties. I saw in the car that it was more than a few twenties. It was way more than we had purchased for shirts, so the next time we were there I went back to War Gay and insisted we hadn’t purchased the shirts for that much. She insisted we keep the money. She said they had all put their money together: all the kids and their father and the family budget. They wanted to help us: the kids around us, to feed them and play with them. They wanted to help our community. I thanked War Gay, and then turned to Htoo, who was standing next to us. She asked if I understand what her mom had said, and I said yes as I summarized it. And Htoo continued…”We want to give it. That was us.” Even now as I write it, tears come to my eyes, because this is the clearest picture of the Kingdom that I can fathom. I am so proud of this eighteen-year-old, who understands that that was them, and now they are here, and God is good! These parents have raised their kids to know what they have come out of, and these kids now want to see the Kingdom come where they were and where they are.And they are willing to live in a two bedroom apartment in the not-so-picturesque side of Oklahoma City, working four jobs and learning to live life here, while they give money away to a little community on the Thai-Burma border. Because God is good. He blessed us with this friendship four years ago when we were in the same country, and they bless us every time we visit. They bless us as they learn and teach us; as they discover life here in the States and show us a fresh perspective. They bless us as they love well and love fully, and give us grace as we float in and out of their lives for just a short visit here and there.