Today while walking in my favorite gardens this verse from Matthew 6:28 and Luke 12:28-30 came to mind...
"Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are."
When I think of that and see the colorful lilies around me, I can see how intricate, detailed and colorful these flowers (and SO many others on this part of the world) are. In my science class, I've been teaching on the parts of a flower and the process of photosynthesis. I'm constantly baffled how each flower survives and makes it's food even down to the molecular level. Ridiculous and nerdy, I know....I'm just reminded that I shouldn't worry about what I have or don't have and shouldn't be anxious (even though I continue to default to that) because even the Creator cares and demonstrated His love in each flower. He cares. For all.
I live a comfortable life. I am blessed. I have supporters that allow me to be here teaching kids that come with so much life experience, often struggling to find their place in the world while getting a great education that will hopefully empower them to impact local and international communities around the globe. I can't do what I've been called to do, alone. It's a difficult life at times; the reality is sometimes it is lonely and frustrating to my standards. I interact with so many people on a daily bases that I can share my passion with, but many don't truly understand. I can learn from the lillies. The creator who created each detail of the flower cares deeply about each detail of my life. He cares even more for me than these flowers. So why worry when I know he'll provide my daily needs and more? I just pray that others will come to know that truth too.
Last weekend I traveled solo from Chiang Mai to the district of Phang Nga to the lovely tourist beach town of Khao Lak and Bang Niang. This visit finally managed to happen after hearing about this opportunity about a year ago. A family friend (goin WAY back to before she was a born!), Sophie, offered for me to come visit the nonprofit National Government Organization (NGO) Foundation for Education and Development (FED) Burmese migrant school where she teaches Burmese, English.
Those of you who know me, know that I have had a heart for the people of Burma/Myanmar (many, many different tribes and states) and their situation, for quite a while now. The public school I worked in while teaching in Colorado was a school that many migrant and refugees attend. I love the community I had connections with and spent time in. I still continue to have a heart for those people in Thailand, despite that I teach at an private international school (which is not a bad thing at all and has refreshed my soul for being an educator).
Visiting Sophie made me think about what I love, who I love and the life I've been called to.
Anyways, my wonderful, generous tour guide, Sophie, showed me around the NGO and I was able to tour the school. Unfortunately, there was a Buddhist holiday on Monday and I was unable to help teach English class. As a result, that left me more time to go with Sophie to the Rohingya shelter which she volunteers teaching basic English to the women and children there.
This shelter left a massive impact on me. These people are the most precious, real and hurting people I've ever met. They are the unwanted, stateless people of Burma and the world. My heart hurts for them. Words cannot explain the hopelessness of their situation.
Just a few nights before I arrived, 14 women and a 5 and 7 year old escaped from the shelter (story here). Mothers abandoned their children, and 5 of the women were picked up by traffickers, the 9 others returned to the shelter after a night in jail. I can't imagine the pain of the children facing their mothers after they were almost left behind...
The Rohingya are Muslim Burmese (although not regarded "true" Burmese by Myanmar's government-which is very much Buddhist) trying to reach Malaysia where there are other shelters that their family members may have escaped to. They have no legal papers or documents and are unwelcome and unable to work for wages because they are not even regarded as Burmese, even though they are.
Many of these people fled Burma by boats that were abandoned by traffickers off the coast of Thailand. They have lived through horrific brutality, poverty and suffering. Families separated and now wait at the shelter, to find out what will happen to them.
While at the shelter, we spent time playing English games with the women and children, teaching specific word instruction. Husband. Wife. Mother. Father. Son. Daughter. Brother. Sister. 1, 2, 3 etc. Cry. Sad. Happy. Smile. Tired. Angry. Hungry. Eat. Sleep.
It amazed me, first of all how desperate these people were to learn English. Even little 3 year-olds were repeating the words over and over. I was also surprised how much the women and children opened up to me and grew to trust me more in such a short time, I was not expecting this.
The most powerful moments were when women were able to share with me the pain and hurt they were experiencing. They are depressed. "My [heart] cry, sad, angry!" "Husband in Malaysia, Brother in Burma, Sister in Burma, Brother Burma dead." So much pain. There were moments when all I could do is sit with them in silence, and just listen. There is NOTHING I can do to take away the hurt and the pain of their situation. They just needed someone to listen and know that they were being heard. In that, I felt like I had more purpose than a year's worth of teaching. There were many tears from the women. Sobbing and screaming...feeling so hopeless. I watched as the kids played. So resilient, strong and resourceful they are. I look at them and see hope.
The future of the Rohingya is uncertain. It is probable that they will be sent to America like many of the Burmese refugees and start over. Although, that in itself is incredibly difficult. There is so much I can say, but for now I just ask for your prayers for these people and all those OVER 50 MILLION around the world...seeking asylum after being forced to leave their homes.
My time in Phangnga left me thinking how do I make an impact right now. My ideas: Share this passion, desire and hope with my students and the community I live in. These students could very well be the next leaders and advocates for migrants worldwide. Also, to educate others on the horrible situations and lives of migrants and refugees across the globe and find ways people can get involved even in the smallest ways.
If you would like to hear more specifics about my experience and heart of this issue PLEASE feel free to email me and ask :) I can easily talk for a while on these topics...
More about the Foundation of Education and Development (FED), Unified Learning Center (ULC) and the Burmese of Khao Lak and Mae Sot, Thailand click HERE and HERE!!!
For more about the Rohingya, Rakhine State Burma and Ethnic Cleansing....
-Inside Story 1
-Inside Story 2
Sophie's AWESOME blog :)
Thanks for reading! May we all know the truth that we are loved and cared for.
Sara Gurule c/o