Friday, November 30, 2012

"Ya Eh Na"

For weeks I've watched it.

Little girls and boys--sometimes even big girls and boys--come popping up over the edge of the hill, smiles wreathing their faces. They come up to the porch, and Sharon or Hannah or Brenda is dispatched to get the band-aid basket.

After the little ones are taken care of, they head off, a little happier than before; sometimes after leaving flowers or hugs with the band-aid bestower. Because really, this isn't about band-aids.

It's about love.

These kids will come and show you things that aren't a problem. Old hurts, old scars; hoping that they'll have something worthy of getting a band-aid. Why?

You give a band-aid, you give attention. Something each one of these kids is starved for. It's not a band-aid--it's love.

I sat on the porch, writing a journal entry. Sharon and Brenda are in Mae Ta--on a hospital run. Hannah is still here, but she's on the phone. Harvey is...well, I don't know where he is. But he's not here. The bottom line is, I'm the only one that's free. 

The kids just recently took their baths. After bath-time and in the mornings are when the kids come for band-aids. And sure enough, here comes a little boy, maybe 10 or so. He came up and sat on the porch.

I wondered if Hannah was going to take care of him. I knew she'd seen him. And she'd gone inside right away. A little bit of eavesdropping soon convinced me she wasn't.

Now what?

My pen traced letters on the paper, and I kept glancing at the boy out of my periforals. He just waited patiently, knowing that someone would take care of him in a moment. The only problem was that the only someone to take care of his hurt was me.

The battle raged for a moment. I knew what to do----but it was that age-old struggle with fear. What if I do the wrong thing? I don't really know this little guy very well...

Rebuke from heaven.

And who's fault is that? Get up out of your chair and show that boy that someone loves him. 

Then, Mu Nu Nu and Buh Suh Paw (literal sound-spelling) appeared with Peh Peh Wa in tow. Mu Nu Nu called out to me, saying hello and that she needed worm medicine. Well, that did it.

The journal flapped shut, the pen hit the floor. I took a look at the problem the boy had and went to get the band-aid basket and tell Hannah, who was still on the phone, about Mu Nu Nu's need.

Having watched Sharon and Hannah do this so many times made it fairly simple. He had a patch of skin that was pretty raw, but took about half a minute to bandage satisfactorily. He smiled, said, "Thank you Teacher," and off he went.

I returned the basket to its place and sat back down in my chair. Band-aids. It's so simple. 

A moment later, here came two more little girls. I was ready for them this time.

Before I went back for the basket, the smaller of the girls handed me a red hibiscus. I thanked her in Karen, tucked it behind my ear, and went to grab the basket.

Both had small hurts to deal with, and the band-aids came out. Once they were bandaged, the bigger girl gave me a big--and, by extension, rather long--hug; and then the littler one hugged me. Her mouth got close to my ear, and in a voice that was so small I almost couldn't hear it, said, "Ya eh na, Teacher."

A smile broke out on my face. "Ya eh na..." I whispered back.

They left with radiant smiles.

That's what it's about. Not the hurts, not band-aids. "Ya eh na."

Mu Wa Wa was next. A scrape of some sort on her knee. She was fixed up, and off she trotted. I'm still on the porch, half-expecting another to show up.

Yep, I was right... Here they come. Just a minute.....


Again, two little girls.

I repeat myself.

This isn't about band-aids.

It's about what that little girl whispered in my ear. "Ya eh na."

I love you.

There's no more precious phrase on the planet. None. It's misunderstood, misused, abused, and UN-used; but it is still the best, most glowing, and precious three-word sentence that one can speak.

There's precious little love in this world. These children have known so little of it.

And yet, they know enough of it to speak those simple words to someone like me.

Trust me, that's sobering. And touching. And heart-wrenching.

Am I worthy of that love? Am I worthy of the trust it takes for a child to wrap their arms around your neck and whisper in your ear?

No. I'm not.

What am I doing here?

Living. Teaching. Being. Loving.

This place is full of children. They all need love. I'm here, for but a short time; and I've been called to love each of them as much as I can.

But not only me.

God's calling you.

There are over 200 children here.

And we've got lots of band-aids.

Come. Come help me put band-aids on. Come experience what I am. Feel those little arms around your neck and feel the love that God must feel for each of us when we run to Him to thank Him for what He's done for our wounded hearts. Listen to the whisper, shyly spoken, but truly meant....

"Ya eh na."

You'll never be the same again.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


I'm working on getting lost.

That sounds like a really strange thing to say, but really; it's a good thing. I promise.

But I'll guarantee that earlier today, I saw no good in it.

Tears fell from closed eyes and brushed trembling lips. A heart seethed with questions, confusion, and anger. Frustration's volcano was very near an eruption, not too unlike the 1980 Mt. St. Helens catastrophe in both fury and results. Thankfully, it didn't explode. The volcano became a cup, and instead, it filled to the brim and drops of sorrow trickled down.

Through clenched jaw, clenched fists, and clenched dreams, I asked the question heavenward. I thought You were speaking to me. You were keeping me going. I thought...I thought... But now what?

I got no reply from heaven. At least not right away.

Maybe in my heart I knew what the answer was. And maybe I was asking for another way because, like even Jesus did, my heart shrank from what such a sacrifice would involve. Maybe. I don't really know.

I've been afflicted with a strange sickness the last week. Haven't taught class all week long because of it. I've been feeling alright--a little tired, nauseated or whatever from day to day--but really, with as contagious as hand-foot-mouth disease is, I didn't want to be spreading it. By this morning I was almost ready to integrate myself into society again, but in a way, I'm glad I didn't. I needed what I heard during that time.

I leaned back in the chair on the porch, looked at the ceiling, and had this thought. It was three years ago...but I did the same thing. I just let go--totally abandoned the issue at hand and myself as it was concerned to the Lord. I was done: I couldn't do it anymore. And I just let go. Without any of the excess baggage that often comes with letting go. I did it. I cringed a little. Am I being asked to do that again?

I remembered that time before; when, after having been brought to a climax, I was finished. I was just done with hanging onto it. That was also on a mission trip: my very first, to the Philippines. I'd had enough--and right then and there, I walked upstairs to my room, locked myself into the bathroom, cried a little and just let it go. It left me as I spoke and a flood of peace filled my heart and calmed my soul. That peace remained. It's still there.

Dejavu can be good. This time, I didn't find it to be so.

But then, there: it's 12:30 and I need to run across the road to the Ross's house to eat lunch. Everyone's eating by now and there won't be anything left if I don't go now. Up I popped, and off I went.

Somehow, as I interacted with other people, the raging storm in me began to calm. I smiled, sat in a corner, even laughed--trying to move on for the sake of those around me. Koo Koo Paw looked at me and tilted her head way down towards the floor. So I tilted my head too and grinned at her. She grinned right back and hid her face.

I got melted a little later. Loosened from my conflict inside. Inge laid down on the floor so Koo Koo Paw could give her a kiss, and the little girl turned around instead and walked straight toward me and kissed me. Funny baby--knew exactly what I needed.

I left the Ross's with Hannah, headed for the house. I considered going on the Sabbath outing to the village in the mountains, but then, why go? Sharon's sick, Hannah's too tired: I don't know many of the kids going. You know?

Well, something made me decide to go. Camera and Karen bag slung around me, sunglasses protecting my eyes, I rode on the back of the station wagon: again. Harvey tells me that I'm the thing that holds the back of the car down when they're driving. It's true: I can't get enough of it. And the kids seem to be getting used to it as well; although I'm sure they still find Tharamoo Heidi just so slightly mad. Oh well.

That ride was what I needed. That trip was what I needed. I got to interact alot more with the students, some of them mine--and the wind in my hair, the sights and sounds and the feeling of freedom that happens when I ride there. I felt refreshed...and somehow, my heart was okay with doing what God was asking. It wasn't so dreadful after all.

Freedom. That's what I've wanted all along. I've needed freedom from the chains that have bound me...but I didn't realize I needed to be freed from my dreams.

It was on the way back down the mountain, amid the glorious sunset and trying to snap pictures of the beauty around me while clinging to the back of a crazily careening vehicle, that it really settled in my mind.

I'm going to get lost. So lost that no one can find me.

Lost in the Lord. Lost in His people here. Lost in what I came to do. Lost in the moment, the now.

Without worrying about what's coming in the future.
Without wishing myself to a place far away.
Without doubting, fearing, having no faith in the God that's brought me so far.

"He who began a good work in you..."

...will be faithful to help this missionary get lost in her love for her Father, her love for the people, her love for His work.

So lost that you'll only find me by getting lost yourself.

I wasn't sure if I wanted this.

I'm sure now.

But only because God said so.

His way, after all, is best.

 Out for a walk with Hannah...
And we stumbled upon these curious things. Flowers, sure; but I've never seen a flower that looked like rubber.

Hannah and Thara Eh Guh Nyaw's littlest girl, Peh Pae Wa.

Gecko. I love those big ones.

I had no idea they had hydrangea over here, but lo and behold...

Look familiar? Made me a little sad to see this pup running around--Camo would've ended up looking just like him once he got bigger. *sigh*

Mr. Hill shooting the cactus

We had a very nice study with an older couple and younger couple on Jesus as our Friend.

Again, shooting things. Guess he didn't realize he was being shot too. 

This guy, on the other hand, was very aware of the shooting, as is evidenced by the look of trepidation and horror written all across his face, and the hand up, pleading for mercy.

Cows. The babies are just so cute, but they grow up.

An assortment of girls who went with us.

Oh yes. They discovered my sunglasses.

And needless to say, they liked them.


Receding mountains, distant shores, filled with people, villages, faces....

It's "the thing" to get your picture taken. I enjoy being the photographer, but the problem is that I get stuck behind the camera most of the time and don't get any pictures of myself. Oh well.

Mu Wa Wa, my sixth grader.

You should've been here to see this. Camera in all is Nikonish glory could not capture it adequately.

Again, Mu Wa Wa.

Third grade girls.

This picture I endangered my neck to get. I rode all the way up and all the way down on the back of the station wagon, and let me tell you, trying to get pictures with a complicated DSLR while hanging onto a moving vehicle, trying to keep your footing on the small rail at the back, and maintain balance around hairpin curves is quite the acrobatic feat. I'm still sore.

Just beautiful. I wish I hadn't been moving so I could've adjusted settings and made it turn out better.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


If They Saw Inside

Verse 1:
I knelt between the pews
And listened to the preacher pray
Thanking God for young people
And asking that He be my stay
He prayed that I would be a light
He asked that God would guide me
How different would his prayer have been
If he could’ve seen inside me?

What would people think
If they saw inside this heart of mine?
What would be people say
If they knew about the tears I’ve cried?
What would be the result
If they all knew the truth?
What would people think,
If they could see inside?

Verse 2:
“There’s a reason that I noticed;
I see the missionary in you.
It’s inspired me, your willingness,
To go where others rarely do.”
I glowed with pleasure then;
But now I close my eyes.
What words would take the place of those,
If they could see inside?

What would people think
If they saw inside this heart of mine?
What would be people say
If they knew about the tears I’ve cried?
What would be the result
If they all knew the truth?
What would people think,
If they could see inside?

Verse 3:
I’ve fought a losing battle,
I’ve tried myself to free.
I’ve wished that I was anywhere
But where God wanted me.
I’ve sobbed in silent sorrow
I’ve listened to the tempter’s lies.
What is Jesus thinking now;
Can He see inside?

What would Jesus think
If He saw inside this heart of mine?
What would Jesus say
If He knew about the tears I’ve cried?
Would I be forgotten
If He knew the truth?
What would Jesus think,
If He could see inside?

I sit, wrapped up in shadows
Tears gleam in my eyes.
The tortured though, it haunts me:
What if all could see inside?

Verse 3:
But then I heard a whisper
From Someone up above:
“It really doesn’t matter;
I see, and I still love.
I’m watching all your struggles
And I think no less of you.
Keep trying, and you’ll make it:
I’ll bring you to the truth.”

Chorus (very softly):
So, it doesn’t matter what people think
If they see inside.
It doesn’t matter what they say
About the many tears I’ve cried.
If everyone on Earth forgets,
I’ll look up to the sky
And thank the Lord for loving me
Even though He sees inside.

I have to ask it.

I've asked it before, and really honestly wondered. What kind of missionary am I, anyway?

People from home tell me they're proud of me. People are praying for me. It was the love and support of people from home that got me here. 

I'm here to tell you honestly. I'm nothing to be proud of. 

I've been fighting a losing battle. I know that I can sound poetically pious online, in a blog post, but really, if you could see behind the computer screen, there's nothing but a little girl. Tempted, just like you. Sometimes failing, just like you. Weary, impatient, wavering, doubtful....


My throat gets tight as I type the words. I'm broken. No more worthy to be a missionary than to even be accepted, loved, and forgiven by God. 

But that's the key.

I may be broken, but God is the fixer of things broken. The healer of things wounded. The lover of things unlovely. For I know I certainly am all three... and I also know that He loves me anyway.

Oh, He doesn't love the sin in the sinner. The rebellion in the rebel. But he loves the sinner and the rebel. 

I am both.

All I can ask is for strength to do what I cannot. For the power from heaven to climb another Everest. And for my climb to inspire, not discourage the onlooking world from the assurance that God is working. That He is powerful. And that He will be victorious.

If He isn't, it will be my own fault. 
But by His grace, this battle is won. This broken vessel will be whole. 

Make me whole, Lord God.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Is Anyone There?"

No. I'm a missionary. I'm supposed to be strong.

No, you don't understand. I can't do that.

That's not what people want to hear. I'm supposed to be telling wonderful stories about the wonderful things going on over here, not crying out for the reassurance that prayers and love still back me; not asking for encouragement. That's not what I created this blog for.

You still don't get it. I've never just asked for anything like that. I can't. And furthermore, I won't.



Will you stop? I'm a missionary, remember?

Yeah, what's that got to do with anything?


I know I need it, but...

I know, but...


I can't.

It'll get misunderstood.

No one will care.

I've never been that honest before. It's too hard. 

...isn't it too much to ask?

Are you sure?

No...NO. I can't. I just can't. I'm not.....

*sigh* No, I know... I'm just scared.

Just call out? Just ask? But what if something bad happens? Or worse... what if nothing happens?

Trust? ...alright. I'll try.

Yes, I'm ready.

*deep breath*

Is anyone there?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Shackled by Love

It's nearly stifled me a few times today. This very real, crushing pain.

Not for myself. For others who are in pain.

For the one who was honest: to a point of brokenness, unsure of how to carry on, and unable to do so without absolute miracle of divine intervention.
For the one who feels a pain deeper and more real than reality itself: lonely, like a lost child, and smarting even more under my feeble and useless attempt at "helping."
For the one who lies near death: sick with a very real sickness, having worn themselves out serving the Lord, giving their all, being "all things for all men."

The list could go on, but these three especially weigh on my heart tonight.

And yet, I'm shackled. Distance, time, and other barriers separate me from each one.

I can't be the strong shoulder of support for the first, no matter how much I wish I could: God said to have patience.
I can't heal the wounds of the second, even though I bear those hurts as a part of my own self: God said to let Him work; I realize I only make a mess of things.
I can't restore the health of the third, as much as everything in me wants to: God said that He's the only Physician that can bring complete cure; and that might not be His will.

I'm shackled: chained with pain. Not for myself, but for those I love. Because of my love.

Will I ever see the freedom of the first?
Will I ever see the healing of the second?
Will I see the third live through her physical ordeal?

Perhaps not.

But I know that in a case such as this, I don't mind being chained. I bear these shackles with pride, even though they hurt. Why?

...because Someone bore them for me, and still does. 
..because the greater the love, the greater the pain.
...because I want to.

He was shackled for me. And He bore those chains with pride.

No, I don't mind being shackled by love... this love. 

I carry my friends in my heart tonight. Know from afar that prayers are ascending for you. Know that the heart of this little missionary loves you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Answer me...NOW

I was sitting in our "gullawa" prayer meeting this evening, reading along in Help in Daily Living with everyone else when it happened.

Nothing spectacular, really. I just suddenly wanted an answer. An answer that had been quietly presenting itself to me for awhile, but that I'd never been able to answer myself.

And really, only YOU can give me that answer.

I've been asking alot of questions in the two months I've been here. Some of my questions have been dishonoring to God--I am human. Prone to mistake. I freely admit that I've probably asked more "WHY?" questions than "" questions.

But this question is different.

It didn't really strike me this hard til tonight, sitting in prayer meeting. It hit the hardest during closing prayer, after Harvey sent up a special petition to the Lord for support, in the form of funds and willing hands. The question shouted in my mind so loud that I almost went deaf to everything else being said at that point in time.

I'm not a demanding person. But tonight--or today, whenever you read this--I'm demanding an answer.

How on earth could you think you aren't needed?


I look around me at hundreds of children daily. Struggling, trying, living, surviving--children that are just as precious as those in America. Comparably little is being done for these Karen children as opposed to those who live in more privileged countries. It's not hard to show a child love, to show them Christ by an every-day, constant, consistent example. How could you think you aren't needed?

I hear talk of dorms to be built, more staff houses to be built, a hangar for an airplane, new classrooms, re-doing of existing buildings. I see glimpses of floor plans for houses, plans for a new campus. And yet the question still remains: "How can we do it with so few to help?" Students are breaking ground already, and doing a marvelous job. But there's more to do. How could you think you aren't needed?

We need more teachers. We need more couples who can care for abandoned little ones as their own. We need more builders, pilots, doctors, nurses, families, friends, supporters... People that are willing to "become all things for (THEIR) sakes." For the Karen. And the Thai that we come into contact with.

Again, I repeat... How on earth could you think you aren't needed?

I've heard it before: "Oh, I wouldn't be able to do much."
"I'd have nothing to do! My talents just don't compliment such a thing."
"They really don't need me: I'd only be wasting money."
"I really don't think God is asking me to do this anyway."
"Maybe I'll bring suspicion on myself."
"Really, is it any of my business?"

Yes. It is your business.

I looked down as two little girls came running up to grab my hands as we walked out to the view point last Sabbath. One on each side, we walked along...and that's when I noticed that the little girl on my left had no fingers. None. She had a thumb, but the rest of her hand was just a stub. Do I know what happened? No. But I knew one thing.

That hand became so precious to me in a moment... Because it had been placed in mine.

How many people have opportunities like that? One...where Ellen White says there ought to be a thousand.

Answer me. NOW.

How on earth could you think you aren't needed?

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Do something for me, will you?

Blink once.

In that amount of time, things can change.

I was blessed only a couple of weeks ago with a little handful of energetic puppy that we called Camo, because he was forever getting nearly stepped on in the house. Being the same color as the floor will do that to a little guy. He kept me up at night, he made messes on my bed, he jumped all over me when I was busy doing other things...But he loved me.

Only 20 minutes or so ago as I write this, "Little One," as I called him from time to time, died in my arms. For the last two days he hadn't been doing well, and none of us were sure what had happened. I still don't know what caused it.

I wasn't going to do so, but I went outside after lunch and took him with me to my newly-hung hammock under the house and let him rest on my lap. He stayed there for a long time before I put him on the ground to use the bathroom. I fell asleep... and when I awoke, he was whimpering, acting antsy like he couldn't get comfortable, and as if his tongue was bone dry. I picked him up to take him to the porch to get him some water...and I think he must've been gone by the time I got to the stairs. Harvey buried him in the banana orchard.

Why? I don't know.

There's a lesson for me in this somewhere. A very important one. I'm not sure what yet, but I'm waiting for God to tell me.

I will say one thing, however....

Trust me, there's nothing quite like love. Nothing.

You may not have a little puppy. But you have a family. You have friends. People in your lives who love you; people you love. Do they know you love them? Have you told them recently that they're important to you? Have you told them, "I appreciate you. Thank you for being there"?

And some of you have pets. Do you take time to show your pets you love them? Seems insignificant, but suppose I'd just left Camo on the porch all morning. I wouldnt've had those last few moments with him. And regardless of how much it hurts, I know I wouldnt've traded those moments for anything.

Love is a funny thing. It's beautiful when new...and as time passes it only grows more beautiful.

But blink and it might be gone.

Use the time you have. Tell someone you love them.

You may never have another chance again...

Thank you, Lord for blessing me.. For allowing me to grow.

And thank you, "Little One," for touching my life in so many ways. I'll miss you...

The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away...Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What I See

There are no accurate words to describe this. None.

To be the more honest, I wish you could see what I see.

...when we piled in the car yesterday morning, at 5:45, and began a 2 hour drive through virgin jungles, filled with lost, lonely people--refugees, hiding from a bloodthirsty army in a land that isn't their own, who live in horrendous conditions; conditions we would call hell, but conditions that must seem like Heaven after what they came from: and knowing that there are nowhere near enough willing souls to come, to tell, to be, to do, to show, these outcasts the love of Christ--to be the hands, the feet, the eyes, mouth, voice, speech, song and life of Jesus to a race who's been abused, misused and misunderstood...and who have greatly misunderstood the world around them themselves, and been led into realms of darkness greater than we can ever begin to imagine...

...when the sun began to peek above the mountains and the sky glowed with the fire of dawn. Clouds, like so many footprints across the sky, left by an angel who'd lit the morning, edged with purple and crimson and soft peach--and you see the sides of the road come alive with people; faces that you do not recognize; faces you have never seen before, and likely will never see again; but people nonetheless: people that Jesus died for. To see little children, old men, young women, walking down the road, clothes dirty and in tatters, carrying a variety of bundles, heavy burdens...but more heart-rendingly, laboring under the cares of life without the comfort you and I have of the assurance and belief in and of the love of an Almighty Creator God...

...when I stopped in front of a tiny shop in Mae Sot and the owner came running over and pulled machete after machete out for me to look at; and in another shop, when I turned around and unsheathed a machete almost as long as my leg and twice as wicked looking--and I said, "Sharon!"...and Sharon looked at me and her eyes got wide and she gave me quite the look. And when I tried to communicate with shop owners what I wanted, how much a certain item was, how many I wanted; and that without speaking their language. Just shopping in an Asian town, seeing cars roar hither and yon with little or no concern, barely missing parked cars, bicycles, motor bikes, people, children, dogs; watching the faces of those who stare at you as you walk by, because your white skin makes you stick out I don't even know what...

...when a little girl came up to me, hands cupped for money, silently begging; and Brenda said she didn't like giving money to them because often the unfortunate were used by the Mafia to get money for darker reasons than food for a helpless child: and I had to turn away from her, unable to speak to her in a way she could understand and tell her Jesus loves her; unable to help, unable to do anything because of my limitations, her barriers and walls, and the knowledge that any kind of physical help I could've given right then would likely have ended up aiding a cause that does more harm than good in this country: to know as I walked away from her that my hands were perfectly tied...

...when I rode part-way home, sitting in the window, watching the thunderheads piling up above me, seeing flashes of lightning split above my head, wind whipping my hair into a mess worse than the ball of yarn the kittens attacked; and watching the wall of falling water, brownish grey against the black angry clouds, steadily approaching as we raced it home. To watch cars around us pass double on blind corners, the little motor bikes whizzing past with 3-4 occupants, at times; and the fading sunset on the western horizon, staining cloud and sky alike a deeper shade of red, somewhat reminiscent of the blood that seeped into the ground at the foot of a cross so long ago...

...when I took off my shoes and held my skirt up to get to the beach; and the brown mud oozed up between my toes and made me slip a bit, and then the sand covered my feet and I seated myself in the dirt: and chasing butterflies, trying to get close enough for a picture, but as soon as you're ready, like the proverbial dream, hope, desire, you can never seem to attain, they flutter away, lighter than air and twice as beguiling: to nearly give up, and then, "one more time:" and the shutter clicks capturing moments of beauty: and then just to sit and see the mountain peaks in the distance, fading, receding, hazy in the heavy, misty air; the brown river flowing past, unmindful of the seasons, times, changes, heartaches and dangers that surround it on all sides; and the sky, full of puffy clouds, floating on a breeze...

...when I clung to the back of the station wagon on the way home from worship just tonight, and looked up above me and "considered the heavens:" the vast canvass that separates us from higher realms, and the stars, like pinpricks allowing a small glimpse of Heaven's glory beyond through, twinkled down--thousands in number; different each one; all breathed into existence and kept alight every night by the same God that Abraham talked with in the heat of the day; the same God that split the Red Sea in two; the same God who stood in a fiery furnace with three faithful youth; the same God who walked this earth and taught, spoke, lived love among a people who had rejected Him, who hated Him, who would kill Him: this same Being, the Creator and Sustainer of the strange constellations above my upturned face, viewed from a strange land, in a strange situation, made even stranger by the wonder I find all around me.

I wish you could see what I see...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Trembling Prison

It's Sunday morning.

For almost the first time, possibly even the first time since being here, I taught a full week of school. 5 whole days in the classroom, with the kids, 2 hours.

I reflect on that week and to be quite honest, there's a smile spreading across my face. Why? I'll tell you why...

...because after a whole week of teaching, those kids are becoming mine.

Monday came. Monday went. As I walked home, I shook my head. It went alright, I guess, but not good enough. I feel like I failed.

Keep going, child. A still small voice whispered above the treetops. The week isn't over yet.
On Tuesday I believe I first prayed the prayer. At the beginning of each class, the students all stand and I have a prayer. It varied from day to day, but today I specifically asked for God's spirit to be in the room while we had class, and for everything to go according to His will. I didn't think much of it...but when I left the classrooms a couple hours later, having prayed that prayer in all three grades, I realized that things had gone quite well--in fact, did I dare hope that they had gone really well? They had.... Lord, I think I need to keep praying that prayer.

I prayed that prayer all week. And everything went so wonderfully. I think I’ve found the secret: not that class will be flawless now. But if God’s spirit is in the room, and if His will is being done, then I can’t complain.

Then on Wednesday things began to get interesting. Since praying that prayer, my 5th graders were really getting in to what I was teaching--they all seemed to be understanding, and enjoying, class. 6th grade still was a challenge, as they're quieter and fewer in number. And 7th grade? Oh, let me tell you about 7th grade. 

While my 5th graders are enthusiastic, and my 6th graders quiet but diligent, it is 7th grade that takes the cake for being the most amusing.

(On Tuesday, one of the boys in 7th grade looked miserable. I’d wondered for awhile who he was (I’m still learning names) and he was always so quiet, but today he was really quiet. Not only that, but he looked in pain. I mentioned it to Hannah and Sharon later, and found out his name was Shaw Nay Moo. He’d had a bad headache or something that day in class. Somehow, that headache has cured him of silence. Since then, he’s moved from the middle of the room to the front row, and become one of my principal antagonists. He sits right next to the other principal antagonist, Tee Nee Too. Those two, combined with Maw Soe Thay, and all the other boys, have made my week absolutely hilarious.)

Reviewing vocabulary words on Monday, I asked the 7th graders to make sentences with a few of our old vocab words. I had several up there, and “club” was the first one: like, a club that you can be apart of and join and that sort of thing. Almost immediately as soon as I had said the word, Tee Nee Too piped up with, “Do you have the club?” Mental images of Tee Nee Too with a club flashed through my mind as I laughed and shook my head.

Next it was “pretty;” as in, pretty good. Maw Soe Thay, in the back of the room, called it out this time. “You look very pretty.” Needless to say, the sentence got modified just a little.

Then, “exciting.” Perhaps you remember the last time I tried to get them to make a sentence out of this word, and Maw Soe Thay said, “I see a monster.” He fixed it: this time it was, “Seeing monster very exciting.” I had to give that to him—he was right, after all! I wrote it on the board and oh, how that boy grinned at me!

But that was Monday, the day that things didn’t go so well. Tuesday was another story.

Tuesday morning, I teetered on the brink of utter sadness again. Not because I was homesick; not because I couldn’t stand things here; but more because of God’s request for me to “wait.” I didn’t want to go to class at all—but I went, feeling inadequate and anticipating a terrible day.

Tuesday was probably the best day of teaching I’d had in ages. I taught the kids all the different ways to say “yes” and “no”…and believe me, hearing a bunch of students say, “Uh huh” and “Uh uh” is terribly amusing, especially when they’re laughing! I left classes on Tuesday with a song in my heart, all sadness banished from thence. God, You are so good…So good.

What amusement I got in class one day, when Maw Soe Thay taught me a Karen phrase on accident. From the back of the room, he mouthed something to me. I couldn’t understand him, and ended up at his desk. He said it again, and I looked confused. “Paw tha me?” He nodded, and let his head fall to the side, eyes shutting. Oh wow. He’s saying he wants to sleep. I laughed and said, “Ohh!” Then I shook my head. “You always want to sleep!” He laughed then and hid his face on the desk, half in embarrassment, half in amusement.

On another day, Tee Nee Too left the classroom, presumably to use the restroom. When he returned, we were going over something, and he stood off to the side for a moment before clambering over boys and benches to get to his seat. As he went, I heard, “Teacher!” I looked at him, and with the biggest grin and a half laugh, he took his index finger and pushed one of his eyebrows up. I guess I never thought about the fact that while kids here raise both eyebrows, and lower both eyebrows, they’ve probably never learned how to raise one at a time—something I do quite frequently. I think they all get a kick out of my expressiveness.

At the end of the day, I had prayer, and while the rest of the students sat down or dispersed from the room, Tee Nee Too and Shaw Nay Moo (recovered from his headache and quite the animated character now), remained standing. Tee Nee Too looked at me as I picked my things up, and said, “See you…next month!”

I looked startled. “Next month?”

Tee Nee Too laughed.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

He said something about next week, while Shaw Nay Moo listened.

I nodded. Next week was the big ration check, and we weren’t going to have any school.

Shaw Nay Moo asked me if I was going. I shook my head—“No, I stay here.”

Shaw Nay Moo now leaned forward. “Why?”

I’d never expected that question and for a moment I was at a loss for words. All three of us laughed, and I replied, “Because I can!”

Tee Nee Too asked, “You ‘fraid Burmese?”

“Am I afraid of the Burmese?”


Alright, then what did you mean? “Well?”

Tee Nee Too made a shaking motion to show fear. “You ‘fraid monster… I mean! Burmese!”

Laughter. “Monster not Burmese,” I said as I retreated from the room.

It just keeps on getting more interesting. I walk by the classroom, and Tee Nee Too yells, “Good morning Teacher!” I lean up against the wall between 6th grade and 7th grade, waiting for the kids to finish their break, and Shaw Nay Moo’s head pops out of the window next to me, and he asks me if I’ve eaten already (a standard Karen greeting). I come into class 40 minutes later and am accosted by Shaw Nay Moo and Tee Nee Too, wanting to know what the picture on the front of a Fisherman’s Friend cough drop packet was (a tug boat).

I finish class, and all the kids except Tee Nee Too and Shaw Nay Moo leave or sit and Tee Nee Too points to Shaw Nay Moo and says, “He say he miss teacher.” Shaw Nay Moo looks surprised, a little embarrassed and smacks Tee Nee Too before pointing at his now-laughing friend. “No, he say!” Tee Nee Too shakes his head. “No, he say!” I throw my hands in the air. “You both!” As I leave, Tee Nee Too calls, “Teacher!” I turn and look and he points at himself, then Shaw Nay Moo, and then himself, and then Shaw Nay Moo, and then me. I looked amusedly horrified and said, “No, no; two not three!”

Days pass…Those kids greet me out of the classroom, talk to me here and there, they actually speak to me now. They’re not just a mass of kids—they’re getting names, faces; I’m recognizing them. They’re becoming a vital part of…well, of me.

Thursday afternoon, Sharon and I were doing dishes. She mentioned the group of boys who had gotten in trouble at the beginning of the year—the 12 or so that I remembered seeing, but only remembered one face from—and that only because he got in trouble again. But now Sharon is telling me that my boys: Maw Soe Thay, Tee Nee Too, Shaw Nay Moo, Saw Jaw Bu (in fifth grade): were involved in that. I remember wondering why Sharon had taken that incident so hard—I got it now. Those were my students… My “kids.”

And too, when I learned that at one point Shaw Nay Moo got put in prison, and Thara Paul had to pay a fine to get him out. I knew it was one of the boys, but didn’t know who. No, he didn’t do anything wrong—except that at a check-point he got scared and ran from the officials. It wasn’t that he got put in prison; it was that he got put in prison. My student… my “kid.”

God is doing strange things in the heart of this missionary. Things that make me sit back and go, “What? No way.” But that’s all a part of being freed, I guess.

Freed. “If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”

Chains rattle. Prison walls tremble, cracking; and dust sifts to the cold stone floor. One fetter bursts open, then another. The trembling grows heavier, steadier; and the iron bars begin to vibrate in their sockets. I feel the tread of Almighty God shaking my prison, bursting my fetters, rattling my chains.

There’s no feeling in the world like knowing that Someone is coming to rescue you…even if it’s from yourself.

Koo Koo Paw

Flowers shot by the roadside

It's rare that you see elephants here--it merited chasing them with our car to get pictures.

The mahouts thought we were a little odd, I think, but oh well. We got pictures.

Little boys.

It looks so bright, so pretty, picturesque... How deceptive.

A contented Thurston, only so because the puppy was leaving him alone. They aren't the best of friends yet.

Tee Nee Too, my main antagonist/tease.

Harvey calls him "little rascal," I still occasionally call him "little one," he gets called "puppy" and "Camo." And he seems to respond to any one of them. He's pretty happy.

Thara Ehkganyaw.

 Random student who I don't know the name of. Quite the hat...