Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sweet Moments.

I've realized many of my blog posts have documented many sad moments, but amidst all the heartbreak, chaos, and pain in Mae Sot, there are moments that make my heart beat quicker and bring tears of joy to my eyes. I'll share a few of them with you...

I have been going to Mae Tao Clinic lately. Mae Tao is a hospital that treats everyone, no matter if they're illegal, poor, whatever. They do what they can to help. There's a young girl there who I've become friends with. She is just completing her medical treatment after multiple surgeries in Chiang Mai and months of waiting at the clinic in between. She has become my younger sister. I often go to visit her. I'm welcomed into her house, which she shares with 20 other recovering patients. It is a long wooden room on stilts. Everyone has just enough space to sleep. We sit here, sharing food and talking. I've become friends with the people who sleep nearby her as well as some of the staff who work at the clinic. They are teaching me to read Burmese. When I leave Mae Tao after a full afternoon of talking and eating, I feel my heart overflowing with joy and I often thank God for giving me such awesome friendships in Mae Sot.

The other day I went to the safehouse to drop off some paychecks. There was a woman sitting on the front steps. As soon as she saw me her face broke into a huge smile and the tiny girl next to her grinned at me, squealing with joy.
"Tha min! Nay Kawn Lar?" (Hello My daughter! How are you?)
This is a woman who Compasio has been supporting, and I really love her. I'm sure she's not older than 50, but she's had many life experiences which have pushed her age. We often sit and talk, and she holds my hands as she cries and tells me about her life or how thankful she is that she can be with her tiny grand daughter.

On Christmas Eve we all gathered together, all our kids and staff, as well as the families of our kids who are living in the Burmese community. Someone had donated gifts for every child and I sat off to the side as they opened them. I was playing with one little boy who had come to the safehouse just the day before. I watched as the children eagerly ripped the paper off their packages and smiled at the treasure inside. This was beautiful, but what caught my eye was the picture of a young girl and her father slowly and carefully unwrapping a small gift together. Birdy's mother and father were recently released from prison and moved near the baby house to be near their daughter. I was surprised by their age the first time I saw them. They looked old enough to be her grandparents, and I later discovered that they could have been. He is a very quite, sad looking man. I had never seen him smile and I feel compassionate towards him. I wish I could be his friend. I was shocked to see that his usual somber, far away look was replaced with a smile and shining eyes. He sat with his daughter on the floor and they worked together to unwrap The Gift.

I imagined the kind of life this man had. He is Karen, one of the most despised minority groups in the eyes of the Burmese Government. What kind of childhood did he have? Was his father ever there to share something special as he was doing with his daughter now? Did he have a place to sleep at night, surrounded by people who loved him? I thought about these things and involuntarily my eyes filled with tears and I prayed that God would shower his life with joy and blessings. That his smile would come easier and soon replace the look of fear and sadness that his worn face had held for so long.

So Maybe that last one was kind of sad....

sweet Mae Sot life :)

Monday, December 27, 2010


This morning I was getting ready for work when I heard an unfamiliar voice coming from outside.

"Seyama. Tha Min Nay ma kawn boo. calle nay ma kawn boo. su tao me. ohhhh...."

I paused for a second. All of our neighbors are in close range, she could have easily been at someone else's door. I stuck my head into the front room and saw a woman kneeling at our front door. My younger sister stood in the corner, frozen.

"Ma Katie." She whispered at me. "Balle? Be tdu le?" (What is going on? Who is this?)

The woman had a young boy with her and they sat on the dirty ground, and while I had been talking with my sister about who she was the woman continued to moan in pain, begging for help. She called herself "tha min" (daughter) even though she was obviously older than me, she was lowering herself and calling me teacher. She was a woman at the lowest rung of the social ladder, and she knew it.

"I'm pregnant." She told us. "I'm so sick. I have no money to go to the clinic. I have no husband. My son is so hungry. Please give me some money so I can buy some tea." Between sentences she paused and inhaled sharply, clutching her stomach.

My sister shook her head. I pleaded with her,
"We won't give her money but we can help her."

There are many beggars in Mae Sot. Children beg to make money for their parents. Women beg to make money for the drunk husbands. I've learned to not give money, no matter what they say. Giving money instills the habit and doesn't solve any real problems. It has been an issue I've struggled with all year. It would be so easy to give them money, to give them a quick fix, but it really fixes nothing.

"Is your baby coming now?" I asked, concerned that she could be in labor.
She nodded.
"Do you want to go to Mae Tao Clinic?"
She nodded again and said, "but I have no money. I have no money to buy food for my son."
"It is free." I replied. "They give you one meal a day and you do not have to pay anything."
"I want to go." She said.

I called my friend, who is a nurse and she said she would come right away to help me take her.

"We're so hungry. Please." The woman was begging, pleading.
"Okay okay, we have rice we have curry."

My sister and I retreated to the back of our small house.
She spoke to me quietly,
"Ma Katie, they are no good. She just wants money."
"We can still help her." I said. "We can give her food and we can take her to the hospital if she needs to go."

We served fresh rice onto a plate and I was reaching add curry when the woman said,
"No. We don't want your food. Just please. Give me some money for tea. I'll go to the teashop. My throat hurts so much. I want to drink something."
I put the plate down and picked up a cup.
"We have water." I told her. "We are poor too. I will give you what we have."
"I want tea. I need something hot." She replied.

At that moment I realized she had been playing us. I had no doubt that she was a woman in need, but she was refusing the help I was offering her. I wasn't just offering her a meal, I was offering her friendship, and through friendship comes long term relief. I could have set her up with a safe place for single mothers, I could have set her up with a job or a way to provide for her children. She refused it. All she wanted was money.

I made one last attempt to help her. I called my sister over and told her to go buy some tea, which was what the woman wanted in the first place. I gave her 20 bot, but as she made her way out the door the woman refused it.

"Don't buy it." She said sharply. Her pain miraculously gone. She stood up, grabbed her son by the hand and walked away.

"If you need food, you can come here. If you need help, you can come here. When you want to go to the clinic come here and I will take you." I told her in a soft and kind voice, making sure to use all the polite Burmese words.

She did not look at me as I spoke. She continued down the street, stopping at various houses and begging.

"You have a good heart." My sister told me, as we sat down to eat our breakfast.
I smiled sadly at her as I looked down at the plate of rice the woman had refused.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

God Still Speaks

Ever feel really dry?
Ever just feel thirsty?

How about empty? You can feel the echoes resounding in your soul. You know how to fix it but life is "so busy". You don't have time to stop. I try to fake out of it by "praying silently" as I rush to and from work and various activities. I trick myself, "Oh yeah. I've been praying. I've been spending time with God." When really I was just goofing off and faking it. That's not going to last for long. You know what I mean?

Today was one of those days, where I had somehow thrown myself to the bottom of the pit and looked up towards to light, realizing just how far down I was.

Yeah, I've been kind of stressed out. It's already almost mid- December and I keep telling myself that I need to have some kind of plan, like I have to be ready to hit the ground running once my year is over. I keep making plans, then changing my mind, then getting frustrated because I have no idea what the heck I'm going to do in America or here in Thailand.

Faith is a tricky thing. Faith is something I don't think about that often, I mean, I don't really think about it.
I guess today I had faith that if I went somewhere by myself, in the middle of no where, God would speak to me. God would tell me what to do. I was so desperate to hear from Him. I wanted to feel Him close to me, because I've been feeling so alone and out of place.

I went somewhere I used to go a lot. It's kind of in the middle of nowhere, It's really quite and it has a really beautiful view of the mountains. Today the mountains in the distance were spotted with clouds, and the skies above me were overcast. I sat there and breathed in the clean, after rainy air.

In the secret
In the quite place
In the stillness You are there.

HE is in the quite place. You have to seek Him to hear His voice. He's in the place where it's just you and Him, like my field.

In the secret
In the quite hour I wait
Because I want to know You more.
I want to know You.
I want to hear Your voice.
I want to know You more.

I never really liked that song. It was so, cheesy upbeat, but as I slowly sang the words I felt the Holy Spirit cover me, I felt my heart open, and the lyrics were true.

I opened my Bible to Hebrews 11 and slowly read through it, tearing up at some parts, and smiling at others. God is so Awesome.

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.

Wow. The chapter goes on to talk about all these people who lived their lives by faith. People who left their homes, people who gave up their safety, people who did insane stuff, because they knew that a faithful heart is a heart that pleases God.

The author goes on to say this,
"Well, how much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of faith. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword.
Their weakness was turned to strength. (<--That's the part that made me cry the hardest)
They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight."

Isn't that AMAZING???
I wonder what my story of faith is going to turn out to be.
"By faith Katie followed Jesus to Thailand then back to America where she lived a nominal life and died behind a white picket fence." God. I hope not.

But see, that's what I'm scared of. I'm scared that I will grow to be comfortable with a "normal life". That I will say, "oh yeah.. I lived overseas for 1 year. That was my duty. Now I can live my life."

Please never let me be that way. Never let me fall into that Li(f)e.

I don't know what's going to happen to me. I don't know where I will be come March. But neither did Noah, neither did Abraham, neither did Moses.

When I titled my blog "Running the Race Marked Out for Me" I was really struck by the first part of the verse,
"Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, and let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us."

I'm not in this alone. There are many people who sat in the same place as I. Yet, God is faithful through the ages, and He does not change. He is the foundation I can rely on.

I can't tell you exactly what I'm going to do, but I can tell you what I'm hoping for and what, by faith, I will continue running towards…

I am hoping that God gives me the courage to return to America.
I am hoping that He surrounds me with a loving and committed community to strengthen me as I adjust.
I hope that I will continue to reach out to the poor and broken, as I become better equipped to help heal.
I hope that someday I'll get married to a man who shares my heart and passions, and I hope that together we can grow and be faithful together.
I hope that God will provide me with the money I need to study and grow in knowledge.

I hope that God will use the things He's done in my life to encourage others to have their own stories of faith.

Faith is often the hardest thing to have, because it's so unknown, and instead of trusting in in your ability, you must learn to trust in someone else.

"So, take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong."

You are so loved, and so precious. Have faith.

Friday, December 3, 2010


"Uncle… where are you going?"
He hobbled across the high way towards me, rushing to avoid the oncoming cars who, instead of slowing down, sped up, and added numerous honks to the quite afternoon.

I had been waiting my turn to cross only moments before, and was hesitant, carefully judging the speed of the oncoming cars and my ability to pedal my bicycle quickly enough from a dead stop. He caught my eye as I waited. He was dirty, dressed in rags and on his back was a heavy pack. He had one leg, and two crutches.

I was rushing to get back to the office. There was someone waiting on a phone call from me and a staff dinner to get to, but something told me to stop and talk to him.

"No my daughter. I won't follow with you." He said laughing. But I had pity for him and insisted.
"Where are you going?"
"Mae Sot." He answered.
"I'm going to Mae Sot too, sit here and follow with me." (this is Burmese language. If you want to go somewhere with someone you use the word "lai" which literally means follow.)

Don't take me for the kind of girl who offers rides to strangers. I've never done it in my life, but I could see this man was kind and in need, and he had one leg for goodness sakes. Mae Sot was a few kilometers away and he would have walked along the patchy highway, a tedious task with crutches.

He got onto the back of my bicycle and we wobbled at first as I attempted to pedal and pick up momentum. Cars swerved around us, and I slowly made my way into town. People gaped and stared at us; a young white girl, and an old Burmese man. I got us into town and he told me where to stop. His whole face smiled as he said, "Thank you so much my daughter. You are so kind. No one has ever stopped to give me a ride."

As I peddled towards the office tears began to fill my eyes. I felt an overwhelming love for that old man, and I wanted to go back to hug him, to tell him to be strong and have hope and courage.

I struggled to not sob, and as I pulled into the office driveway I closed the gate and laid my head on the seat of my bike.

I think too often I separate my head from my heart. I have plenty of love for the people that I work with, but I shut out the big picture, and focus on the little one. I try not think about everything that is going on across the border from me, because if I did, I don't know if I would be able to cope.

There is so much fear, so much death, so much injustice, and now I was letting it all go. I was acknowledging it.

The old man.
The people at Mae Tao Clinic.
My young friend Ma Think who I had just visited with.
The people in her dormitory who had welcomed me in and fed me just 10 minutes before.

They are different from anyone I have every encountered.

They are the result of selfishness. They are innocents who have had to suffer under the rule of evil. They have had everything taken from them, and live out of plastic bags. They have no place to call home, they are illegal, and unseen.

Tears are words from your soul, and I let my soul have it's say.

I look into the eyes of the children from Burma. I see their smiles, I see the pure love they are able to have. They are not yet bitter, they have not yet been scarred. They still carry hope.

I pray that they never lose it. I pray that it will become contagious and pour into the hearts of their parents and neighbors. I pray that justice will reign in the land, and I pray that I will never forget these people, and the things they are teaching me.

[the beautiful faces of the poorest of the poor in Mae Sot]