Today is the Thai New Year and it is Water Festival week week, which means that everyone is throwing water on each other! The youth from all over have come to this small town in pick up trucks. They are standing up in the back of the trucks and they are cruising and throwing water on passers by! They especially enjoy dousing those on the motorcycles. The people along the road are armed with water pistols, buckets and hoses and are dousing those on motor cycles and trucks. They all seem to be enjoying it a lot as it is hot here. About 112 degrees today!
We have seen families of five on one motor cycle. And today we saw two guys on a motor cycle with a big block of ice between them. We don’t see many people wearing helmets…it’s dangerous! Also, many many of them stand up in the back of trucks, and so that is “heart-stopping”.
We have been ministering and teaching English in the “Karen” Refugee Camps which are on the Thai side of the Thai/Burma Border. This picture shows how the buildings here are built out of bamboo and thatch, and there is no glass in the windows — a good thing since it’s so hot!.
There has been a war going on in Burma for over 100 years between the Karen people and the Burmese, the 2 largest people groups in Burma. Well about 30 or so years ago the war escalated and now there are over 200,000 Karen people in refugee camps and in Burma there are over 1,000,000 Karen people who are displaced from their homes and wandering around homeless sometimes fighting battles, bombs going off, etc. in Burma. The Burmese military is often doing raids on their people (ethnic cleaning).
The refugees are forbidden to leave their camps farther than a distance of six kilometers. Some of the folks we met there, such as one Pastor, have been born in a refugee camp and lived there all their life. They have not done anything wrong but they feel like prisoners because they cannot leave the Refugee area. After hearing about our travel, our Interpreter, a young man aged 24, had tears in his eyes and he said, “I would like to travel the world but I cannot even go to the nearest town, MaeRmot.”
As I mentioned before, the houses are built out of bamboo and the roofs are made with leaves sewn together. They look good considering the materials they have to work with. But they only have electricity in the Clinics and School Buildings. The materials they use to build will only last about 3 years for the housing construction and only about 2 years for the roof. They are constantly having to rebuild. Cell phones help the people a lot, so some do have these.
Ron was making his English Class interesting by telling the young people what he’s had to eat over the years. He said, “In Africa we have eaten Zebra, Giraffe, Antelope, Crocodile, Ostrich, Camel, etc., what have you eaten that we might think is unusual?” They replied, “Dog, cat, rat, rat snake and locusts!”
Two nights ago we stayed in a cabin right on the border looking across the Moei River to Burma. It was a beautiful, picturesque location, and we all sat out on the porch and prayed for Burma. The cabin did not have glass windows, screens, or even burglar bars so I slept with one eye opened mainly because of critters…but we were fine. Pray for us as you can get “Dingy Fever” here, but that would usually happen in the Rainy Season which does not come until June. The next day after this we preached at youth camp for children and teens. Some of their parents were buddhists but most of the children had accepted Christ.
Incidentally, we found out that lots of young men are buddhist priests for a two year period because this is supposed to give their parents a ticket straight into heaven. We have enjoyed hearing the testimonies of quite a number of converted former Buddhist priests.
In the refugee camps, some are Christian, some are Buddhists, and some are Muslim, but all are Karen people.