Well, the past two weeks have been packed full! Last Monday, we drove up (ok, Kelly drove, we just rode in the truck) to Mae Sot, located on the Thai/Burma border. We stayed for a week and observed and learned so much!
Our first order of business was to meet Pastor John, the National Leader of Foursquare Thailand. He is also the pastor of Mae Sot Foursquare church. We were so impressed with his heart for helping people. If there is a need, he tries to find a way to meet it, even if there doesn’t seem to be available funds. And he is so friendly and willing to answer any questions we had.
During our week, we learned about and took video of three different ministries the church is involved in. The first, which we mentioned last week, is Elpis School, a school for migrant children. The second is a safe house for teenage girls to escape trafficking. Currently there are 6 girls living there with a Filipino missionary. The third ministry is Home of Hope, an orphanage that currently houses 18 at-risk kids ages 5-15. Neill and Diana Gilbert are working closely with the orphanage and are currently raising money for a new building to help more kids. They also run a coffee shop in town that connects people with help and hosts a weekly fellowship for English speaking foreigners in town.
Among these ministries we heard so many sad stories and so many needs. It was easy to feel overwhelmed, helpless, or guilty. Still, it was good to see something being done to help, and meet people serving with Christ’s love.
Our time in Mae Sot also made us more aware of the situation in Burma. Studying “Intercultural Studies” in Fort Wayne and teaching in the public school system, I had some previous knowledge of the situation in Burma (Fort Wayne has the largest population of Burmese in the US: 4000-6000 people. Learn more about their resettlement to FW here). Being next to the border and hearing first hand of the human rights atrocities taking place nearby put it in a whole new light. A lot of what happens seems totally unbelievable. But, there are so many testimonies, and even pictures to confirm the horrific stories. We read part of this book while we were up there that gave a lot of insight into the situation. You can also watch this video to get a taste of it.
Since we were so close to the border, we decided to have our passports stamped (not just for another stamp- we have to leave the country every three months as part of our visa). So, Neill and Diana, the missionaries we were staying with, drove us to the “Friendship Bridge.” There, we did the paperwork to leave Thailand, we walked across the bridge into Myanmar (Burma), paid the fee, got some stamps, walked back across the bridge, did our paperwork to enter Thailand and had our temperatures checked (for swine flu, you know). Pretty painless. As we walked across the bridge, we watched a group of Burmese board a big inner-tube, float across the river, and get off on the Thai side. It’s very easy to cross the border. No barbed wire or anything.
Overall it was a great week. We enjoyed seeing another part of Thailand, and the hills around there made for beautiful scenery. There was also a lot to process. As we get the videos produced about the different ministries, we will get them up for you to learn more about the stories in Mae Sot.