Monday, May 5, 2008
When we leveled the land to begin building we came across a patch of dirt that was spongy...it was very unusual. The children could literally bounce on the ground as if standing on a water bed. The reason was the amount of water (and sewage from the village) running underneath that spot. While this was interesting when we were clearing the land... we had other words for it when it came time to dig the holes for the building. Having only dug a half meter deep we began to encounter the water. The holes had to be dug deeper but the more we dug the more the water came.
Similarly, as we have begun work here at the border of Thailand and Burma we have encountered an ongoing, seemingly never ending, more than we can handle, overwhelming number of needs. And they just keep coming.
Yesterday we came back thrilled but emotionally exhausted from another weekend down at Baan Puk Dek Nakrean. So much is happening, the dorms are nearly complete – they are very rough – but they will keep the students dry. The students have chosen their new rooms (4 to a room at this stage) and express enormous gratitude for what they consider is a privileged position to be in. We have three girls starting government university and another young man (all of whom are potential leaders for the Karen people) starting University in Bangkok. We could already fill the places for next year’s possible intake of students. Baan Puk Dek Nakrean is getting known very quickly and so we are hearing of further needs. We can’t respond to them all just yet, we know that. But the needs are there, we hear about them and we are constantly confronted with the injustice in our world. This weekend Samson was asked if Baan Puk Dek Nakrean could take a 2 week old baby. The mother is desperate to give the baby away so she can work and earn her $3 or $4 a day and live. Samson had to say no to the baby. We hear of people hungry all the time, but can't respond as currently we don’t even have the funds to get the BPDN built. However, when one of our laborers (whose wife has died) got sick and his family (4 children) therefore did not eat rice (their staple diet) for a couple of days we felt compelled to respond and so we bought rice for them to eat so their systems did not shut down and they continued to live. The needs keep coming and coming and coming. In an honest moment of expressing emotion and with tears, I said to Colin ‘I nearly wish I didn’t know.’ ‘It is too hard to know.’ ‘It would be easier to live without knowing.’ ‘There is truth in the statement ‘ignorance is bliss’. But we do know. And knowing means we can do nothing but respond. This is the heart of the Christian faith… Micah 6:8 says ‘What does the Lord require of you? To seek justice and love mercy and walk humbly with your God. So I write this blog with somewhat of a pleading heart that you too would know and would respond. Here is the current situation.
Since our last blog it has become apparent that we have to stop building. We have the finances to finish the dorms and to feed the children (that will always be covered via your sponsorship), but we cannot proceed any further with the kitchen/dining/classroom multi purpose area until more funds come in. We didn’t know that the 4 university students all needed their years fees paid up front and so paying this has sapped the remainder of funds.
I rang Samson yesterday and explained that we have nearly come to the end of funds and that we need to stop building for the time being. Samson (again affirming our confidence in him as a leader) said ‘No problem teacher! We can go slowly slowly’. While we appreciate Samson’s acceptance of the situation, Connect longs to finish this first stage of building for him, the students and the wider village ( village children and parents can come for English lessons and dinner once a week). The upright poles are in place for the multipurpose area but we need another $3000 to finish this building. Until then they will (remembering also that the rainy season has begun) cook, eat and learn under a tarpaulin. We need about $1000 to build a room for Samson (he will live in a tent till that building is complete) and another $1000 to build paths around the home to cope with the rainy season. Currently there is slipping and sliding on alot of mud. $6000 was given to purchase a vehicle for Baan Puk Dek Nakrean – but because this was not an immediate need we used the funds to build but will also need to recover these funds asap.
So can I humbly ask you to help? Every dollar (even $20) will help Connect cover these immediate costs and serve these people. Can I also remind you that every dollar you give goes straight into cement, blocks, rice, wood, nails, gravel, vegetables (although we have begun to grow our own vegetables to cut down costs in the future), petrol to run Samson’s motorbike, clean water and so on. None of our volunteers take anything and Colin and I use our salaries from our jobs to fund us being here.
So many of you have given so generously to Connect and you continue to give via your sponsorship commitment. Thank you. However we need funds over and above the sponsorship money and if you can help with this we would be grateful. If you can pray, we would be grateful. If you can speak to your friends about the needs here, we would be grateful. If you can come and learn, love and teach the students, we would be grateful.
This, by far, is the most daunting project Colin and I have ever pioneered. I am confident that I could say the same for our director, Ken Bunney. When Ken came over to Thailand last week we spent the evenings chatting, under the tarpaulin. The three of us spoke of feeling that we finally understand a little of what it is to follow Jesus obediently. Today, as I recalled our chats with Ken on the land, I remembered a feeling I had as a little girl. I remember having good news and telling my mum that I wanted to get a loudspeaker and shout out my good news to the world (apparently confident that the world would want to know). That feeling, however, has never left me. At times (even as an adult) when I learnt something or experienced something new – I wanted to get that loud speaker and go to a mountain top and shout it out to the world - so people could experience the joy with me. Never has this feeling been as intense as it is now though. More than ever I want to shout out what I know. So here goes for those that want to hear. I know there are people that are hungry here at the border of Thailand and Burma. I know that these 24 students have a future to dream about because they were chosen to live at Baan Puk Dek Nakrean. I know that there are many more students hoping to come next year. I know it takes money to respond to the needs. I know that the parents and grandparents have hopes for their children. I know that we have only scratched the surface here. I know that we have students who need to see a dentist. I know that we need volunteers to come. I know that the Karen make great leaders for their own people and that they simply need us to partner with them. I know that God made the Karen and has a plan and hope for their futures just as He has for mine and yours. I know that I must keep learning and ‘knowing’, that I cannot shut off to any of this. But more intensely, even though I am immature in my faith, I know and have a new found, deep joy that comes with responding to injustice, to loving mercy and walking humbly with my God. I am aware of the numerous needs around our world. If you are responding elsewhere, well done. If not and you are able to make some room in your budget - I thank you for responding alongside of us.