It was not easy saying farewell to all our friends in Korea. We had made wonderful new friendships with many people in Korea, and to say good bye was not easy. We have promised to keep in touch with everyone as soon as we were settled in Thailand. Many of our friends have subscribed to our blog, which we hope to keep updated on a regular basis.
To move from what in many ways could be described as a “first world” country, to a “third world” country is never easy. To have to say good bye to so many things that we take for granted…things like running water, toilets, electricity, phone lines, cell phone signal, internet, fresh food, a furnished home….! These are all things that many people take for granted. However, what to many may be basic essential items, are to many others – luxuries!
A simple thing like a bed is a wonderful and unheard of luxury, that is equated with only the rich! The fact that you can choose to eat various different kinds of foods, is another luxury many take for granted. These are just a few of the adjustments we have had to make when saying farewell to South Korea, and starting our new life in Thailand.
We flew from Incheon airport in South Korea to Bangkok airport, and from there we flew north to a small city called Chiang Mae. From there it was a 6 hr drive south to reach our new home. Our nearest “big” town is two hours away, called Mae Sot (2 hrs drive north).
As you fly north you can clearly see how the terrain changes from relatively flat to many mountains covered with trees and thick jungles. We immediately knew that our new life was to be a lot different to the life we had had before in Korea.
Our new home – Sunshine Orchard!
Sunshine Orchard is a children’s home for abandoned, orphaned and impoverished children. It is situated in Thailand, right next to the Moei River, which forms the border of Thailand and Burma. The mostly Buddihst Karen people have been fighting against Myanmar’s (Burma) central government for 62 years, which makes this one of world’s longest-running – and most brutal – civil wars.
The Myanmar army has been accused of gross human rights abuses against the country’s ethnic minorities – ranging from rape and forced labor to torture and murder.
Tens of thousands of Karen have been forced from their homes, their villages destroyed. Many have fled across the Moei River to take refuge in sprawling camps that cling to the Thai side of the river. Aid groups say there are around 160,000 refugees in Thai camps and hundreds of thousands more have been displaced inside the country. The biggest single group is the Karen people.
It is here that the Adams family run Sunshine Orchard. A home and learning center for children, including abandoned children, who have had to flee from their homes due to brutal killings, rape, torture, etc. by the Burmese soldiers. In order to read their story as to how Sunshine Orchard was started you can visit their web at http://www.karenoutreach.org.
Our New Home
From our correspondence with the Adams family, we thought we’d stay in a bamboo hut with no doors and windows, just like everyone else does. We were wonderfully surprised to find that they have built two brand new “wooden” staff houses. As a matter of fact when we arrived it was not quite finished yet and we had to stay in another house (the Steck’s house), while they were away.
Sunshine Orchard is divided into two sections. The old section being the original property purchased, and the new section, being the most recent property purchased right on the banks of the Moei river. These two sections are separated by the main road running to Mae Sot.
The old section houses the teachers and dormitories, as well as the chapel, kitchen and school. The new section across the road is a beautiful piece of property, which is being converted into new housing and training centers. The old section is also know as the “lime orchard”, as all the bamboo huts are built between what is a lime orchard, which is in dire need of professional care and pruning. The children are kept busy constantly harvesting limes which are sold for a small income.
The picture on the left shows our new home. It is situated on the other side of the road in the new section. Currently there are only two new wooden homes there, however work is under way to build a third. The idea for these homes (as I understand it), was to house volunteer workers wishing to come and stay and help at Sunshine Orchard. We have been truly blessed with a WONDERFUL new home!
It’s small but very comfortable!! The view is stunning to say the least, as we look across to the huge jungle mountains of Burma. Around us are palm and banana trees, with our own fish pond right in front of the house. The air is so fresh and clean compared to where we were staying in Korea. All around us are trees and birds singing, with a host of other insects, frogs, reptiles and some very weird looking creatures. When we moved in their was no plumbing, running water, electricity, doors, windows etc. So I am being kept very busy trying to do my own plumbing and electrics. The house will remain without doors or windows, as the weather is so hot, things like that just aren’t needed. We have both fallen in love with our new home…
When we arrived we were given an adorable little “Karen” baby to look after, while the Adam’s were on furlough. Her name is Kukupaw. She is 1 year old, and a real sweetheart.
Kukupaw came, brought by her father. The family had spent the rainy season in hiding in the jungle, due to an attack by the Burmese on their village. Kukupaw was born in the torrential rain.
For one month she was nurtured by a loving mother but the exposure was too much, as they received word that the Burmese had left the village they returned. Upon returning the sweet mother of four young children including a two year old. died in her sleep and Kukupaw’s desperation for survival began. She soon lost her voice crying for mothers milk. One week went by and the father realized that she would not make it unless they brought her to us. He had no one who could care for her, the ten year old sister could care for the toddler and the other younger sibling, but not for an infant too. Life is hard and being used as a porter for the Burmese was the fathers lot, not owning his own life due to the civil war, he pleaded with us to take her. After many days in the hospital we were told that her life was saved due to the care received from the Adams family.
Currently I am teaching a Medical Missionary class for the grade 9’s who are doing the Intensive Medical Missionary course. With no syllabus, it has become quite a challenge to construct and teach a course that doesn’t exist. The Medical Center is an old building in need of repair. Slowly as the Lord has provided funding, we have started renovating the building. Things like floor tiles, shutters for the windows, electricity, lights, white boards, tables, chairs etc, all cost money – lots of money. The roof is very rusted and will either have to be treated or replaced. However for the time being it serves as a perfect school for the Grade 9 class.
This is the first year we are having a grade 9 class. The students have specifically requested this class. So currently we have 11 students who are enrolled in the “Intensive Medical Missionary” program. In the photo on the right I am teaching the grade 9’s. They are really a great bunch of kids, and are eager to learn. The going is VERY slow as most of them can barely understand English.
Here are a few pics of me teaching in the classroom. I am really enjoying teaching them. We are doing the NEWSTART course and they will be learning natural remedies and how to treat them. I teach 3 days a week, and Brenda Steck teaches the last two days of the week.
She focuses mainly on the medicines as well as natural remedies that one can use in place of the medicines. I will be focusing on the practical treatments, hydro-therapies, massage, poultices etc.
In the photo on the left is Inge’s Music room. It’s in the same building. Inge is teaching Music and she also takes them for early morning devotions and exercise.
We have also been involved in preaching (with a translator), and on Sabbath afternoons we are visiting a village on the other side of the mountain. There’s an elderly couple who have been baptized a short while back, however there are still many SDA doctrines that they do not fully understand and practice. Both Inge and I have been visiting with them along with a group of students from the school. We sing songs together and share from God’s Word.
The trip over the mountain is quite an experience! The drive over the mountain is an EXTREMELY steep one. You travel in first and second gear almost all the way. But the view is well worth the while once you reach the top. In the pic to the right is (from left to right) Emily Adams, Gale, Memewah, Inge, Breck and Brenda Steck. Along the way you pass through the most beautiful tropical jungles and awesome waterfalls. We love to stop and take photographs along the way.
The pic on the left is of a waterfall that is very beautiful. We all just had to stop and put our feet in the water. Kukupaw especially enjoyed the water. She is a real water-bunny; and just loves anything that has to do with water.
We travel in a 4X4 along what is suppose to be a tared (asphalt) road. However the torrential rains have turned the road into more pot-holes than road! The trip over the mountain is so steep that very seldom you get above second gear! It takes about an hour to get there and very often it is in torrential downpours that the trip is made and it is really quite an adventure every time. The Adams’ old 4X4 truck seemingly only just makes it. I am sure the prayers before we leave have been of untold blessings to us.
Once we reach the village on the other side of the mountain, we are greeted by happy smiling faces of an elderly couple and a few curious children. We try to go here every Sabbath as we are trying to start a branch Sabbath School there. We meet in someone’s bamboo hut and we all squeeze in on the floor. Please keep us and the old truck in your prayers – we really need them.
There are still many doctrinal truths they need to learn, including areas of health and lifestyle. In the first picture you can clearly see that the old lady still wears necklaces, earrings, jewelry, and many of the newly baptized members still chew beetle-nut, and make use of alcohol. These are all reasons why we have started to visit with this couple, and hopefully many more will join. These people are usually very open to accepting the gospel, however when it comes to putting it into practice, Satan has a terrible hold on them in certain areas. Isn’t this true about any of us too?
I guess a HUGE apology is in order to all our friends and relatives. We had promised to faithfully keep everyone up to date with e-mails. Sunshine Orchard had no internet until recently. The reason being that there are no telephone lines! Yip! No telephone lines whatsoever. Everyone relies on cell phones to communicate. Sunshine Orchard decided to put in a satellite dish in order to get internet. However, even with a satellite dish, the internet service is very erratic, to say the least! Not only is the internet facility erratic, but it is located on the original property across the main road, at one of the teacher’s (Steck’s family) home. So in order to do internet one would need to walk across the road and to sit on the porch and hopefully get wifi signal so you could get onto the internet.
I decided I would try to install a connection on the property we are living on – closer to home. WELL! What a job it turned out to be. We first tried a wireless repeater, only to figure out that the distance was too far. Then we went the route of putting in about 4 or 5 telephone poles and leading an ethernet cable along the poles; under a culvert in the road; along 4 other telephone poles to the closest house above ours. Still the signal was weak – if any signal at all! So we then ran power cables along the telephone poles to midway and installed a “hub”, hoping that this would boost and solve our problems! (I am sorry to be boring all of you who are technically challenged with all my ramblings about internet).
Well finally we have got internet (all be it a weak signal), but at least we are able to communicate with the outside world once again. So my humblest apologies to all for not being able to communicate as promised. However things should be better from now on . . .
The picture on the left gives you an idea of what our church looks like. The bottom section serves as classrooms while the upper section is the church. This is also a water point for all the purified drinking water, which gets distributed to all the houses and classrooms. The small room is a store room for equipment.
No seats or nice soft pews! No! You sit on the floor (a hard wooden floor), for about three hours! Believe me, if you are not used to it, you certainly will remember you have been to church for a long time afterwards! The guitars seen in this picture were a donation for Sunshine Orchard, and many children are learning to play the guitar.
The singing and Sabbath schools are mostly in Karen. The preaching is done through an interpreter. Boys sitting one side and girls the other. No P.A. system or fancy slide shows. No just the straight message from the Bible!
The pic on the right shows me telling them a story for divine service. They love hearing stories, and even though it must go through an interpreter first, they still sit eagerly and listen.
Both the boys and girls dormitories are in serious need of repair. Perhaps “repair” is the wrong word. Actually the entire bamboo structure needs to be pulled down and a wooden or concrete structure built.
Bamboo does not last long, and needs constant upkeep. Also it does not keep out moisture, making it a perfect breeding ground for mold! That is why you always see clothing being hung outside or under the huts to air. Mold sets in extremely quickly in this weather. This results in constant sicknesses, fever, hospitalizations. This is probably first and foremost on our prayer request. Donations to rebuild the already over flowing dormitories.
The kitchen facilities also need great improvement. Cooking for about 230 children takes place outside over a fire, under the shelter of a leaking “leaf” roof structure, and also inside on gas burners. No electricity to this building, no cooling or refrigerators.
Somehow, God has always seen fit to provide enough food to fill all those hungry tummies every day. The sound of eating rice three times a day, may not seem very exciting to most people, but for these children rice and curry (with vegetable stew) every meal is an absolute feast. Sometimes there may not be enough curry to go around, but still for the rice they are very grateful.
Every one lives in overcrowded bamboo huts. Built on stilts, they are able to stay somewhat dry through the torrential rainfalls. However the roofs are made out of leaves layered together, and don’t last very long. Some of the better looking huts are built on large wooden stilts high above the ground. This is how almost every one lives in Thailand.
These primitive structures, although they provide necessary shelter, are also breeding ground for many mosquito’s. Malaria and Denge Fever are two very serious illnesses here. Constantly hospital runs are made to the nearest hospital (an hour away), to treat some baby or child with a very high fever, vomiting etc. We are really blessed to be staying in a lovely wooden house (all our own), on the opposite property.
Medical Missionary Center
The newly purchased property on the other side of the road is where we stay. It is very beautiful there! On the property there are two huge, old and dilapidated buildings on the premises. One is currently being renovated, and is where we are teaching. It is a training center for Grade 9 students taking the Intensive Medical Missionary course. We have a number of rooms in the center, which we hope to equip for training and treating people to treat diseases using natural remedies.
We are also teaching healthy lifestyle living, Bible, Music and English. As this is the first year we are offering this course, it has proven to be a very successful venture. The students are loving the classes, and learning lots. We, as teachers, are learning as well. We pray the Lord will continue to bless the program, and especially the first Grade 9 class, of Medical Missionaries.
The building work to the center is slow but at least we have tiles on the floor.
Praise the Lord.
We are in the process of putting in lights and plug points, so soon things should start looking like a real school. Please pray that the Lord will continue to bless and supply the much needed funding.
Vocational Training Center
The vocational center is really in desperate need of repair. (and financing). This is where the students, after school, do vocational learning. They are taught weaving and sewing. As you can see in the photographs, the floor really needs replacing. Also there are no tables, and everything gets done on the floor. The students are currently making wonderful skirts, satchels, clothing, cloth etc.
This building has been such a blessing to these kids. We have been donated sewing machines which the children are learning to sew on. However all hand work and cutting out of material takes place on the floor. We are grateful that the Lord has provided such a huge building for the students to work in, however once we examined the floor and considered the cost of repairing; it would almost seem more viable to replace the whole building altogether.
This is a picture of the sewing machines which have been donated. They are of the old kind that you peddle in order to get the machine to work. This has turned out to be very practical as the students are able to work even when the electricity is out – (which happens quite often).
Every one is asking for photo’s! Yip I am busy . . . . Internet is slow, and it takes time to upload a single photograph. I do however have some pics to show! My photo albums will constantly be updated, so I hope to have more pics soon.
More later . . .
Well there is just so much more that can be said, but I will save it for the next blog! All that remains to be said, is that we are VERY grateful to God for the way in which He has led us thus far. It’s been a wonderful priviledge to be working for Him. He has taken such good care of us.
Praise the Lord – yesterday all our boxes from Korea arrived safe and sound. We are very blessed. As I lie here on my hammock, my (our) thoughts go out to all our loved ones far and near. We miss you all dearly, and so much wish you could be here with us to share in our joys and excitement. We thank you for all your prayers and support, for which we are ever grateful.
Please continue to keep us in your prayers – till later