Today is National Karen Holiday. For those of you who don’t know who the Karen people are, allow me to briefly explain. The Karen people live in Burma, and are a very peace-loving people. As the story goes, the British at the end of World War Two promised the Karen that they would be given their own land. However this never happened. The land was given to the Burmese people and the Karen got nothing. This has resulted in a war between the Burmese and the Karen people. A war lasting 63 years. The Karen people have been hunted down by the Burmese soldiers, and many villages have been burnt and so many Karen people have lost their lives. The Karen have been forced to flee the Burmese soldiers, and many have sought refuge in Thailand. Unfortunately mothers and many children are the casualties of war. For those who are fortunate enough to make it to Thailand, they have been kept in a refugee camp, where they are fed by the UN. They are not allowed to leave these refugee camps. They may not have their own businesses, or work outside of the refugee camp. They may not even travel anywhere in Thailand. It is reported that there are approximately 50 000 refugees in camps in Thailand. We at Sunshine Orchard are helping those who have lost their mothers and fathers. Those who are impoverished. Those who have never heard of Christ.
Today, February the 11th, the Karen people celebrate the day that Britain promised Karen that they would be given their own state! The Karen as I said previously, have their own army just across the river from where we stay. Today our school and many surrounding schools were invited to celebrate the Holiday with them. The kids were all very excited! School closed and everyone got ready to go across the river to Burma. The one condition was that you had to wear a Karen shirt or dress. This made for a very colorful group of children.
We eagerly waited on the bank of the river to be ferried to the other side. The boats that they ferry the children on, are very long canoe shaped boats. They have no rudder for steering but instead they use the long shaft of the propeller to guide the boat. Often it seems as if the canoe’s are going to sink, but they seem to know just how to load them. It really is a fun ride!
Once on the other side of the river all the groups are lined up into their separate schools etc. Flags are handed out and little stickers are given to everyone. Everyone files onto the parade ground where speeches are made.
I had the opportunity to take many photographs, and saw many Karen who had lost limbs in landmine explosions, in this terrible war.
Please feel free to visit our photo gallery to see more photo’s that I have taken. You can click on this link to see the photo’s.
The anthem is sung and everyone is dismissed. It’s then eating time! I was walking around taking photo’s when Brenda and I were invited to eat at a very nice looking wooden house. We had no idea what to expect. We filed inside and were then taken upstairs to what looked like a very important meeting place. This was where all the officials, generals and important people were eating. Laid before us was a table with many dishes of food, all of which (besides the rice) contained meat! We were invited to sit down and eat. We thanked them for their kind hospitality, but very apologetically we had to say that we were vegetarians! That we didn’t eat meat! This didn’t seem to be a problem at all. They sent orders down to the kitchen and in a few minutes the cook was frying up some vegetables and soy meat! We had a wonderful lunch.
Sitting right across from me was the President who speaks English quite well. We chatted a little, and then he got up and left. The Commander-in-Chief of the army’s son was serving us and he too speaks very good English. He has spent the last six years in California with his brother. He’s studying to be a nurse. We made good friends.
After a VERY filling meal, we were shown around the army camp. Taken to the medic/clinic, where they treat the wounded. Luckily there was no one there. I was amazed at how primitive it was. Just a raised bamboo hut with a few bamboo rooms inside. I saw no signs of beds (or even mats). No medical equipment at all. Just the bamboo structure.
After looking around at everything, we made our way back to the river to be ferried back home again.
My eyes have truly been opened to this warm hearted and friendly group of people. The Karen are really a special people. Kind, peace-loving and friendly. We can learn so much from them.
I made a short video showing what all happened during the day. If you would like to see the video please click here.
Our prayers are that the current cease-fire and peace talks will finally result in peace being returned to this war torn country. A time when the Karen will be able to return back home. A time where families and friends can be re-united once more.
Makes me long even more for that day when we too can all go home! To a country where there is no more sickness, suffering or death. Where peace and love, reign supreme. A place that our Heavenly Father has gone to prepare for each one of us! My prayer is that not one of us will be found left behind when He comes to take us home with Him.
Please keep us in your prayers! The harvest is great and the workers are few . . .