According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary: “In physics, resilience is the ability of an elastic material (such as rubber or animal tissue) to absorb energy (such as from a blow) and release that energy as it springs back to its original shape. The recovery that occurs in this phenomenon can be viewed as analogous to a person’s ability to bounce back after a jarring setback.”
I did not know about the Karen people or have any idea as to the incredible strength of character and determination I would encounter in our students when I first started working with Earth Mission Asia, an IDEAS partnering project, in 2016.
Some of our students come from areas and situations in which they were unable to get adequate nutrition as children. Though our students are younger than I am, many of them share that they have already lost multiple family members to disease, injury, or accident.
Most had to leave home at a very early age in order to get an elementary school education, and some studied into their twenties to complete high school due to lack of available resources. Most, from a very young age, took on responsibilities and burdens of incredible weight for their age.
Over the past several years, as they have shared some of their stories, I have had just a glimpse into the loss that the Karen people have experienced through decades of civil war.
The definition of resilience, of human strength, is clear in our students. They smile with incredible joy and sincerity with the opportunity they have to learn. They sing, praise, and play with passion and depth of feeling that blesses those of us who get to witness it. Our students’ experiences of life, compared to my experience of life, are so different, and yet we live side-by-side together as human beings created in God’s image.
In an imperfect and suffering world, their determination to look to the future with a goal to serve their own hidden communities brings so much hope and encouragement in our work together.
Psalm 127:1-2 opened my eyes to the importance of prayer as a team over the work we do and the critical need of asking God to give us strength – inviting him into our daily routines of teaching, giving, and treating patients – to do it together, to build resilience by the grace of God.
You bring me hope as we join hands from so many places in the world, together with our students, and learn about resilience, about hope, and about the joy of the work God has placed before us.
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About the Author: Lauren and her husband joined IDEAS in 2014 and live in southeast Asia with their daughter and newborn son. They work with Earth Mission Asia (EMA), which is a partner project that trains rural villagers in southeast Asia to become Physician Assistants. As a nurse, Year 1 Director, and Site Manager, Lauren helps provide quality healthcare to the Karen people in Myanmar and Thailand. Click here to read other posts by EMA staff members.