Before coming to Thailand to become an instructor for Karen students training to become physician assistants, I had heard about how wonderful the Karen people are. Now that I have been in Thailand for a year, I can attest to this and how one student in particular has impacted me.
After spending a month in Thailand and Myanmar on a vision trip, checking out Earth Mission Asia, an IDEAS partner, and working with the students to see if I would be a good fit, I went back to the U.S. to sell my house in Minnesota and make travel arrangements to move to Thailand. My travel arrangements included spending what I thought would be my last weekend in the U.S. with my sons in California. As it turned out, getting a volunteer visa from the Thai embassy can be a lengthy process. A weekend turned into a month of hanging out with my sons in California, not knowing from one day to the next when a visa might show up. Frustration was my constant companion.
Had it not been for one particular student (and others) sending me Facebook messages on a regular basis, telling me how excited he was for me to come to Thailand and how he was praying for me, I'm sure that I would have thrown in the towel and returned to life in Minnesota.
In December our first-year students had to spend Christmas in Thailand instead of being home with their families in Karen State. I thought it would be fun to give them all a little money and have them draw names to buy small Christmas gifts for each other so they had presents to open on Christmas morning. I also gave them some money to buy dinner for themselves while shopping at the Sunday night market in Old Chiang Mai.
When I arrived at our meeting point ahead of schedule, this student was already there waiting. I asked him what he had purchased, and he said he had only bought one small gift for the person whose name he had drawn, and he had given the rest of the money away to those with disabilities who were interspersed throughout the vendors at the market.
He told me that the students had everything they needed at the school, including good food, and that the people he saw at the market needed the money more.
Several months later, when the students packed up to move back to Myanmar to continue their training, this student asked me if I would come visit him in his town someday. I told him that there was nothing I would like more than to see his family and the clinic that he would be working in one day.
He then shared that he would like to take me around Myanmar so that I could see the other people groups who live there who also do not have access to healthcare or education.
His hope is that someday he would be able to do for these people what Earth Mission Asia is doing for the Karen and how he would like to reach them with the truth about Jesus because many had not heard.
This is the heart of the Karen.
To read this original blog post, click here.
About the Author: Susan is an IDEAS Associate and Year 1 Instructor for Earth Mission Asia. She has a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and loves working with the Karen. Read more about how hope is being restored in Myanmar: How Training to Be a Physician Assistant Is Changing Me.