Thursday, July 31, 2008

July 20: Another Day of Thanksgiving

 (I'll be traveling on Thursday, so I've posted this entry a day early.)

Journal Sunday, July 20

It was another day of thanksgiving, this time in Klee Thee Klou. Newton is starting the Batchelor of Theology program that he's been dreaming about and today was the service to thank God for the dream coming to fruition. There are seven students and miscellaneous volunteer teachers led by a woman who just returned home for getting her Master's in India, a graduate of KKBBSC.

It was good to be back there with Newton and Boo Poh. Felt like home. The students were introduced during the service and of course they sang. Two hours later, as the third sermon was getting started, I was sure it would never end...but it did. It ended with pictures being taken of the students and the illustrious guests. After talking with Newton, I've decided to spend my last 2 weeks down there helping with the English. Paw Thwe Wah is teaching English; I've heard her teach the kids living in the church's dorm and it's not inspiring. She teaches as she was taught in Burma – rote repetition. I've included a picture of her at the waterfall a few weeks ago. She recently came over from Burma and is illegal so she rarely leaves the village. Not only was she out (mostly because she was in the company of 2 Europeans and the police checks rarely bother with cars driven by Europeans) but she was wearing pants for the first time in her life. She's in her 30's, and the pants were an incredibly liberating experience for her.

When we got to Mae Sot on the drive home, Simon turned into side streets on the edge of the city and stopped at a nice house behind gated walls (which is typical here). I had no idea what was going on as we all (the group included 7 students who went as a choir to sing at the service) climbed out of the car, kicked off our shoes, and entered the house. In the first room, a frail old woman sat cross-legged at the foot of a bed. When Simon and Saw Li Tu went into another room, I caught a glimpse of an elderly man, very portly, sitting in a chair. We were there to pray for him. the students sang and Simon prayed. When he finished, the woman began singing "The Church in the Wild Wood", her favorite hymn. They served us Tang and we left. The man is Saw Tamala Baw, the chairman of the Karen National Union who replaced Ba Thin Sein (who I told you was President. Apparently, titles are flexible.) He's elderly and very ill; there are elections in the Fall.

Next, we visited a very frail, elderly woman in a compound of homes for elderly people on a back alley in Mae Sot. As a Rev. and foreigner, I was ushered into her small room with Dr. Simon and Tee Toh (head teacher at the school) while the students sang outside her door. She was helped to sit up by the helper in the home who tenderly washed her with a wet cloth. In great dignity, the woman sat cross-legged on her mattress. I wanted so much to take a picture – my camera was on my lap – but it seemed an invasion of privacy. Sometimes, I surreptitiously snap a shot during the prayer, but Simon asked me to pray. As I prayed, with the young people outside and the old person, "sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything" (well, actually, she had eyes) I thought of the journey of life, how long and fast it is, and how we will become what she is. There was a time when she controlled life, now it controls her. I don't know who she was but I was told later that her husband (now deceased) has been an important Karen juror. Now she sits up with help and listens to the songs and prayers without sign of recognition – except for the warm, toothless smile she gave me as we held hands and I left. There were others. We would stop and I would dutifully get out, not knowing where I was or why we were there, and we made the Sunday afternoon calls on the elderly, the sick, and the dying. I miss that. There was a 94 year-old woman in a hospital type bed with IV, oblivious to our presence as she seemed to look out the window; an elderly man who was Simon's uncle, and an elderly man who was Tabluh Htoo's cousin and Tee Toh's grandfather. It's a small community here; many of them were KNU workers of some sort, possibly the ones who started the struggle, now it's left to the next generation. And they're going to third countries.


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