Thursday, July 31, 2008

July 26: Is an educated Ministry Necessary?

Journal Saturday, July 26

We left school at noon yesterday to make the trip to Mae Sariang. It's about 5 hours on a twisty mountain road that doesn't look anything like the only highway between two cities. The plants are taking over in some places; in other place, the edges have crumbled the 2 lane highway into a one lane road. The views were breathtaking. For awhile, it runs beside the Moie River with the rugged hills of Burma on the other side. Then it veers into Thailand, down into valleys filled with rice paddies and up into highlands covered with jungle. Just when you think you've had enough of the roller coaster ride, it flattens out and leads into Mae Sariang, a small city (or large town) much less crowded and hectic than the border city of Mae Sot. It's a beautiful town, peaceful and flowery with its own style of Buddhist architecture, quite ornate eaves and tiered roofs which aren't consigned only to the wats. Even the spirit houses and bulletin boards use the motif.

We (Doe Doh, Mamu and I) were there to pick up Gail Mou (Mamu's husband) who has been teaching in the Bible school there for the past week. The school was started five years ago by Pat and Jeffrey Anderson, an elderly missionary team from Great Britain who refuse to retire. They tried, but they moved back to Thailand and started something new instead. Mostly through small donations, their foundation, Crestos, has helped them reach and care for people in Singapore and Thailand. Now, it has helped them start an orphanage in a small village just outside Mae Sariang, and buy an old rice mill and failed hotel which are now a Bible college. The rice mill has become an assembly hall and the hotel is their hostel, class rooms, recording studio, office, and living quarters. They've also built dorms, started a piggery for its methane as well as the meat, dug a catfish/tilapia pond, and other stuff I can't remember. I can't find them on the internet, but their lives are making a difference in the world, unlike much of what you can find on the internet.

The school is a true Bible college for Thai Karens. The curriculum is the Bible. Covering a chapter a class and looking at every verse, they go through the entire Bible during their four year course of study. There are about 68 students there, some with very little prior education. We arrived in time for "family night" when they celebrate the birthdays of all of the July babies. Part of the celebration was a debate for the fun of it. The question: is an educated ministry necessary? That seems to be a big question there. They seem to agree that a Bible school of some sort is necessary, but does a pastor have to have passed 10 level? The debate (like the classes) was in Karen, so I'm not sure what they said but I gather the winning side essentially said that even the person in the kitchen with no education ministers. It seems to beg the question, but I suspect the debate itself was less important than the experience and fun.

I slept in the "hotel" on a real bed with my own bathroom that wasn't just INSIDE the building, it was inside my room. Such luxury. And a western breakfast of cereal, milk and toast. I woke in time for the morning worship (6:00). It was distinctly different from the morning worship at KKBBSC. Jeff sat on the couch with the translator (neither he nor Pat speak Karen though they know Thai) and the students sat scattered on the floor. After a song and prayer, one of them read a Psalm which Jeff then explained. Real questions were encouraged, then the time was over. It lasted over an hour, but the time flew by (possibly because they made me sit on the couch – I love this Pee business – and my butt was very happy). It wasn't the mindless rote recitation I hear every morning. The children don't really know what they're saying in English, but they dutifully sing the sounds and read the words. At least, that's how it feels.

The others stayed in the orphanage where Gail Mou has been living. They came around and gathered me up for shopping. Gail Mou is a small business man. He buys cheap and sells a little higher. When he's in Mai Sariang (an area he knows well since he came from Mirapu camp which is an hour away) he stops at the Karen Women's shop and buys up Karen shirts, bags, and skirts because he says it's the cheapest place to get them. So, of course so did I. I bought a scarf the women use as a hat and I'll use as a stole. After a trip to Saturday market, we left for the twisty ride home. Why do you get so tired just sitting in the car?


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