In January 2008, after walking for nearly three weeks with 8 FBR relief teams,I arrived in Mo Po Klo just after midnight. The team members I spent the last ten hours hiking with made for the trees in the center of the hide-site, tied their hammocks taut, and collapsed into well earned sleep. I felt I couldn’t sleep, even in the relative comfort of a bamboo shack, without first washing the grime away.
I stumbled 100 meters down to the stream that runs through this cold ravine and fished the soap out of my backpack. It was pitch black. We were at high elevation. It was cold enough outside to see my breath, colder still in the water pouring out of a bamboo duct leveraging water up and out, splashing on a flat rock in the mud. I lit a pile of bamboo and twigs on fire, peeled my clothes off, and with a yelp, jumped into the mind-numbing tunnel of cold cleanliness.
I looked ridiculous, a nearly naked white man in the jungle taking a shower by the light of burning bamboo at 2 am. I sounded worse, screaming like a crazed animal as I soaped, then rinsed in what felt like liquid ice.
The dilapidated hut I slept in was home to a family of six. Their village was burned down the first time by Burma Army forces in 2006, and from then until now, they have had to run for their lives and find a new place to hide no less than twelve times. I shivered through the night in my high tech down sleeping bag, while they seemed warm in their huddle beside the coals of their cooking fire, nothing but ragged felt blankets around them.
Before dawn I poked my nose out of my bag and met the three-year old second son. He was studying the blue rip-stop nylon my western mountaineering bag was made of, studying the pale tone of my white skin, studying the odd colors of my gear. I was his study.
“He is the image of God, the light of Christ, three years old and displaced.” I thought to myself. He is the owner of a string, a formerly white long sleeve shirt, and son of a struggling family. He is a day- time hunter of lizards and night-time dreamer of dreams. He is a wonderful and curious image bearer of God, like my own children, whose life is marked by war-made poverty, yet brimming over with life and potential.
Being in Burma and surrounded by so much sadness, violence, and loss, I was encouraged by the presence of this child. As he ate his breakfast of baked sticky rice and his mom boiled water to brew weak leaf tea, I mused that the light of Christ cannot be quenched by the grind of darkness.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” That morning in 2008 when I took this picture, I was in the presence many bright lights of Christ in our world. My fellow team members, many of the villagers, and this three year old boy; all lit by the fire of Christs love
As you meet the people and scenes of Burma in our web site, magazines, and emails, be encouraged with me that the light of the world shines through us all into the darkest spots of Burma. Every sentence and image holds a story as personal and real as my own; every photo had a soul behind the lens turning the moment into a prayer.