When Hafsa saw my dad approaching her hut, she began weeping, saying between sobs that “We haven’t eaten in 6 days, my children, look at them, they are hungry!” He told me Hafsa was completely desp…
This is for real. On Inle Lake, a beautiful spot in Shan State, Myanmar, fishermen balance on the prow of their dug out boats and drop their hand crafted nets on unsuspecting fish.
They dance more than fish, and seem to like the admiration of strangely clad westerners with big cameras. While I was snapping shots of this highly coordinated fisherman, I thought to myself, “he must be paid to entertain the tourists.”
Knowing what I know about Burma, and being in one of the made for purpose cities for tourists (read: confiscated farm land to build hotels, tourist attractions and infrastructure built with slave labor, and the entire experience defined and controlled by the regime in a tightly governed slice of Myanmar, access out of which is prohibited to foreigners except to other “approved” places) while war and oppression continues unabated, even in the very ethnic state we were in at the time, I had good reason to think this.
In fact, just North of where we were, there were 10,000 recently displaced Shan refugees whom our relief teams were helping to provide food and shelter to. They were forced to flee their villages because of Myanmar Army troops and the military offensives that continue to support the illicit and normal industries that are controlled by Army forces.
So as wonderful as it was to see a fisherman dance in what is clearly a fascinating part of the regional history, it was likely a show. That makes the beauty pretty bitter when you think that his world has been taken from him and he is now tourist entertainment like a giraffe at a zoo.
My wife, a much better writer and describer of things also wrote about this, and other epiphanies here.
Myanmar is changing. That is certain. But when will there be anything that resembles justice and the possibility of peace? When will the violence stop?
I am part of a team dedicated to free full lives for children affected by conflict and oppression. You can check out what we are doing about the problems and read about the impact we are making at the Partners Relief & Development web site.
The Half Child speaks with clear wisdom.
A hate and gospel are an oxymoron. You state it clearly. Great reflection and challenge to be god news, not bad.
Over the years I have made some Muslim friends.
Some of them like spicy food. Some don’t. Some of them listen to rap, others to classical music. Some of them are good at the times tables. Some of them suck. Some of them are skinny, others are a bit meatier. Some of them cover their heads, others don’t. Some are well educated; some don’t know how to read. Some sing in a choir, others play soccer.
The Muslim friends I have are as different as wild flowers in a field during summer.
Of course they have some things in common as well: They feel hunger. They get cold. They can feel lonely. They are afraid. Many laugh when they get tickled. They want to live in peace. They are happy when people say nice things to them.
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I have a friend in Malaysia who sent this to me. Her name is Soo Choo. She’s Chinese, inching over 4 feet tall, and works with the poor like a 20 year idealist, though she is a 50 year old who serves from her deepest core. Soo Choo really cares about people, all people. And I am glad to be one of those on her list today.
A Blessing for One Who is Exhausted
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.
You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
–John O’Donohue, from “Blessings”
The Rohingya people are experts in stoicism. Showing emotional vulnerability isn’t something that happens in their culture.
So you can imagine how hard it was to see a grown Rohingya man weeping openly.
Tears ran down his face as he begged for food. He couldn’t speak English, but with a few gestures he showed us he had four small children – all starving. (I have a picture of this man while he was crying and pleading with our team. Send me an email and I’ll send it to you if you want to see what he looked like. It felt like it would be a betrayal of something sacred to post it on social media)
I’m so thankful that we were able to tell him rice was on the way for his desperate family. Thanks to generous friends like you, Partners had just purchased 17.5 tons of it were already preparing distribution. That along with 472 pounds of vegetables and oil were immediately delivered to feed him and the rest of the 5075 displaced people living in the run-down section of the encampment.
Many hadn’t eaten properly in three months.
It’s a similarly dismal story for over 150,000 Rohingya people who’ve had to flee their homes in Burma and now find themselves trapped and malnourished in woefully inadequate camps.
Chalk it up to decades of military rule that has devastated Burma, and sectarian violence that has led to the ongoing destruction of villages. About 500,000 people in Burma are internally displaced … and suffering terribly.
The country has so far to go before peace and democracy become reality. In the meantime, the reality for children is harsh.
Together with you we touched the lives of well over 250,000 refugees and displaced people in 2014. Read that again. We are an amazing team.
Burma’s children are vulnerable in so many ways …
Malnutrition is stealing lives. Education is rare. In some areas of Shan State as few as 4% of children attend school. Trafficking and exploitation are prevalent in the ethnic states. And still, more than 5,000 child soldiers are experiencing untold horrors in the Burma Army.
Poverty and violence are driving forces behind these problems.
With your help Partners Relief & Development can accomplish so much to help the vulnerable in the New Year … like training our children’s homes within Karen State to become fully self-sufficient … equipping communities with opportunities for education and sustainable income generation … stopping trafficking and other exploitation of children … and bringing in emergency relief that prevents needless deaths from malnutrition.
Your support allows us to be on the ground working with local communities to create sustainable development that is bringing change like nothing ever seen before.
You can be a voice for the displaced and oppressed as their voices go unheard. Like the father too desperate to hide his tears.
A wonderful way to show God’s love is through a practical response to someone’s physical suffering. If ever there were people who needed you to show them God’s love through a helping gift, it’s the children, women, and men suffering in Burma. The end of the year is when we count on your support the most.
You can help his children live free and full lives. Please don’t let them wait. Act today with your loving generosity and make a massive difference in the lives of suffering people.
Happy new year friends. Thanks for being part of a team that is saving lives and making the goodness and compassion of God a visible reality today.
A few closing words from my leader: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
CEO, Partners Relief & Development
It’s about the poor, widows, orphans, and refugees, not me. It’s about giving instead of getting, and the giving is something the world really needs, not another play station or bottle of cologne. It’s about focusing on people in need instead of people who have two of everything. It’s about considering a battle to fight instead of a line at Walmart. For me, it’s about using my freedom and relative wealth to help others gain theirs rather than using it to make stock prices spike on wall street with the support of my consumption.
Our team made this video to explain our purpose this year. I watched it and just now gave $20.00. That gift was a small sacrifice for me but for the child it benefits, it represents another month of security, education, and food. And if 1000 of my friends gave that same amount, we would be on our way to some amazing stories of transformation instead of on our way into the debt hole. Join me friends. Please?
She never cusses from the stage or in meetings, but off camera and one on one, get her on the topic of exploitation and the poor and needy; watch your step!
It happens every year. I suddenly realize it is soon Christmas and I haven’t done what I intended to do a year ago: Buy all the Christmas presents and have it ready before December 1 so I can enjoy the season. Today, my mission was twofold. I was going to stores to see if some of them would want to buy some bracelets refugee women and other poor women had made. I have designed cards to go along with them that explains that by buying a bracelet, you help a child go to school for a year. In my mind it is the perfect gift for the person who has everything. In my naiveté I thought store owners would love the idea and gladly sell them for no profit other than a much better conscience for selling all the other crap. My second mission was to see if some potential gifts…
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