New Teams Help Villagers, Conduct Memorial for Old Ranger and Monitor Burma Army23 December 2014 Karen State, Burma
Tha Da Der Village, Karen State: Here was the first stop for 12 new teams of rangers as they began their first mission after graduation. They organized a Run for Relief and Good Life Club program for 5 local schools and treated patients at a field clinic during the program. They also did a reconnaissance of the Maw Pu Burma Army camp from where the Burma Army has launched numerous attacks against the villagers including burning Tha Dah Der three times. Nearly every year, this has been the first stop for the new Ranger teams; this year it also included a tribute to one of FBR’s first and biggest friends and supporters: Pu Maw La.
In September, Pu Maw La died at the age of 80. He was a hero to us and had spent a lifetime fighting for his people, first as a boy against the Japanese with Major Hugh Seagrim and his father, Saw Digay. When civil war broke out, he became one of the most feared fighters against the Burma Army. Famous as a hunter, a fighter, and a leader, he was also a supporter of FBR and his sons became some of our best leaders. On Sunday, 14 December, we paid tribute to his life, posthumously awarding him FBR’s medal of honor and star of valor. These were given to his wife, Naw True Lei, and his son, Saw Digay Lwe. Naw True Lei was also awarded the star of valor for her years of support of Maw La and her willingly risking everything for the sake of freedom for her people. We greatly miss Maw La and Tha Da Der was not the same without him. We are grateful to have known and loved him.
The next day the teams went to observe and photograph Maw Pu Burma Army Camp. They were able to see over 50 Burma Army troops who occupy the camp and to video and photograph their activities. The camp is at the same manning level as last year and sends out patrols to the surrounding areas. In accordance with the ceasefire agreement the Burma Army has agreed not to conduct offensive patrols near villages. However, during the observation of the camp, the Burma Army sent out a patrol towards Ta Ka Toe Baw village west of Tha Dah Der. The Karen soldiers defending the area had placed landmines to protect the villagers and the Burma Army stepped on a mine, wounding one soldier. The Burma Army patrol then retreated. At the end of the recon we all gathered and prayed for the Burma Army, that one day they would go back, peace would come and we could be friends.
On 16 December, the following day, students from five different schools gathered. At 8am, they raced through the dewy rice fields in the 7th annual Tha Da Der Run for Relief. Runners had to dodge water buffalo and horses, and navigate narrow paddy dikes and water-filled paddy fields. After the race and awards, the Good Life Club program began, with Rangers from Karen, Karenni, Lahu, Naga, Shan and Ta’ang ethnic groups leading. Some of these team members are Buddhist, some are Christian and some are animist; together, they acted out the Old Testament story of Moses’ 12 spies, sent to recon the Promised Land. Ten return and say that the land is good but impossible to conquer because the people are too powerful. Only Joshua and Caleb take God at His word: they advise the people to go for it – God has promised them the land and He will give it to them. The teams chose this story to teach the children about faith, and that they can trust God to deliver His promises when they obey Him. There were dramatic and comedic combat scenes, as Israel takes the Promised Land.
The rangers taught the younger kids healthcare and hygiene, while the older students learned junior ranger skills. Games and singing rounded out the program for about 300 children, along with moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas. Ranger medics treated 115 patients. The program ended with a group photo and a song that, roughly translated, means: “Keep smiling and your heart will be well.” The Shan and Ta’ang teams now traveling with us will return to their areas after this mission – and we will too. There the fighting is heavy and we will help as we can and encourage who we meet. This is just the first program. Please pray for the rest of our mission here in Karen State and our upcoming mission to Kachin. Pray for the new rangers, that their hearts would be well and that their mission of help, hope and love would make a real difference in the lives of the people they hope to serve. Thanks for your help and for being in this with us.
God bless you,
The Free Burma Rangers