A Celebration of Thanks for 20 Years of the Hard Way
22 December 2017
Karen State, Burma
Twenty years ago, as thousands of Karen people fled attacks of the Burma Army, the first FBR mission was launched: Dave Eubank went to the front with a few backpacks of medicine and met thousands of people fleeing from Burma; in that group was Eliya a Karen medic. Eliya joined Dave and together they found and cared for families who had just run from their homes and were hiding in dense jungle, with survival their first and immediate hope. Some were shot or had stepped on landmines and many were sick. Dave and Eliya coming through the jungle with medicine, guidance and prayer provided those people they met with help, hope and love. And so the first FBR mission happened, a small spot of light in a dark situation – but the light is not overcome by the darkness.
Since that time, Dave and Eliya have been joined by many others. Those first relief missions gave way to relief team trainings as Saw Htoo Htoo Lay and other Karen leaders saw a way to meet a great need; other ethnic groups soon asked to join and there was a movement to resist the oppressor not just with guns but by loving and serving the oppressed, by a movement of the spirit that refused to be defeated. The FBR has now trained over 4000 rangers from 13 different ethnic groups in Burma, as well as training Nuban rangers in Sudan, and Peshmerga in Kurdistan. Ranger relief teams have provided medical care, shelter, food and other help to more than 2,000,000 people under attack all over Burma, in Sudan, in Kurdistan, in Syria and in Iraq. We have lost 28 rangers, who have been killed or died of illness, and we took this time to honor them.
Over the last few days many old rangers have joined us here at our training training camp in Burma to celebrate, mixing with the new rangers and in gratitude for the opportunity of 20 years of working in Burma and all over the world, in recognition of the many friends who have helped make this possible, and in honor of the men and women from many different ethnic groups who come together to stand for freedom, justice and reconciliation for all people in Burma and for oppressed people everywhere.
And also to have fun! Ranger Olympics allowed old and new rangers to compete against each other and a concert gave opportunity for some reunion performances. Two ranger runs gave us all the opportunity to suffer together in uphill runs, river crossings, bushwhacking and endless pushups. Everyone knew the right answer when the leader called out after the first 50 pushups: “Easy way, hard way!?” “Hard way!” The ranger training to take the hard way is preparation for work more difficult than pushups: standing with the oppressed, reconciliation, loving your enemy – these are hard, but with God’s help we can do them.
Most of all, the spirit of the Ranger motto was renewed: “Love each other. Unite and work for freedom, justice and peace. Pray with faith, act with courage, never surrender.” As the reunion ended, the training continued. At 5:30am the next day, the whistles blew and the class of new rangers was back on the exercise field. There is still oppression, there is still darkness – and God is still calling us to “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18) We want to be part of that light that is not overcome by the darkness.
Thank you all for how you are part of this team in prayer, love and help. We especially want to thank the leaders of the Karen National Union for all their support in supporting trainings all through the years, as well as the leaders of the 13 different ethnic groups who have sent rangers to be trained and supported them and their missions to provide help, hope and love to the people of Burma.
May God bless you all in Jesus name,
Dave, family and the Free Burma Rangers