Relief Team Graduation: 129 Rangers Ready for Missions
5 January 2017
Karen State, Burma
On 17 October 2017, 129 Ranger students – 98 new students and 31 advanced – stood at attention for the opening ceremony of this year’s Leadership Development and Relief Team Training. While they all came with different expectations soon they were together doing pushups in the dirt, taking notes through the hot and drowsy afternoon, bushwhacking through dense jungle with a compass looking for elusive land navigation points or slithering across a rope strung up over a deep, cold river. They had, together, learned that when the leader cried out: “Easy way, hard way!” the correct answer was “HARD WAY!”
Before every meal of rice and curry shoveled down quickly before the next activity, the students stood at attention and recited the Ranger motto: “Love each other. Unite and work for freedom, justice and peace. Forgive and don’t hate each other. Pray with faith, act with courage, never surrender. Ranger!” This, too, is the hard way. This year there were teams from Arakan (Arakan Army and Arakan Liberation Party), Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Lahu, Shan north and south, and Ta’ang organizations. As these teams go home, they will need all the training they have to do the hard work of reconciliation, and service.
Love, forgiveness, reconciliation, bringing a work of freedom and change to people’s hearts – this is hard work but we believe that with God’s help we can be part of it. The rangers, from many different faiths, have all decided that this is their work too. We share with them that God wants to help them in it, that He loves them and wants to be part of all their lives. Just before Christmas, 10 students and staff asked to be baptized so, on Christmas Eve morning, after church, we sang “Amazing Grace” together on the bank of the river and Dave and Doh Say baptized each one. Later, two staff also asked to be baptized and, on the 29th, two FBR medics were baptized by Dave and Chaplain Monkey.
After a three-day final training exercise, in which the teams work their way through 25 stations that test them in all of the skills they’ve learned in the last two months, working non-stop without food or sleep, the teams graduated. December 28th at 4pm, graduation ceremonies were held and the new Rangers immediately began preparations for the next phase: a multi-week mission in Karen State. Afterwards they will return to their home areas, ready to bring help, hope and love to all corners of Burma. This is the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Free Burma Rangers and we thank God for this opportunity to serve.
We are grateful for each of you and how you are in this with us, part of the movement of spiritual freedom, love and reconciliation here in Burma.
Thank you and God bless you,
Dave, family and teams