Force Multiplier – the Next Generation
Karen State, Burma
Eliya is a force. He’s a force that is full of joy, is committed, and serves God and his people. Everyone who meets him remembers him and his larger-than-life personality. He is the chief medic for the Free Burma Rangers and was the first Ranger to work with Dave Eubank, 25 years ago.
The year was 1997 and the Burma Army was conducting a major offensive, chasing over 10,000 people into Thailand. The border road Dave was on was clogged with families carrying all they could.
As he neared the end of the road, Dave pulled his truck to the side; as he stepped out, a man emerged from the jungle. He was in full camouflage fatigues, with a hand grenade on his harness and an M16 in his hand. He had a warm and open smile and a bright red earring in one ear. To Dave, he looked like a pirate.
“Hello!” he said in English. “My name is Eliya and I am a medic. Can I help you?”
And so Dave met the first Ranger; together they went on the first FBR mission, providing medical care for many IDPs and helping many more escape the marauding Burma Army. But it was just the beginning and proved to be the launching point of a movement that would continue with missions conducted all over the world, helping and inspiring people across the globe.
Working with Eliya, especially in his home area, is a mix of comedy and amazement. He lives and works in an area with many different armed factions but somehow can work with and through them to get his work done. I remember one instance when he invited a Burma Army officer, DKBA soldiers (a proxy force that works with the Burma Army) , and KNLA soldiers, to our GLC program for kids. He has a way of getting through this web of different groups and having people come alongside and help him move supplies or treat patients or drive stuff here and there. If you are close to Eliya he will put you to work and he gets stuff done.
Thirteen months after the coup, fighting has increased all over the country, and villager displacement is widespread. Information arrives that there are 500 new IDPs close to Eliya’s home along the border between Thailand and southern Karen State. We quickly assemble a team to go and provide help, hope, and love to these IDPs. I ask one of our new staff, Poe Du, to help organize all the materials for our trip. Poe Du graduated from university with a degree in English just a year ago. He is also Eliya’s oldest child.
We made the 12-hour drive to Eliya’s place and began making a plan to go to the IDPs. Eliya wasn’t home as he was already in Burma working at his clinic treating patients. Cat, Eliya’s wife, and Poe Du began to work out the details. At 3 in the morning, I heard Eliya’s loud laugh as he arrived back home. There was a flurry of activity as he had brought back a lady who was in labor and needed to be transported to the hospital, two hours away, for a c-section. After he sent the patient off he strung up his hammock between two posts of his house and fell asleep.
I thought we would be going to help the IDPs with Eliya and Cat because they always help arrange everything in that area. However, Eliya had to head back into Burma and Cat had to go elsewhere to see patients also. Instead, they sent us with their four kids. Poe Du is the oldest and works with FBR in the supply department as well as doing many solar power system installations. Thomas is the second oldest and is now finishing university with a degree in sports education. Eubank Sam, Eliya’s only daughter, is currently in nursing school. Little Allen, Eliya’s youngest, is now in high school. Our mission would be in their hands.
After a long and difficult off-road drive we got to a checkpoint and we had to get permission from the higher authorities to get access to the IDPs. Thomas and Poe Du jumped out of the cars and began talking and laughing with the authorities – not unlike what I had seen their father do so many times before. They got us access and Poe Du, Thomas, Eubank Sam, and Allen began practicing a GLC program and getting snacks ready for the kids. They worked like a team, sharing responsibility and dividing up duties. All four of them showed how much they cared about these IDPs hiding in the jungle. They shared about God’s love and played games with the kids. They sang songs and gave snacks to the kids and they distributed tarps, mosquito nets, water filters, maternal health kits, clothing and sports equipment to the families.
It is genuinely fulfilling to see the next generation take the reins and follow in their parents’ footsteps. I am sure that Eliya and Cat are proud of their four kids and what they are able to accomplish as a team. They are the next generation of leaders and an unstoppable force.
If you want to read more about Eliya:
God Bless You,
Free Burma Rangers