Watering Plants in a Bombed Home: A Mission to the Plains of Burma
26 January 2024
Karen State, Burma
Dear friends and family,
We just graduated 165 new Rangers and went on a relief mission from the mountains down into the wide, open plains of western Karen State. Seven of our team had asked to be baptized and we did that right before the mission and also had a beautiful wedding of one of our Rangers that kicked off the whole mission with joy. We moved initially on foot, supported by our mule and horse team that we love, moving down into the plains, where over 10,000 people have been displaced in the past two months.
As we approached, we could hear the sounds of airstrikes and mortars both day and night. The Burma military was firing heavy mortars from their positions on both sides of the Sittaung River, and civilians were being killed and wounded as they tried to escape. Homes were being destroyed, farms ruined and lives wrecked as the Burma military relentlessly used all the weapons at their disposal against their people. At each hiding place we arrived to, we were surprised to find the displaced families, sitting patiently and smiling when we came, saying, “We are so happy to see you. Thank you for not forgetting us! Thank you for all your help.“ This was their response everywhere we went.
They lifted us up as much as we lifted them up as we sang songs together and danced. The Good Life Club children’s program brought joy to all of us, even as the sound of mortars crashed in the distance around the villages they had fled. In between the programs, we went with a small team to document the destruction, and as we filmed in one village, the Burma Army launched a ground attack against us. They were very close and on two sides of us but by God‘s grace we were able to get out of that.
This attack highlighted that the Burma military, although being pushed back in some areas and encircled in others, still has freedom of movement and that there is no ground force stronger than them. The military can walk anywhere they want to walk in attack if they have enough troops. On this particular day, they had enough troops. The military has more power than any of the resistance groups, and at any single point of contention, if they bring enough forces, they will win the battle. However, the new unity in Burma that cuts across social, racial, tribal, economic, religious, and party lines means that people are standing up all over and the military cannot handle them all, and, in fact, has lost over half the country to the resistance groups. The military still controls most of the major cities and border crossings. However, their power is shrinking. As this power shrinks, they react even more violently against their own people, trying to kill as many as they can.
After documenting this recent attack of burned homes, markets, and buildings, we went back and joined the Good Life Club. Along with this program for children and the distribution of relief funds for rice, our medics also treated patients everywhere we went. On another movement to visit a village, heavily under attack by the Burma military, we documented the destruction and direct bombing of a church and many homes, and also met some of the civilians who had been wounded and were now recovering.
One of the most touching moments was watching a grandmother tenderly watering a row of plants in the middle of her grandchildren’s burned home. All around was destruction but somehow the plants survived and she watered them and looked up at me with a smile and said, “What else can I do? I will try to help these plants live.” Her smile and her work touched us very much. As we left the village, she was sweeping the front of the ruins, and said, “Well, my house is next-door and even though it’s damaged it is still livable and so I’ll keep making it better.” That is the spirit of the people here.
We met with other healthcare providers already down in the valley and we are doing our best to support them. There are multiple civil disobedience movement (CDM) medical groups providing life-saving care to wounded civilians, as well as resistance soldiers. The work they are doing is world-class, but has very little outside support.
There are also outside groups such as Earth Mission Asia, which is giving medical training and life-saving medical surgical care to badly-wounded villagers and anyone in need. Earth Mission Asia (EMA) needs more direct support to continue their vital operations. The CDM medical groups also need more direct help. Hundreds of lives and many of our own Rangers’ lives have been saved at these facilities.
Considering the life-and-death nature of the Burma military attacks on its own people and the dire situation the people face, there needs to be a massive outpouring of support to help these people. The CDM medical organizations on the ground, andother groups like EMA, are made up of highly qualified professionals. Many of the CDM were the top doctors and surgeons in their hospitals who, after the coup almost three years ago, joined the pro-democracy movement and are now living under mortar fire and airstrikes, and are willing to sacrifice everything to help their people. They perform world-class surgery and are absolutely impressive in what they do. We appeal to people who care about the people in Burma to support these organizations any way they can. We are doing our best to support them here on the ground.
On this mission, every day we walked to a different area where people were hiding. Sometimes it would be 400 to 500 people, sometimes over 700 people hiding amongst the trees. We performed Good Life Club programs for the children and families, and everyone joined in, men, women, and children; the looks and the smiles on their faces were wonderful. Airstrikes, mortars, and artillery are constant down in the plains as the Burma military seeks to crush all opposition and starve the people out. In spite of this, everywhere we went the people said they were not going to give up. They want a free country and they won’t go back to dictatorship. Schools are being held in the jungle or in buildings where they think it is still safe, and people are sharing food and resources with each other. Burmans and ethnic Karen and other ethnic groups work together in ways they never have before and this is a wonderful blessing, and a testimony to the positive ways that Burma is changing.
We do not believe the dictators can stop this because this is revolution of the heart, and there is love all through it. We do pray for the dictators and their army to change their hearts or step down. The challenges of survival in this war are tremendous, and the challenges of building a new country are also tremendous, but we believe in a loving, all-powerful God that guides us through this to freedom, justice, forgiveness and reconciliation. Thank you so much for praying for the people here and for all the things you do that enable us to help others. We could not do this without you. We are just an extension of your love and prayers.
Thanks and God bless you,
Dave, family, and FBR