Good Life Doesn’t Stop Flowing in Karen State
21 November 2023
Dooplaya District, Karen State, Burma
Recently our FBR team was invited to Dooplaya District, Karen State, for a humanitarian support mission to help the people there and share the love of Jesus. Moving through Dooplaya during rainy season always presents significant challenges, as both shoes and vehicles alike slosh through the mud over the hills and through the jungle. The torrential rains can rapidly turn all roads and paths into rivers in a matter of minutes.
As our team arrived and settled in, we enjoyed connecting with old friends and making new ones while praying for what God wanted us to do next. The local community has expanded, building a new high school and recent additions for the medical clinic.
Our FBR volunteers first got to work at the high school, running a Good Life Club (GLC) program in which we play games with the kids, dance, sing songs, and teach them about God’s love for them. The local clinic nurses gave the students training on hygienic care, further strengthening the rapport the clinic has with the school. Our volunteers also installed a solar power project for this school, providing a steady power supply where there previously was none. We were also glad when the school vice-principal invited us to teach English to the students, furthering their education and allowing us to grow our relationships with them.
The high school fills a critical gap for the diverse community, and has grown quickly since it was built around one year ago. The school has a mix of Buddhist and Christian students. Some students are ethnic S’Gaw Karen while others are ethnic Pwo Karen. The school is a terrific example of religious and ethnic harmony in a country widely torn by ethnic and religious violence. The students and teachers are very dedicated to learn from any resource they can get their hands on, which can be hard to acquire. The school allows a majority of their students to live on-site in the bamboo dormitory and therefore avoid walking one to three hours to school, while the rest of the students bike or walk a shorter distance.
The students themselves are a testament to the heart and dedication of the Karen people. One bright-eyed student at the school, named Johnathan, told us that he either wanted to become a medic or president when he grows up. While only half-joking about being president, he is serious about wanting to help other people in an impactful way. Another dedicated student, named So Layar Moo, said she wants to be a teacher, just like the ones she sees working for her every day. Their desire to serve and improve the lives of their people, affected by decades of civil war, is common-place for the Karen people, who walk with humility and have great desire to help each other through challenges.
Johnathan, an 8th grader and aspiring president, holding up his Good Life Club (GLC) drawing.
The school truly needs a more permanent structure, as the classrooms and dormitory are constructed out of untreated bamboo, which will decay beyond use within the next few years. All the teaching, cooking, and living areas leak on the students and staff whenever there is hard rain, which makes it difficult to stay dry and study their lessons. But the community lacks funds to pay for a more permanent structure. The teachers and students will have to rebuild the school out of bamboo again unless they can get more funding for wooden beams, metal, brick, and other building materials.
The teachers are tough, optimistic, and have done a fantastic job of starting this school from scratch. The community does what it can for them, but it can only cover around half of the teachers’ salaries. The teachers work full-time and struggle to make ends meet for themselves. In fact, a common school activity is the teachers and students farming in the jungle areas so that they have enough food to sustain themselves for teaching and learning.
Nearby the school is the medical clinic that hosted our team during our stay. We had daily opportunities to provide medical care to patients and training to medical students, multiplying the medical care available to this area of Karen State. Frequently, families from surrounding areas bring patients to this clinic and are treated for free, since the clinic is sponsored by the Karen National Union (KNU) government. Oftentimes, families bring dying or deceased patients to the clinic after they had suffered from some medical problem or an accident, which is a stark reminder of the realities of life in the jungle. We encourage the families with the eternal life and love that Jesus provides, even when our lives are maimed or destroyed here and now.
During the mission, we provided map training to members of the Karen National Union government. Map training is a positive learning opportunity and empowers them to grow, enhancing their self-governance.
During the mission, our team regularly visited the frontline area in Dooplaya District, providing prayer, encouragement, and humanitarian supplies to the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) soldiers as they faced the Burma Army positions just up on the hill. The Burma Army deploys forces all over Burma, including in the ethnic areas, to control infrastructure, resources, and the people, for its own purposes. There was sporadic fighting daily between the two militaries, as they tested each other’s defenses and resolve. Our prayer is that both groups would reach a peaceful settlement and that the Karen can exercise their freedom and self-governance. We also pray that they would not harbor hate in their hearts and love each other, just as Jesus taught us to love our enemies.
Our mission to Burma was filled with challenges, moments of joy, and deep connections. We embarked on this journey to show love to the people and provide aid, and we left with full hearts from working with the Karen people. Their hospitality and love are inexhaustible and they inspire us every time we are with them. We look forward to the continued growth and prosperity of the communities we have had the privilege to serve in Dooplaya, Karen State.
Thank you and God Bless you,
Free Burma Rangers