Category Archives: cyclone

Unintended consequences

The beautiful hills of the border country

Today Dr Simon took us some 80Kms in a northerly direction from the camp. We passed through a land of beautiful limestone crags, steep hills and rich valley farms. From time to time he said: “We are planting a church here.” or “We planted that church, a graduate of KKBBSC is the pastor.” This litany continued all the way.

The chapel in the valley, with its huge cross

Finally we arrived at a glorious valley deep amid the steepest and highest hills. There at the end of the valley, beyond the village and farms, stood a brand new, unused church. Three stories above it towers a huge white cross. It was the dream of Dr Simon’s wife, and he drew the plans. It is constructed of metal piping and clad in white painted sheet metal. There are rooms with magnificent views in each arm of the cross.

Looking from the cross over the open church land to the current two small dormitories

The new church and its cross will be dedicated on Feb 14th. But already there are dormitories for children of neighbouring villages, allowing them to attend the school. The elder was an Animist until his recent conversion, now he seeks to convert all the valley. Villagers in such a remote rural area have even less access to resources and education than some refugees, who may have relatives in good jobs in Thailand, Burma or Third Countries. So, access to education, like the cross, is a symbol that the good news of Christ has come to this remote valley.

Many such rural development and evangelistic efforts here, result from local initiatives, sometimes attracting outside support, rather than foreign “mission”.

Burma on the Left (an area currently in the hands of the DKBA a Burma Army surrogate force), Thailand to the right, the river Moei marks the boundary

Senior General Than Shwe and his clique seem determined to eradicate Karen nationalism, they may even desire genocide (think of their response to Cyclone Nargis, which affected mainly areas of the country where Karen comprise most of the population), they perhaps also hope to remove Christianity from Burma.

Looking down the stairwell, the steel construction of the cross is evident

The Burmese Generals might perhaps eradicate Karen nationalism, though there is small sign of this yet. They will surely fail at genocide, as other evil men have failed before them. But they have already succeeded in planting vibrant evangelistic Christian churches all along this borderland. Gen 50:20 (the motto displayed at the jubilee in 2008) springs to mind.

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An economy with no “work”

The wide central street of the market (photo by jackol)

According to the “rules” in Thailand a camp for displaced people is temporary, and among other consequences there is no regular employment. Yet there is in this camp a thriving and large market.

The market itself is one way in which some families make money, buying in Mae Sot and selling at a markup in Mae La Camp. (Many of these traders are “Indian”, among them Muslim Karen of Indian genetic heritage whose families have traded among the Karen in Burma for generations, and who fled the Thatmadaw (army of the Myanmar government) across the border with other Karen.

Some women earn money by weaving traditional cloth, to be sold by sponsoring organisations (Karen Women’s Organisation, Kawthoulei Karen Baptist Women’s Organisation) who provided loans to enable them to get yarn and looms (microfinance) with the profit shared by the organisation and the woman.

Some men risk getting caught by the Thai authorities and leave the camp spreading deep into the surrounding jungle to collect the leaves that are used for thatching buildings. They earn about 50 bhat (NZ$2) per day of hard work. Others work inside the camp for NGOs earning (self)respect and an allowance of 400 baht per month (nursery teachers) up to 1500 baht (medics).

In this context the response of people here to Cyclone Nargis is impressive, within days more than 100,000 bhat was collected and aid sent direct to those worst affected inside Burma. This immediate collection was only the start.

No sooner given than the money was used to buy vital supplies and sent via pastors, Buddhist monks and others to one of the worst hit areas.

One more way in which, though poor in money, the Karen people are rich! (See 1 Cor 6:1-10 especially v.10)

Photo above by jackol

Food and culture evening

If you are in Auckland, 15th March, you can enjoy loads of delicious Burmese and ethnic foods, with a short report from Dr Aung Mang of MEGST on cyclone relief and Christian witness as well as a cultural display with ethnic dancing. A fun and informative evening out.

5pm-8pm at Laidlaw College (ex-BCNZ) just $30. The details are here do tell your friends of make up a party!

Global financial meltdown

Tom Sine’s “Seed Sampler” email included this timely item from Samantha Baker-Evans, InnerCHANGE Cambodia

A few people have asked me recently how Cambodians are dealing with the ‘recession.’ Recognizing their genuine concern and good hearts, I have searched for a diplomatic and non-melodramatic response, but in this case, the truth is just not reassuring. How are Cambodians responding to the recession? They are dying from it, the slow, silent death of old people and small children from malnutrition as rising food prices cause families to eat less with less variety. Crises like these are hard on all of us, but disproportionately affect the poor. Since Cambodia came out of war and oppression in 1991, the people have benefited from  development, and a new middle class has grown, but the last two years have brought high inflation. Families that were finally stabilizing are now falling back into poverty.

Naw Ree Kah prepares food

Naw Ree Kah prepares food

The reminder came as we are planning to send a small sum to the refugee camp to help feed the extra mouths who have retreated there since cyclone Nargis. Already back in April the TBBC had to cut the food ration they give to refugees, then in May Nargis struck, and over the months since more and more unregistered but desperate people have arrived at the camps. So the meagre rations have had to be spread even more thinly.

So if you are in a tizzy over the global financial meltdown, as well as being angry at the bankers whose greed caused it, please also spare a thought and some cash for those who are REALLY hurting.

The photo comes from a fine photo post on Timelight @ Mae La
on “The new arrivals and their food in Mae La Camp”

Insight on Burma/”Myanmar”

Radio NZ had a short feature on Burma, focusing mainly on ongoing relief efforts after Cyclone Nargis. It was good they mainly interviewed Burmese and Karen people (Stu Corlett was among the Kiwis interviewed). Apart from a (natural) media tendency to dramatise it was a good brief introduction. You can listen from this link:

Insight for 21 September: Myanmar Refugees
Insight goes to the Thai/Myanmar border to find out how people are recovering post Cyclone Nargis
File Size:9.7MB

Burmese Evening in Auckland

I must have had a reverse “senior moment”, I remember writing a post about the Burmese Evening at BCNZ put on by the West Auckland Burmese community, with Burmese food and dancing and songs from Karen, Chin and Kachin groups, but when Miriam sent me a notice about it, I can’t find the post anywhere 😦 So, here, belatedly, is a link to the invitation, and extracts of the details, it is:

  • organised by the Burmese Christian Fellowship,
  • on Sunday July 20th from 5pm till 7pm
  • $25 per person includes food, entertainment and donation to Cyclone Nargis relief (organised informally through contacts on the spot)
  • at Bible College of New Zealand (if it has not changed its name by then 😉 221 Lincoln Rd, Henderson, traffic light entrance opposite Pak N Save, “entrance through the muli-storey brick building at the end of the drive”
  • please pay in advance to:
    • Adrienne Coats 837 1507
    • Paul Long 818 3874
    • Khun Aung 630 8975
    • David Thorpe 826 0864

If anyone needs lift from over our way please contact me!

Helping cyclone victims

There are two new posts on the Partners blog, both muse on different aspects of providing assistance to cyclone victims. Kath (in the context of underlining how the presence of foreigners can help) tells a heartbreaking story:

What difference could one person like me make? One distraught woman, of a similar age to me, shared how she had heard her mother calling for help from the rice field but both her and her husband were carrying two of their children each trying to keep all heads above the rising water
and were unable to go to her aid. This family lost their home and all of their belongings but fortunately all of their children miraculously survived. However now they are grieving the loss of their mother and grandmother. Who else around her had the strength to listen to her tell
her story over again as if it was the first time, when everyone else had their own tragic story? Instead God supplied the ears of an Australian. I offered reassurance that she had made the right choice as a mother, a gentle squeeze of the hand and a prayer of blessing over their new home and her family. I attempted to instill hope that many on the other side of the world are being moved into action to pray, to give, and to be a voice for the suffering people of Burma.

While Ruth herself, in a longer post mentions the necessarily unsung heros:

those working in Burma, of aid getting through to the survivors despite all the obstacles, and of the brave local community leaders who have been delivering the aid despite the threat of imprisonment or even death at the hand of the military regime.

We may not hear their stories, we certainly won’t know their names, but we should pray for these people, their love and determination in the face of a cruel and powerful “government” is making all the difference in a disaster that has hit the delta region worse than the tsunami did.