Journey in the NightBy Kimberly Coast
After my experience with ASAP in Cambodia in 2008 it weighed heavily on my heart to somehow get back to Southeast Asia. God opened the door for my two children, Ariana and Andrew and I to meet up with Pastor Phamor and travel with him to several refugee camps along the Northwestern border of Thailand.
When we arrived at a temporary school and orphanage the rain was coming down in a solid sheet. The mud oozed over the tops of our feet as we walked up to the main building. We entered the dark, simple structure and as our eyes adjusted I realized that this was the school and that classes were in session in various corners of the room. I spent a long time talking with Ly Klo Yaw*, the school and orphanage director and discovered how this school came about and what their urgent needs are.
On June 5, 2009, heavily-armed military came to seize the Adventist school in Myanmar. Knowing the only option was to flee for their lives, Ly Klo Yaw* quickly and quietly readied the smaller children, said a prayer and sent them deep into the jungle. They courageously left in the dark of night, hoping and praying to not be detected by the soldiers and to reach their goal of crossing the border into Thailand. Meanwhile the slightly older children helped the teachers and himself carry as much food and supplies as they could manage. They faced dangers at every side; a swollen river, wild animals, leeches, monsoon rain, mudslides, and the looming danger of being shot. They pressed on until they finally arrived at the overcrowded Karen refugee camp. He was concerned with some of the children’s health due to their difficult journey.
I glanced over my shoulder at my children blowing up balloons and playing with the Karen children. They were simply enjoying the moment and making new friends. I looked back at Ly Klo Yaw*. “How old are you?” I asked him. He grinned and told me that he was thirty years old. He told me that all the teachers are in their twenties except for the principal who is also “old” like him. I laughed. He told me that they have been living each day not knowing how they will live the next. He wistfully said that the school complex they had in Myanmar had dormitories, a decent school building, and cafeteria, quite a contrast to their inadequate facility in the camp. Yet I could see how grateful the students and teachers are just for a safe place to be. The time passed quickly and it was time to go. My children and I didn’t want to leave, but obediently climbed into the truck with Pastor Phamor and Ly Klo Yaw*.
My respect for Ly Klo Yaw* was already very high, but as the miles stretched on before us I paid more attention to the distance knowing that they had walked it during the night, through the jungle, with small children. I felt the tears welling up inside me ready to pour out as twin waterfalls. Over lunch at the crossroads I asked Ly Klo Yaw* if he ever had second thoughts about what he does; I was thinking of his adorable baby sister in the orphanage. He told me that sometimes the magnitude of their situation makes him want to run away from it all, but he stays because he knows that is where God wants him to minister and that God will provide the impossible. Pastor Phamor got a call right as we were getting back into the truck to head to another refugee camp. It was the director of ADRA. He asked if Ly Klo Yaw* could wait for him at the crossroads and then guide him up to their camp. As we drove away, leaving him there alone in the rain the tears I had been holding back flowed. What would become of him? What about all those children and teachers that look to him for leadership? Who will care enough to support these teachers and these children?
The trip made a profound impact on my children and me. I went there with the desire to help the refugees and orphans and to ensure that my own children have my same passion for missions. My hopes were more than fulfilled. I left the refugee camps with an overwhelming sense of urgency. Somehow, I will go back and donate a safe stable place for Ly Klo Yaw* to take care of his orphans and teachers. If Ly Klo Yaw* can stick to his mission through the very real danger that exists for him then I can do my part here and support him in his calling.
*Name changed for the safety of God’s servant.
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