Thailand 2010: Canadian Baptist Ministries Short Term Mission
Mae Ra Ma Luang Refugee Camp
March 25 – April 10, 2010
(For those interested in hearing a bit more about our fast-approaching trip to Thailand, I have copied the information sheet we used for our presentation at church...)
Northern & Western Thailand, with a focused stay in the Mae Ra Ma Luang refugee camp, as well as time in the northern city of Chiang Mai, and the town of Mae Sot, near the Burmese border.
1. For Canadians with Karen people in their church congregations to learn more about Karen culture and the circumstances in which our Karen friends lived before coming to Canada.
2. To provide Bible teaching and training through week-long programs including:
• Vacation Bible School (VBS) for 150-250 children
• Young adult ESL (English as a Second Language)
• Bible Study for camp church pastors, leaders, and teachers
We may help a bit with some ESL work, but expect to primarily be involved with the day camp...the latest is that there could be 300-250 children coming out! I think we will likely divide them into a morning and an afternoon shift, and then further break them into groups with a couple of faciliators per group. The curriculum is in English, and is Easter-focused. Many of the Karen we will be meeting will eventually be coming to English-speaking countries and churches.
Nine of us will be embarking on this adventure together. Five are from Ottawa, one is from Halifax, one is from Windsor (Ontario), and we represent the London, Ontario area. One of our team members is a nurse, and lived in Thailand for 8 years as a missionary. Another is a Burmese Karen man who has been in Canada for 6 years.
The Karen are a primarily Christian ethnic group, which experiences severe oppression by the Myanmar army (government forces in Burma). Many have fled to Thailand over the past 20 years to escape forced labour, death, and destruction of their villages, crops, and livestock. Since 2005, the government in Thailand has been allowing large-scale resettlement of Karen refugees to other parts of the world. Canada has been actively involved with this effort. The Karen in Thailand are recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) as a priority refugee group, due to increased risk in their home country compared with other refugees, and to long-standing displacement, which means lack of access to basic rights such as employment, freedom of movement, etc.
Thailand is half-way around the world, and is 12 hours ahead of us! We will be flying with Singapore Air, an excellent airline (which was recently used as an example of "experiential marketing" on CBC radio program...but I digress). Overall, Thailand is a tourist-friendly country, and we will be renting a vehicle and driver to help us move from place to place. The main city in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai, is full of history and culture. The area is picturesque, with mountains, forests, rivers, and valleys – and it is warm: the country will be in the middle of its hot season when we are there (30+ Celsius)! Mosquitoes are active at night, so we will be taking precautions, including use of bug nets, to keep them at bay. The camp guest house is a bamboo structure, with squat toilets and a dipper + cistern bathing system. Travel within the camp will be by foot, which will mean treks of 5-30 minutes one way to get around.
There are most definitely a few things we would love you to be thinking and praying about!
• Energy Levels & Health – We are quite aware of some of the issues faced by many travellers, including jet lag, general fatigue (especially with such a busy schedule!), gastro-intestinal problems, mosquitoes, etc. Of course, we are hoping these things keep their distance, but at the very least our desire is that however we are feeling, we are able to remain actively involved, and not cause any major disruptions for the team!
• Cultural Acclimatization & Interactions – One of the exciting, but also complicated, aspects of the trip is diving into an unfamiliar way of life complete with a major language barrier. Our desire is to be relaxed and comfortable with others as we spend time with them and communicate as best as we can! We were given a great link to a Karen language overview, but there is definitely a lot more than we can pick up in the month before we travel. Camping and hiking experience has given us a bit of exposure to living with just the basics, although we know there will likely be some adjustments staying in a setting so different from what we are used to.
• Finances – We so greatly appreciate the prayer and financial support offered by the church, which is a truly valuable encouragement to us as we represent our congregation in this way, and seek to more fully serve and integrate with our Karen community. CBM’s stated cost for the trip is $3390 per person, including airfare, accommodations, in-country travel, meals, program materials, camp access paperwork, and health insurance – if you see this as an opportunity to contribute to a meaningful endeavour, your financial involvement is certainly welcome. Donations can be made to First Baptist Church, designated to our names or to the Thailand trip.
• Air & Ground Travel – Neither of us loves to fly! A few trips to Halifax and back have given us a bit of air experience, but this will definitely surpass those little adventures. Prayers for safety, smooth passage through customs (another unknown, other than the occasional US border crossing), and a sense of calm on the journey are most welcome.
• Helpfulness & Responsiveness – We want to take this opportunity seriously, and make sure that we are using talents and opportunities to their fullest extent. We are quite willing to follow directions and go along with plans, and also want to be alert and responsive to ways in which we can take initiative and make ourselves useful wisely, and without being asked! We hope that our presence on the team, and in the lives of those we encounter at our destination, will be meaningful and worthwhile.
• After the Fact: When we return, there will be a lot to digest! Keep us in mind even as we settle back into our routines at home, and consider the impact of this experience moving forward.
While this trip packs a lot of unknowns and unfamiliar experiences together all at once, we both believe this is an opportunity to embrace! In many ways, we are excited about stretching ourselves, so that we are not limited by apprehensions and a fear of stepping beyond what is comfortable for us. We have come to care very much about our Karen friends, and the complicated ways in which their experiences in Burma, Thailand, and Canada, impact their lives. What a great way to understand more about these experiences so that we can more effectively engage with them. We look forward to experiencing new places and people, and seeing more of our beautiful world!
Thurs. Mar 25 - Fly away!
Fri. Mar 26 - Arrive in Chiang Mai
Sat. Mar 27 - Arrive to camp
Sun. Mar 28 - Church, orientation, meet church leaders
Mon. Mar 29 - Begin programs in camp
Tues. Mar 30 - Program in camp
Wed. Mar 31 - Program in camp
Thurs. Apr 1 - Program in camp
Fri. Apr 2 - Good Friday, worship and program in camp
Sat. Apr 3 - Possible day trip to another camp
Sun. Apr 4 - Easter Sunday, visiting and saying good-byes
Mon. Apr 5 - Arrive in Mae Sot
Tues. Apr 6 - Visit Mae La camp
Wed. Apr 7 - Mae Sot area adventures (elephants, etc.)
Thurs. Apr 8 - Chiang Mai, enjoy night market, shopping, etc.
Fri. Apr 9 - Fly home
Sat. Apr 10 - Arrive home!
Let me know via comments :)
Here are a few links to check out on the Karen people, Karen in Canada, Karen camps, etc. -