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Life in this little town Mae Sot was short, fast-paced, and eye-opening

May 12, 2013
A glimpse of the slum. All of the houses were made of wood and rattan. The base floor is raised from the ground, which is often flooded in the rainy season.

A glimpse of the slum. All of the houses were made of wood and rattan. The base floor is raised from the ground, which is often flooded in the rainy season.

Mae Sot is a beautiful town. A part of it is the town, the rest are small villages spread over a large area. This time, God has really let me see life in the villages. I’m so grateful. The views were pleasant to see all the time, except in the slums, which were filthy and smelly at times. I always saw many children. The poor indeed tend to want to have many children as a source of workers (and thus, income), and a sense of security when they get old. Unfortunately, I haven’t been to any of the refugee camps, of which there are many in Mae Sot.

Let me start my story with these two pictures.

The river is what separates Thailand and Burma. The bridge is the official connection between them. The boat is the unofficial one. My visa doesn’t allow multiple entries to Thailand, so I’m glad I trusted my friends to take the boat and thus had got a glimpse of Burma once.

Many Burmese people move to Thailand in search of work opportunities or to flee from the dangers of the civil wars. As with most refugees in the world, many of these Burmese people suffer from no or little assistance in Thailand. Many of them can’t find work because of lack of skills. Some find work but are looked down upon because they can’t speak Thai. Even as good as college educated Burmese are not necessarily appreciated in their workplace because of the stereotypes local [Thai] people have about them. Instead of protecting Burmese immigrants and refugees, the police extort them. Most refugees–even some employees–do not have legal documents to be in Thailand. Only a few can speak Thai. As a result, the police can take advantage and capture them at will. Going out in plain sight and being captured by the police will cost one person 6 months of jail time or 2000 baht (=~ 70 USD, 425 RMB, 665K IDR). That is about a month pay for a labor worker, quite a lot especially for those who don’t even hold steady jobs. These occurrences are not rare either. I know two people who was stopped by the police–and one was fined–during my 1.5 months time there.

At the end of my volunteer time, I was asked, “What is your most favorite part volunteering here?” I couldn’t pinpoint my favorite thing, but one thing I will remember most is people’s resilience and faith, especially in the face of uncertainties and lack of basic needs. Truly, you find more faith, both in words and deeds, in those who have nothing else to rely on besides God. Even when their freedom has not yet come, when their financial security is nowhere in sight, when they cannot see any means to improve their lives, they trust that the Lord will deliver them, that they are to be patient and wait for the Lord, and that God has a plan, a bigger and more beautiful plan than what they can see. Their heart is more on what God wants, less on what they want.

Here is a friend doing coloring with the kids after learning about The Rich Ruler parable

Here is a friend doing coloring with the kids after learning about The Rich Young Ruler parable [1]

I am used to the notion that many poor people are lazy. Not so with the Burmese people I met in Mae Sot. I was lazy in comparison to them. I work five days a week, I prefer to rest at night and in the weekends, and I need personal time. Wow, didn’t I get really tired just trying to follow their activities. Their weekends are full with church activities, teaching, and reaching out to various communities in the area. On some weeknights, they have bible study, visit the elderly, the poor, and the church families. These they do faithfully regularly. Their bodies say tired, their hearts hope to bring glory to God and joy for their brothers and sisters. Not to mention that occasionally there are foreigners, like me, who need to get company and be shown around.
I left Mae Sot 1.5 months early. I’d blame it to the dengue fever, but I haven’t taken care of my health enough that it was finally totally necessary to rest. I received more than I gave. I was blessed more than I blessed. But surely my time there was in God’s plan, and nothing is wasted if it comes from Him.
I was tired everyday, but these beauties refreshed me.

I was tired everyday, but these beauties refreshed me.

Bye-bye Mae Sot. Bye-bye Life Impact’s friends and families. It was short, cut too short, indeed. Thank you for showing me your life and sharing your love with me, a newbie in your town.

[1] Bible text is in Mark 10:17-30 NIV, 汉语

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