15 July 2008
Before church Sunday I walked into the bathroom and was greeted by three grinning faces yelling, "Heeeyyyy!!! Ciona!!!!" I quickly responded back to them with the same amount of enthusiasm! Some of the world's most beautiful little girls were standing in the bathroom. It's been a couple of weeks since we held the camp for the Golden Triangle children of our church; I have missed these girls every day.
My friends are from Burma (Myanmar) in the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Asia. They have found their way to Nashville because their home is no longer safe for the Karen people. The oppression and annihilation is so fierce that a Burmese official once said you will have to go to a museum if you want to see a Karen person in the future. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
General Than Shwe, the military junta leader who heads the government of Burma has been oppressing his people in atrocious ways for years. His government is not sparing the Karen people at all. My dear friends--these precious grinning girls--have looked death in the face many times until they made it through the forests, across the border into a refugee camp in Thailand and eventually to the U.S.
Some of the children at our church have come with their entire family, and they have made a new home together in Nashville. Some of them come with only parts of their family and pray faithfully for their other family members to escape, as well. All of them are refugees, forced away from what they know as home to the safety of the unknown. More than anything, most of them desire peace.
So on this beautiful Sunday morning, I felt incredible joy seeing my young friends. We shared big smiles with one another. Then one girl named Bru Shee said, "Ciona! I have your picture!" Then like a proud parent showing off her children, Bru Shee pulled out her wallet. Tucked securely in the little plastic insert was a photograph, which Bru Shee had cut out of the church directory. She pulled out other photographs of some of our youth who are also a part of her journey here.
In this special moment, I knew I was a part of Bru Shee's story in the most special of ways; I was now a part of her wallet gallery. We continued to share grins that didn't just mean we were happy to see each other anymore. These grins now meant that we--with our language, age, race and cultural differences--were happy to be sisters on this unknown journey.