As I’ve let you know before, I’ve had to work through my share of guilt and insecurities about how we’re bringing you into this world. I think, for the most part, I’m at a really secure place with what your first few months here in Minnesota will look like.
It’s the rest that’s starting to get to me.
The fact that we’re ‘taking you away’ from family and friends. The idea that we’re bringing you a ‘third world country’ (um, Thailand is not third world). The fears that surround how unsafe, unstable and foreign Thailand is, especially for a young child. I mean, where will you go to school? Where will you go to the doctor? Will you learn to ride a bike and get your shots and have a car seat and have little friends who look like you and speak the language you speak at home? Will you have a yard to play in (without getting bitten by various poisonous reptiles and insects)?
I mean, what the hell are we doing?
Let me tell you a story, sweet baby.
In 2009, I, your (apparently) crazy mom, went to Thailand for like the fifth time with my school. We had the honor of having a Karin student with us on the trip. This student was a Karin Burmese refugee who had received sponsorship out of the refugee camp. He was able to come to Chicago and go to school. When we became aware that he was at our school, we knew he had to come on trip to Thailand and that we had to make part of the trip about visiting the refugee camp on the boarder of Thailand and Burma.
He, very graciously, said yes and spent the next few months teaching our group about life as a refugee: what the camps were like, how people got into the camps, how the Thai government treated people in the camps (and the refugees in general), what people in the camps really needed and so on. It was amazing. It was like taking a headline story in Time and peeling the cover back to see what was actually happening. Sure, we heard about refugee camps all the time. Yes, we knew things in Burma were not so great and that there may be some genocide.
But really, son, we had no idea. No idea how bad things were (are) in the camp. These people were forced to flee their homes under massive and extreme duress only to come live in a country that despised them and would barely provide for their basic needs.
It had been years since this student had been ‘home’ to the camp. Since he left, his brother got married and had a child and his grandpa died. To say he was anxious and excited was an understatement. As we neared the camp, our group was silenced. To the left of the truck taxi was a bamboo fence that held in, nestled against the start of the mountains, thousands of bamboo huts. To say they were piled on top of each other is a lie. They were built on top of each other. Huts were built right up to the fence that separated the camp and the paved Thai road.
At this point, our Karin peer was in charge. He led us to an entrance where he bartered and bribed a Thai guard to let us in. We paid him some money and gave him a tarp he really wanted. With that quick exchange, he turned around and the group of white people led by a Karin quickly shuffled in.
The next few days are kind of a blur. We spent time meeting this student’s family, touring the camp, helping distribute soccer equipment we brought from Chicago, visit the ‘schools’ and work with the church in the camp to provide children’s programs. Each morning we’d either look for our ‘friend’ the guard and each night we’d leave as the sun was setting, hunched down, climbing through the fence trying to be quiet.
At one point, myself and another student were being shown around by the pastor. He was telling us how people who were fleeing the Burmese oppression would hike through the mountains to the camp, climb the fence and ‘hide’. The Thai government would randomly do checks through the camp, making sure there weren’t people like that sneaking in. So these people literally had to hide. We went into a dark bamboo house and as my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw more people than I could have imagined fitting into such a small space. The looks on their faces were that of sheer terror. As the pastor introduced us, they seemed to relax a little, but not much. These people had just crossed over into the camp a couple nights before.
Baby, I pray that your eyes will never have to see the things their eyes have seen. That no eyes have to see what those poor displaced people have seen.
As we talked, through the pastor translating, we found out that we were the first ever white people they’ve seen. I hope my whiteness didn’t let them down. We also heard story after story of separation, night attacks, murder, rape and daily suffering.
In this group were two little girls. Two little girls who caught my eye. They immediately came and sat in my lap, played with my hair, fiddled with my rings. We could only exchange looks and touch, no words, no conversation.
I asked the pastor what would happen to these girls? Since they weren’t papered-offical residents of the camp, they couldn’t get sponsored to leave and, God forbid, they got picked up in a raid, they would be sent to jail or back to Burma.
His response, baby, is one of the many reasons Mom and Dad are making this family a missions family.
He said, “Oh for them, there is no future. There is no hope.”
His response left me speechless. I mean, what do you say to that? What is a response to that?
I still see their sweet faces smiling at me. I’m still haunted by the idea of not having a future or a hope. I still wrestle with God on why He allows things to happen…why I have a future and a hope and those two sweet girls do not.
Baby, I don’t know if you will ride a bike in Thailand. I’m not sure I’m gonna let you play in whatever kind of yard we have because Momma hates snakes and Daddy screams like a little girl when he sees spiders. I know it will be hard being away from family and friends, but we have amazing technology, and this won’t be goodbye for forever. You might have a car seat, or you might just get tied down to the seat with a sling. I don’t know.
But I do know that I am okay making the decision for you that you won’t have all the luxuries you would have here of home and familiarity. I’m okay bringing you somewhere that may not appear safe (…and your dad and I firmly believe safety is a lie and bad things happen everywhere), somewhere where you are the minority.
Because you, sweet son of mine, have a future and a hope. And we, as a family, are going to make practical sacrifices for the rest of our lives to see others attain the same.
We will lay down some of our excess so they can just have some.
And my gut, the part of me that is so comfortable moving forward with all these plans, tells me that you are going to love it. Bike or no bike. Car seat or riding on our lap.
I love you, my boy. And I know that you are going to change the world. You are called to something much bigger than your dad and I ever were and we are honored to be the vehicles that get you to where you need to be.
I love you more than I can say,
PS- Get your foot out of my ribs.