Category Archives: Life Stories

Life stories of the journey of our Burmese arrivals to this new land.

Life Story: Jame Phun Lung

Jame’s father was a preacher in the Mateipi township of the Chin state of Myanmar.  The family consisted of 7 children, six boys and a baby girl.  His father moved his family to Yangoon in 2003 so that he could pursue his Bible training.  He is now preaching in a Fundamental Baptist church in Yangoon.   Jame and his brothers were at risk for being drafted into the police-state military.  The military does the bidding of its autocratic leadership with sometimes child soldiers.  The military is known to have hyped its forced recruits up on drugs, and to generally oppress the citizens of Myanmar.  So Jame and his brother fled to Malaysia in 2008 and applied for refugee status.  They were processed within a year and awaited relocation to a receiving county.   While living in Malaysia  Jame worked in the field of air conditioning, his brother worked with sheet rock and his younger brother worked for a restaurant.

Jame came to High Point last summer and began getting acclimated to a new life.  Since he came from a big family familiar faces were important to him.  In the Triad he found a number of acquaintances from back home in Myanmar.   Just recently (May 2014) his brothers joined him.  Jame is the oldest in his family of origin, his brother Thang Lian is 23.  His next brother has married and lives in Yangoon. The fourth brother also just arrived, his name is Chris Born (born on December 25).  The fifth brother is contemplating going to Bible school in New Delhi.  The youngest sibling is the only girl.  She is around 9 years.

I talked to Jame about what he wants to do in the future and he says he wants to study the Bible more.

Esther Moe is settling in High Point

Today I met a single adult, Esther Moe.  She is a distant cousin of One Kiss and lives in their home.

Esther Moo Preaches to Karen 10/13/13

Esther Moo Preaches to Karen 10/13/13

While growing up in Myanmar her local church pastor challenged her to go to Bible school.  She attended Bible College in the Insein suburb of Yangoon, Myanmar.  After she finished, the school placed her as minister in a Karen village close to the capital.  She labored for 2+ years but found a people who did not have a heart relationship with God.  Facing no support for food and a non-responsive ministry, she and her aunt traveled to the Thai refugee camp.  She told the Lord she would worship Him in her soul but wanted to put ministry behind her.  God had other plans for her.  At the refugee camp she taught a pre-school class.  After three attempts to seek refuge, she came to the US.

She arrived in San Jose, Calif about 6 years ago from a Thai refugee camp.  She was brought in by Catholic Charities.  She was eventually taken in by a Christian family and began babysitting for 3-4 families.  The ladies taught her English which made more sense when she took ESL classes at the area school.  After 3-4 years she moved to Dallas, TX where she earned her Certified Nursing Associate (CNA) certificate.   While she was living in TX her former Burmese pastor visited the US and called her on the phone.  He asked her what she was doing to serve God.  She was challenged by him to get back into an active ministry situation.   One month ago she came to visit High Point.   She saw the need for ministry help in the Karen congregation and is getting involved.  Now she has decided to stay here and is looking for work wanting to help in the church in her spare time.  Here is a link to the last part of her sermon she preached last Sunday.

Heh Khu Htoo Life Story

Saw Heh Khu Htoo is Karen but his story is quite different from other Karen Burmese arrivals.   First of all he grew up in the Irawaddy Delta area of Myanmar.   The Delta area is subject to flooding and cyclones especially during the rainy season of Burma.

Eh Khu Htoo is a2013-02-10 14.49.35-1pproaching his first full year in High Point.  He is now 41 years old. He arrived February 28, 2012 at our Triad airport.   He has been a blessing since he arrived.  With his friendly smile and fluent English he has been very helpful.   He has two sisters and one brother who remain in the Delta area of Burma.  However they live in a town which is safer than the vulnerable villages which experience frequent disturbing visits by the junta military.

Around 2002 Heh Khu Htoo traveled to Malaysia to seek work.   He got a job at a Chinese owned restaurant and both the customers and workers would speak in English.  So Heh Khu Htoo learned English on the job.  He found a Karen congregation that worshipped our Lord as part of a large Chinese Church in Kuola Lampur, Malaysia.  In fact on Sunday afternoon they had  Karen, Chin, and Kachin congregations meeting simultaneously in their facilities.

In 2007 Heh Khu Htoo applied for refugee status with the UN because he felt it was unsafe to return to Burma.  He got his refugee card in 2010 and came here two years later.

Lifestory Oh Oh

2013-02-10 14.50.09-1Oh Oh arrived in High Point around September 27, 2012.  His parents and 2 brothers and 1 sister are still awaiting their UN refugee cards in the Thai border refugee camp.    Oh Oh has a Christian heritage with a grandmother who was a believer and their family lived in a village of believers.

In 2006 the family decided they couldn’t stay in their village, it was not safe.   The parents were afraid soldiers would return and harm their family as they had done others.   So they made the two day trip on foot, to the Thai border.  The youngest sibling was just 10 years old.  At the border they crossed the river by boat and sought refuge in a camp in 2006.

While Oh Oh was in high school in the refugee camp he was doing poorly in his studies (reading) and he prayed and said Lord if you will help me to graduate from high school I will go to Bible school.   The Lord intervened and Oh Oh enrolled in the Karen Baptist Bible School that was inside the refugee camp.  He did two years of studies in the school.    He has been a blessing to our church helping with the preaching duties.  He also has some talent with music.  Below is a picture of he and Pastor One Kiss just before Oh Oh preached this morning.   2013-02-10 10.21.14

The Stories of Knaw Bawk and Roi Ji

Story of Knaw Bawk

Knaw Bawk  [Nah Baw] grew up in a Christian home. His mother and father were believers in Jesus. His father was a Burmese soldier. His home in the Kachin province has a strong Christian presence, at one time that province was 100% Christian. This is now problematic with a junta dictatorship whose stated purpose is to have one language, one country and one religion, Buddhism.

 Knaw Bawk attended elementary and high school in Myitkyina his home town (marked with an “A” on the map). During his early years, his family feared for the safety of his older sister so she sought refuge at the Australian embassy and relocated there almost 26 years ago. Knaw Bawk attended college after high school completing four years while still living in the Kachin state.

During his young years Knaw Bawk began music lessons and learned to play the piano and violin. As a young man he and his friends played music for different local and regional events and activities. Even though Knaw Bawk was young in his Christian faith, he took a stand that led flight from Myanmar. It seems their village had completed the construction of a new Buddhist temple. A village leader came to him and asked him to play the violin for a folk festival that included a dedication ceremony of the temple. Knaw Bawk refused on religious grounds. The leader came to him a second and third time. The third time she said she could no longer assure his safety. With such a not-so-veiled threat Knaw Bawk knew he had to leave.

So in 2004 he traveled with a Kachin businessman south, to the Chin province of Burma and then west to the India border trading town, called Tia. After a couple of months, he moved to New Delhi, India where he began an 8 year exile. While in New Delhi he became active in the “All Kachin Student and Youth Union”. He took a job as a journalist working with the Mizzima news organization ( He translated stories from English into Burmese for ex-patriot Burmese who lived in India and elsewhere.

Meanwhile back in Myanmar, Knaw Bawk’s mother and younger brother had to also flee the Kachin province. They were accepted as refugees in Japan. While his aging father and younger sister were able to remain in Myitkyina.  At this time this sister is in a refugee camp on the border of Kachin and China and the father is at home.

A bright joy came into Knaw Bawk’s life when he met Roi Ji for the first time in 2003 in New Delhi, India. They began dating, about the same time Knaw Bawk sensed a call to ministry. He began pastoring, while still working as a journalist, and started Bible College. He graduated in 2007 and the family (for now they had a son) received news that they had been accepted as refugees to the United States.

When Knaw Bawk’s family first came to the U.S. they were settled in New York City. They stayed there 3 weeks and with the encouragement of High Point friends relocated to the Triad. They said they like High Point, the climate and atmosphere is closer to their home state and this is where they want to be. Knaw Bawk is now the preacher of our Burmese language service, he is 36 years old and works at a local factory. Their son, Samuel attends the Stanley preschool on Brentwood and Roi Ji works at High Point University.

Story of Roi Ji.

 Roi Ji  [Reggie] left the Kachin state of Myanmar at age 26. She has two brothers and two sisters. She grew up in Burma, received her elementary, high school and college education before fleeing the country.

After college Roi Ji got a job with World Concern (NGO). The task of her team was to educate villagers regarding HIV. They would travel to different towns and talk about the prevention of this disease. During such discussions they would encourage women to oppose sexual harassment, promiscuity and teach them to avoid rape where they could be endangered with HIV.

One village they visited had a large military base nearby. The commandant of the village built a local bar complete with music videos, free-flowing liquor and beautiful women. While visiting that village Roi Ji spoke out against the sexual harassment and even rape associated with this bar. The next day the NGO team moved on to another village with their training sessions,  but the villagers burned the bar to the ground.

Government military investigators went to Roi Ji’s home and to her World Concern leaders making inquiries about her. Her supervisor at World Concern said, we are non-partisan, we can’t help you, you need to leave. Roi Ji had to flee her home country. She traveled through Tia to New Delhi to start life as a exile from Burma.

While in New Delhi she took a position as the leader of the “Burmese Women of New Delhi”. Then she met Knaw Bawk and their story continues together.

I invite you to meet this highly educated couple, they understand English at 90-95%, Knaw Bawk has a lot of insight and wisdom and Roi Ji’s British accent is delightful.

The Nan Lian Khup Story

Nan Lian Khup has come to America ahead of this family.  His wife and children are awaiting him getting settled in the US.   Soon he will seek refugee status for his family and they will come to America.  He has 3 children, the youngest, he has not met yet because he had to flee from Burma to save his life.

When Nan Lian was a young boy his father became one of the first people in his village to convert from animism to Christianity.   Eventually his father became an evangelist.  As a result of this change the demons attacked Nan Lian (the son) and struck him unconscious for several days.   When he finally came around his speech was slow.   Over the months and years Nan Lian Khup was very self-conscious about his speech impediment.  He was the first person in his village to have such a problem.  Some of this neighbors even talked about him and laughed at him.   During those days Nan Lian Khup would go out into the woods alone with God and pray for his healing.  God did touch him with a measure of healing but this was a traumatic thing that had happened to him.

Later as a young married man he was living a backslidden life, often drunk.  A group came through with an all home evangelistic outreach.  After sitting under the preaching and teaching in his home, Nan Lian Khup rededicated his life to the Lord and became and totally committed Christian.

When the military started working through the Chin province, subjugating the people, Nan Lian had to flee to Malaysia.  He worked there driving heavy construction equipment.  He made one short trip back to the his Zo village in the Chin province of Burma but had to flee again.  He later got word that his wife was expecting a baby.  He has not yet met his new child.  He came ahead to the US to try to get established and hopes to bring his family soon.

We are praying for this family as Nan Lian has found out his wife is facing a hysterectomy.  He is sending money from his wages to his wife to pay for this surgery (about $1000).    He is studying to get his Bus Driving License but already has a steady job at the High Point Hospital.

The above was written in June of 2008.  Now Nan Lian Koop has been joined by his wife and children and they have a home on North Hamilton

Van Zel and Cer Thlia Tial

Van Zel and Cer Thlia Tial arrived in High Point in the late spring of 2009.  They grew up and were married in a town called Than Thang (which is about 24 miles north of Hahka, Chin, Burma).  They fled Myanmar about 5 years ago.  First Van Zel traveled to Malaysia and then his wife Cer Thlia Tial followed him down to the capital city, Koula Lamphur where they sought refugee status under the United Nations.

While in Malaysia Van Zel worked for Cambara Highland, a large agricultural enterprise that grew plants and shipped them to Europe and Singapore.  Cer Thlia Tial worked as a waitress at a hamburger shop.

Van Zel was raised in a Christian family, attended church throughout his life.  At  age 15 he was baptized before he finished secondary school.  His mother passed away 10 months ago from the stress and danger in the village.  His brothers have all fled, one to Germany, another to Georgia, U.S., and a third is still in Malaysia.  Only his father remains in their hometown, pray for his safety.

Cer Thlia Tial was orphaned in her teen years.  Her mother passed away in 1994 and her father in 2001.    She has three brothers who remain in the Chin state and seem to be relatively safe.

Last August Cer Thlia Tial gave birth to their son Chris Van Lian Cun.  Van Zel works for Artistree in Kernersville making picture frames.  The family resides in the Sadaf Apartments on Hamilton Street.

Van Zel, Cer Thlia Tial and baby Chris

John Prayed a Prayer at the Baby Dedication

Htan Ta Lan (to the left of Hahka may be their home town)

New Name Written Down in Glory

Pywae Mae Accepts Jesus as her Savior

This is a picture of Pywae Mae last Friday when she accepted the Lord Jesus as her personal Savior.

Pywae Mae is the first Burmese-Karen that asked her pastor how to become a Christian.  She had this question for some time.  Finally, she confessed that she could not keep it to herself.  I believe that the Lord prepared her for a long time.  When God’s time had come, she joyfully once more heard the Gospel through Philip, an interpreter and committed herself to the Lord.  Praise the Lord.

May God richly bless her and help her to grow in Him.   -ii

Flash forward to the arrival of her daughter’s (Dah Mu Poe) family.

Flash forward to a picture of Taro and her daughter Than Mwe, they got married and now have a child.

Flash Forward again to the arrival of another daughter, Ma Oh Kyare.


Life Story: Phon Shin

Phon Shin and his wife Zisar are from the northernmost reach of Burma.   They lived near the northern border of the Kachin state which is sandwiched between China and India.  The Kachin state is rich with natural resources like jade, gold and uranium.  Phon is from Puta-O, other Kachin in our church are from the capital city, Myitkyina.  Phon Shin and Zisar speak the Rawang language.  It is one of 6 Kachin languages.   Zisar can read some English and both can understand a lot of English and converse with Americans.

Puta-0 is near the top, Myitkyina is near center

Phon fled his family’s farm nine years ago after being conscripted to porter massive payloads of rice at age 17.  He was not able to carry the loads and so he left this unpaid position.  Thereafter the army came to his village to solicit bribes and taxes to pay for his leaving their service.  He had to flee southward from Burma to Malaysia.   He has had little contact with his father and 10 year old sister, since the father has to travel one weeks journey by car to get to a telephone.  In 2002 his mother died and a few years ago his 20 year old sister escaped the dangers of a wanton army attacking it’s own citizens by also fleeing to Malaysia.

Phon Shin met Zisar in Malaysia.   Zisar’s family are also farmers.   She has 2 brothers and 3 younger sisters.   It has been one year since she talked with her parents who remain in Kachin, Burma.  They have one child, Noa Mi Sar.

Phon Shin worked as a cook in a Chinese food restaurant while in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  They had to apply for refugee status with the U.N. and then await assignment to a region in the United States.

Flash Forward>>

Here is their picture:

Phon Shin & Zisar with baby Noa Mi Sar

Life Story: Saw Ler Phaw

Saw Ler Phaw grew up in the village of Te Tah Klo in the Deh Moss Soe region of the Kayah State of Burma.  He has a brother and sister who still live there.  His wife grew up in Dar Tah Klay village in the Pru Soe region.  Their families were farmers primarily raising crops for sustenance but did harvest peanuts for resale.

IMG_4876In 1984 Saw Ler Phaw moved to the Thai/Burma border region so that he could travel into Thailand as a migrant worker.  He lived there from 1984 until 1996.  During that time he was active in the Karenni National Association and their resistance army.  They were fighting the Burmese government for freedom and autonomy as a state.

During this time, in 1992, he met JB.  This man had moved his family to the Thai/Burma border to learn the Kayah (or Karenni) language.  Saw Ler Phaw became his teacher.  JB recruited Saw Ler Phaw to help translate the Bible into the Kayah language.   They worked together on this project from 1994 to 2004.  This monumental project has yielded a first time New Testament of the Bible in the Karenni language.  Always before they had to hear the Bible in a foreign language.

In 1996 Saw Ler Phaw fled the Burmese military with his family into a refugee camp in Thailand.  He lived in the refugee camp from 1996 until he came to America in June of 2009.  Two of his three children were born in the camp.

Saw Ler Phaw was taught to type on a computer and began translating the Bible from the Burmese and Karen texts.  He would read it then write it in the Kayah language and then check it with his fellow countrymen for accuracy.   JB would check the translation for alignment with the original Greek and Hebrew texts.     In between, while working on this major project, Saw Ler Phaw  translated some 34 children’s books out of Burmese and Karen into Kayah.

Saw Ler Phaw’s mother, Beh Ah Mah died in 1974 and his father, Yo Peh passed in 2008.  Saw Ler Phaw’s wife, Hla May Pray is the seventh of twelve siblings.   The rest of her family remain in Burma where they farm rice, corn and many other vegetables.  Saw Ler Phaw and Hla May Pray have three children named Soe Me, Saw Reh and Sher Mei.  Hla May Pray has skilled in using fabricating with her hand loom which she is able to utilize in her home.

Saw Ler Phaw wants to begin using the completed first translation of the Bible in studies with his people.  We will be exploring ways for him to put this gift of the Word to work.  Fast Forward Link. Another Fast Forward Link.

Ray Wah Life Story

Ray WahRay Wah began a journey of exile when he was nine years old (June, 1984).  His parents moved the family from their home state of Karen, Burma because the military dictator of the country “beat the Karen people and fought them constantly”.  Ray Wah lived in the Mae La Camp on the Thailand border for 25 years.  Paw Mu Paw, Ray Wah’s wife lived in the refugee camp for 10 years.  They met and were married and gave birth to a son and two daughters at the camp.  Their names are Sah K’lay, Bu Gay, and Byaw Ku Paw.

In 1994 under the ministry of Dr. Simon their pastor and also a refugee, Ray Wah gave his heart to the Lord and became a believer. Ray Wah worked in the refugee camp hospital as a Level III supervisor.  When they left the camp in 2007 there were over 9,000 people at the Mae La Camp (one of 9 large refugee camps in Thailand).  Ray Wah said that for a family their size they received 51 kilos of rice a month.  They could obtain some beans, cooking oil, chile peppers and salt.  They did not get any meat.

On June 23, 2007 Ray Wah and his wife were placed by World Relief in High Point, NC.  He and his wife have worked hard on the enculturation process, they can understand and communicate in English, have moved into a rental home and Ray Wah has a steady job at the Providence Place nursing home in High Point.    On May 23, 2008, Paw Mu Paw gave birth to another son, David.  About three months ago they joined First Wesleyan Church as some of our earliest Burmese church members.  Ray Wah is 36 years old and his wife is 31.

Ray Wah’s mother died in 1989 and his father died last year while they were still in the Mae Lae camp. Ray Wah has an older brother, Htun Lah Aye, and family that are settled in Australia.  Ray Wah’s sister, Ma Nay Htun, lives in High Point with her family.  Ray Wah has a brother named Cal Lay Ve (age 28) still in the Mae La camp with a wife and children.  He has a married sister, Naw Mu Pluo who has two children in the camp and Ray Wah has a young sister, Esther (14 years) also in the camp.  Ray Wah is hoping to see the rest of his family make it to North Carolina real soon.

Here is a 2009 movie about Rah Wah.

Here is 2010 update about Rah Wah’s family.

Life Story: Eh Le Say

dsc01211aEh Le Say was born in 1983 and grew up on the Karen State village of Taohta.  His family had to flee their village when he was very young because the Myanmar junta soldiers burned the town to the ground.  He along with his father, mother and brother stayed in a neighboring village for a period time.   Then because of the danger in Burma, Eh Le Say’s family placed him in a jungle clinic that operated an orphanage/grade school.  Nyein who attends our church was one of the workers at this medical clinic (which was under the auspices of Dr. Cynthia Maung).

Eh Le Say’s brother remains in the orphanage.  His mother has passed away and his father, Shwian Khe has returned to Taohta to live.  Eh Le Say started formal schooling in 1996 and graduated from high school in March of 2004.

Eh Le Say helps build a Fence

Eh Le Say helps build a Fence

After High school in 2004, he studied to be a teacher including lesson planning, lesson deliver, classroom management, questioning skill, child development, basic reading for a language and teaching methods.   He was trained by the Consortium Thailand – the Burma Border Project.  The leaders of this project were Greg Antos and Paw Ray.

He met his wife, Mu Nai, in the refugee camp.  They were married on April 23, 2005.   They lived in the Umpium [OH Pee rum] refugee camp on the Thai/Burma border from 1999 until he came to America in 2008.    After his marriage, Eh Le Say took a certificate course in preventative medicine called Basic School Health Training at the Mae Tao Clinic.  Mu Nai gave birth to their son, William in the camp and they came to America in 2008.

Eh Le Say works in the laundry department of High Point Regional Hospital and will be starting night school at GTCC, January 12, 2009.  He will be continuing his studies in English.   Last week Eh Le Say passed his drivers exam and now has his learner’s permit.

Here is an additional post about Eh Le Say.

For related stories about his sister-in-law’s relocation from Texas to High Point click on this link and then this link.  

Flash forward to his brother’s arrival in 2011.

Aung Mo and Paw Khee

dsc01212aAung Mo and his wife Paw Khee arrived in America March, 18, 2008. They have been getting adjusted to America, learning English at GTCC, and Aung Mo settling into a steady job in High Point.

Aung Mo was in the Mae Le Refugee Camp for one year. He arrived from the village of Kama in the Pha Ah division of Karen State. He had left his village because the junta soldiers forced the villagers to be porters and made them homeless. They had to carry rice, guns and do other forced labor like building roads.
He had lived in Kama since he was a child. He has 3 brothers and 3 sisters. He is the youngest of the family. He is forty years old. His parents are already dead. His two sisters stayed at Kema, two are dead, and a brother has immigrated to Australia. His mother died many years ago, the father died one year ago. There was no church in Kama, most are Buddhist.

img_1440Aung Mo met Paw Khee while visiting the refugee camp in 1994. They got married at that time. They are both Poe Karen. Paw Khee’s  famiy was Christian, and they introduced Aung Mo to Christ. His wife’s family has 2 sisters and 2 brothers, her father is still alive. Paw Khee’s father does not have his ID yet but they want to immigrate soon.  Her father did not get his ID because he was away working in Thailand at the time of registration. Paw Khee’s family has also been at the camp for one year. She is from Dha Karen. Aung Mo and Paw Khee have pictures on the wall of their apartment, to remind them of their family.
Aung Mo was a migrant worker in Thailand. While he was in Thailand he used a two man hand saw to cut timber. The lunber crew used elephants to pull the timber out of the woods. When Aung Mo  was in the jungle he saw some Burmese pythons that were not very large. They would only eat a rabbit, mice or rats. He also helped to plant and harvest rice. He often stayed at the Thai/Burma border.
img_1185Aung Mo learned to butcher a deer when he saw someone dress out a deer and he has rendered many a deer for food. Last year he led a team of High Point Burmese in rendering a deer that had been hit by a car in front of my house.
Aung Mo is our bus captain who takes attendance and helps to board and debark passengers each Sunday on our church bus that picks up non-driving Burmese. Paw Khee continues her studies in ESL at GTCC during the week. They live in the William and Mary apartments.

Life Story: Savy Hsher Mu Lar

American workers started to call the camp and he knew about 8 months ago that he was going to come to America.    He attended a Thai  school and finished 10 grades. But in the refugee camp there was no chance for additional education.  He wanted the opportunity to learn so he desired to come to the United States. He worked hard and can understand English to a great degree.

Savy at Creekside Park Picnic

Savy at Creekside Park Picnic

Savy Sher Mu Lar “Savy”, went to the Thai refugee camp in 2001 when he was 14.  He is 21 now.  He never knew his mother.  He had no relatives in the camp.     He has talked to his only brother who remains in Burma and found it is very dangerous for him so he is concerned.  His brother lives with distant relatives and there is no one on whom he can depend.  His brother is 13 years old.  Boys this age can be drafted by the junta.

He lived in a boarding house for eight years.  There were 50 people in the boarding house.   He is the only person who came from the refugee camp.

Savy [Say Vee] is married to Naw Paw Kyet Yaw who is still in the refugee camp.  She is the oldest of six, four brothers and one baby sister.  Her mother and father hope to bring the whole family to America.    A few months back the family was called by the United Nations to begin processing in preparation to come to America. Savy said they are Christian. Unfortunately during that time the father had slipped away from the camp to find work in Thailand.  He did not go through this first screening.   It seems that a group in Minnesota had begun preparing to have this family come to that area of the U.S.   Savy, using a calling card, talked with them and encouraged them to think of coming here to North Carolina.  He is hoping he did not mess up their chance to come to America.

Savy recently got a job in Greensboro.  He wants to get more education.  His desire is to work at a regular job so that his life will be good in the future.  He wants to contact his brother.  He is looking forward to his wife, Paw Yaw,  joining him in High Point, North Carolina along with her whole family.

Flash Forward 1

Flash Forward – Paw Yaw expecting a baby.

Life Story: Klo Say

One day my dreams will come true

One day my dreams will come true

[italics used to indicate first person narrative by Klo Say]

When I was growing up in Burma, the Burmese military would come to my village and other surrounding villages to arrest people.  They would force them to carry ammunition and military rations to the front line. They mainly targeted the Karen people as they are the strongest armed resistant group against the Burmese military government. They committed all kind of human rights abuses on Karen villagers to undermine the resistance group. They believed that the villagers gave support to the resistance group. So the military government systematically tortures, imprisons, kills, rapes, and forcely relocates the innocent Karen villagers.

In early 1988 my father worked as a teacher at Karen Adventist Academy which is under the control of  KNU. The Burmese government intelligent found out about that and they came to our house with guns, interrogating my mother and scrutinizing our house in every ins and outs because they thought  we might have secret contact with my father. We were so terrified because only the siblings and mother were at home. A couple days later just prior to a 1988 pro-democracy uprising throughout Burma we fled.  We were afraid of possible further interrogation, imprisonment, torture and killing, we secretly set out on a risky journey to join my father.  On our way, at times we would see fresh boot prints of the Burmese soldiers.  A couple of times we heard gun shots from fighting or skirmishes happening between the Burmese soldier and the rebel group. We had to hide quietly in the bush till the shooting was over and carefully continue our journey.  We fled to the Thai/Burma border.

pic-1One of the pictures shows my mother and my sibling fleeing the attack on refugee camp by the Burmese army and it’s supporter DKBA – Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.  She was holding my youngest brother who was about only two days old when the attack happened. After delivery she should be having a time for recovery instead she had to flee the attack in fear and under great pressure.

When I was at the border area the Burmese military, every year, launch an offensive against our ethnic group. Many of the villages were attacked .  During these times villagers were shot on sight, raped, tortured, houses were burnt down, properties were looted, live stock was killed, and barn yard and rice field were burned to ashes. They also bombarded villages from airplanes. The Burmese junta army crossed the border and attacked our temporary sheltering area.  Finally my family moved to Mae La camp in 1995.

Determine to continue

Determine to continue

home.  Homes had to be constructed out of bamboo and wood from the surrounding area.  The refugees set about making a place for their family constructing schools, churches and homes.   Over 50,000 people lived in the Mae La camp.  It is enclosed with a barbed wire. The camp, located in Thailand was not entirely safe from the Burmese military.  Every summer they would shell ours as well as other refugee camps to the terror of the people living in these tightly circumscribed villages afforded by the Thai government.

Klo Say is one of eleven children who like all the refugees boys growing up had to find ways to be engaged in life while restricted from going out to seek work in Thailand.  Klo Say worked hard at learning English while still in southeast Asia and is one of our key Burmese translators in High Point.  He became adept with various art media and used that skill to capture on film the environment of the Burmese refugee. It was fascinating to hear Klo Say describe some of the images he captured from the refugee camp.  There are pictures of the women and girls wearing a tamarin bark makeup that functions like a sun screen and complexion aid.  Groups of people gathered at the shallow river to bathe and wash clothes.

No war no cry

No war no cry

Young boys compete to blow a rubber band across a finish line the quickest.  The soccer ball utilized by the children was a snug wad of rags that they could kick into the goal area.  Water was transported home in bamboo pots twice a day after waiting in line for up to 45 minutes to fill your container.  Klo Say lived in these conditions for twelve years yet today he like so many of the Burmese are not bitter but have a smile on their face and love for the Lord.

Klo Say who is now 31, has been in America since July of 2007.  He is employed as a case worker for World Relief of High Point.  He works long hours helping his fellow Burmese make the transition to life in North Carolina.  He is married to Lah Nay Paw.  Last spring their third child was born.  Their children’s names are Nelson, Jessica and Daniel.  They have been “adopted” by the John Brand family that attends First Wesleyan Church.img_0956

PS. I also used to produce some of my paintings into postcards to raise money for Karen internally displaced kids in Burma.  To read more about this see the post on this blog about Ler Por Hur.

The refugee camp had fairly primitive conditions.  Water had to be hauled from a central bore hole to each