Monday, June 24, 2013

P52 Nashville: VBS with the Burmese

Lauren and I had the opportunity to work with three Karen refugee women, Lay Mue, Mu Gay, and Law Eh, at a VBS last week.  The Karen tribe is a persecuted people group from southeast Asia. Each morning, two vans would come and pick up around twenty refugee children and all of us would ride to the church together. The first two mornings, all the children were very quiet, whispering to themselves. By the end of the week, we were in the middle of the backseat surrounded by incessant questions and comments.

We would take all of them to the worship rally in the sanctuary. At first, the women would stare at the people on stage but soon they were trying to sing along and do the hand motions as well. Even the shyest of the children were soon participating.

After the worship rally, we took the women to our own classroom. On the first day, we had taught them how to loom knit. They were very quick at catching on. I had knitted on a loom once that belonged to my cousin so after a YouTube video, I became the “experienced” teacher. It was amazing to see the women develop a new skill so quickly. They were fast learners. We often practiced conversational English during this time. We had a translator who translated our Bible stories each day for us and helped us communicate with the three ladies. The church ladies who we worked with had each “adopted” one of these families. They each loved these ladies and knew their family and history.

Each day, we watched a few chapters of a video about adjusting to America, which was in Karen with English subtitles. It covered things that seem simple to us, but are crucial to refugees coming in, such as how to clean your apartment, how to pay bills, and how to use the kitchen. The ladies from the church brought cleaning supplies to show the ladies in person too. They also talked about health, organizing the medical information, and their children’s education and health.

My favorite part though was after we told the Bible story and we were able to talk to the women. All three were Christians. One day we went around and shared favorite Bible verses. Often, the women had to find the verse in Karen and then find it in their  Bible and then the translator  would translate it into English. It was wonderful to hear the hearts of these women. We also had the opportunity to hear them pray in Karen. The translator only spoke Burmese so she couldn’t translate, but even still, without understanding their words, we could listen to their voices and their hearts. It was a beautiful sight to see the nations worship God.

- Anna Kathryn