Enriched by Refugees
Nicole Betteridge serves as a Global Mission Intern in Thailand. Her work is supported by Week of Compassion.
As a Global Mission Intern in Thailand and Laos for more than two years, I have had the opportunity to meet and learn from a wide array of incredible people and places. I have written many summaries and newsletters about different events I have been involved with as a Global Mission Intern. For those people who have followed my story, you may have seen my love for Lao people. Regardless of my doubts on coming to another place so quickly, with time, the Karen people in rural Thailand have also enriched my life, stolen another section of my life story and heart, and taught and shown me more than I could have ever understood on my own.
My work in Thailand has mainly been at Saha Christian Suksa School. Saha Christian School is one of the smallest and most remote schools under the CCT, the Church of Christ in Thailand. Founded in 1934, the Church of Christ in Thailand is the largest Protestant denomination in Thailand. Saha Christian Suksa School is located in Huay Ma Lai, a small village in SW Thailand on the Thai and Myanmar border, seven hours from Bangkok and four hours from the main city of the Province, Kanchanburi. Huay Ma Lai is home mainly to Karen people. Karen are ethnic mountain hill tribe people who have faced oppression, persecution, maltreatment, and violence for many years by the Burmese government. For over sixty years, Karen people have been in a civil war with the Burmese military government. For safety from their situation, hundreds have been forced or fled into Thailand as refugees. While the amount of Karen people crossing the border has decreased in recent years, many still are separated from their families and loved ones.
Many of the students at our school are, therefore, not Thai citizens. About 5-7 % of students do not have any Thai identification, while 50-60 % hold a type of Thai identification, but they often have less legal rights than Thai citizens. Karen people are happy and proud to have their family members or friends receive a Thai education because it is often more developed than many bordering countries. Many families bring their children to study at Saha Christian Suksa School from other places. Within our village is a hostel as well as four main children’s homes where students often stay when they come to study. Other students live at a children’s home because they are orphans or separated from their relatives on a long term basis. Many of our students are supported by Compassion International and Vision Trust, both Christian NGOs based in the United States.
To me, small places, often rural communities, are beautiful, sometimes revealing God in more powerful ways than urban life. Our village is special. A place where the stars shine bright at night, laying out maps of constellations in the night sky. A place where the laughter of dozens of children echoes from the surrounding mountains. A place where, despite the past and the current displacement of many Karen people, their faith is strong. A place where languages collide between English, Burmese, Thai, and Karen. A place filled with people who may not have much, but have all that they need. A place where we ride bicycles through dirt paths lined by beautiful coconut trees, glimmering mist in the Thai heat. A place where nature is everywhere and lizards of the jungle now live tamely inside homes. A place with people whose patience, calmness, kindness, and love is overflowing. A place with an unsettling past and continued moments of sadness and pain, but also with hope and joy for the future that awaits.
As a witness in the lives of Karen refugees my life has been enriched and changed my life in many new ways.
My appointment in Thailand is supported by your generous gifts to Week of Compassion.
I thank you for all your love, peace, prayers, and continued learning that give hope and new possibilities to Karen people in Southwest Thailand.
Nicole Betteridge serves as a Global Mission Intern with The Church of Christ in Thailand. Her appointment is supported by Week of Compassion, Disciples’ Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission and your special gifts.