I love that these trips have been happening on Super Bowl Sunday. There’s just something about the dichotomy of the utmost in commercialization vs. true third world conditions that really resonates with me. Internet in southeast Asia is amazing. David has had 4G nearly the entire time and is able to work on projects as we drive through the windiest of mountain roads. Today it meant he gave us the halftime score and final score. During game time we saw some of the most incredible views of fog filled valleys, drove through multiple police checkpoints and discussed things that can’t be forgotten. For a taste, take a minute to watch this.
Dr. Jane is far from fantastical and has zero flair for the dramatic. We love her. I may nickname her “General Jane” except she’s way more B.A. than Mad Dog Mattis. When she says, “I need you all to turn off any location services on any electronic device in this car” it took me a few minutes to do the mental gymnastics about what she was really getting at. I understand no tagging our location on Facebook but when it is “no photos as they often contain an embedded GPS tag and that can threaten these folk’s lives” my brain just has trouble processing that. I think I simply don’t want to process such things. Refugees, IDPs or “internally displaced peoples,” camps, and genocide are terms I much prefer to not think about. I should have told Stacy “no” when she asked, “want to hear the worst story I heard today?” You can ask either of us in person if you really want to hear.
Western Thailand and eastern Burma are unbelievably beautiful. I’m gonna keep calling it Burma (vs. Myanmar) as the Karen people we are helping prefer that term. The majority Burmese decided to change the name a few years ago as part of the process in wiping out minority peoples. The Karen have a few choices in life: stay in Burma and face severe persecution, flee to a Thailand U.N. camp and give up all individuality and ability to earn a living, or flee Burma and live illegally in Thailand supporting themselves. We are helping the latter. All those police checkpoints we keep driving through are set up to stop illegal trafficking.
There’s always talk of poverty and access to health care. It’s important to remember absolute poverty (refugee in Thailand struggling to eat today) vs. relative poverty (homeless in America but not starving to death). There’s real value in working to alleviate both. I’m a big fan of working in both realms. In Cambodia we have been consistently exposed to significant absolute poverty and huge barriers to access. However we have amazing missionaries like Kreg and Kevin who are willing to drive a patient needing cataract surgery the 8 hours to Phnom Penh, feed and house them while there, and then get them back home. Simply amazing servants. Today I asked Jane “hey what can be done if we uncover problems that I can’t fix?” “We’d have to smuggle the patient through all those checkpoints and drive them 7 hours into the city….then take them back.” I’ll complain a lot less the next time I have to drive 13 minutes to the dentist.
The eye care went great. Most of the kids were normal and healthy. One young girl in kindergarten was +8 in one eye and +1.5 in the other so we are going to try and patch the good eye to strengthen the other one. That’s tough back home, let alone in a refugee camp, but the missionary team is up for the challenge. Fortunately most of the folks looked relatively healthy. Many simply needed eyeglasses and no one required significant care that we couldn’t provide. Could some of them use cataract surgery? Sure. Absolutely necessary? Nope. I’ve found that’s typical with people who may spend lots of time outside but spend lots of time under a tree canopy which protects their eyes from the sun.
On the health front, we’re all doing well. This morning was another 3 or 4 hour drive on windy roads. For the Arizona folks, think road to Jerome. For North Carolina folks, think Mt. Mitchell. But continuous windy. Over and over. And over.
If you want to see more photos, or watch a few videos, come over to our home when we get back. We can show them, just not post them online.