Along with the Anglos, the Dutch, the Filipinos, the Chinese and people from a number of other nationalities, the Karen are a significant part of the diverse family we call Hobart Baptist Church. They are refugees from Burma (Myanmar) having fled due to religious and ethnic persecution by the government.
Today well over 100,000 Karen refugees live in camps on the Thai side of the border, some people having lived there for as many as 20 years. By world standards this is perhaps the longest displacement situation in the world and has resulted in social, psychological and protection concerns. Today around 70,000 people, including those in our church, have left the refugee camps and resettled in places including North America, New Zealand, Scandinavian countries and Australia.
For those four Karen participents, who are now Australian citizens, this trip offers the chance to reconnect with family and friends; for the others of us it is an opportunity to begin to understand the past of our Karen folk, and for all the team it will be a chance to visit Jan and Jit Yawan. (The photo shows Jan (centre) with Jit and their daughter Anna.) It was Jan who gave the Karen pastor a photo of the Hobart Baptist Church building as he left Thailand which was instrumental in bringing the Karen folk to the church community here.
Jan has been in Thailand as a cross cultural worker with Global Interaction for over 35 years. Together with Jit, she focuses on evangelism among the Pwo Karen people group and church development work with other Karen groups. They also assist various others who seek to care for the sick, disabled and marginalised, providing education and self-help for the local people. There are around 30 congregations scattered along the border between Thailand and Burma who value Jit’s assistance.
In total, the team will be away for about two weeks connecting with a number of groups and exploring possible partnerships that hopefully will form the basis of many more similar trips in years to come.
Please pray for the team that they may work well together, travel safely, and operate with flexibility and sensitivity. Pray for the development of healthy relationships with possible ministry partners and that the team will return with lives that have been changed forever, and therefore be a blessing to us all.
Stephen L Baxter
Here are some photos of the team as we visited some connections in Thailand last Saturday. You can see me (looking very hot in my jeans!) on the right