School--A Distant Dream
By David Caukill
In the middle of a rigorous travel itinerary from one side of Southeast Asia to another, I met a quiet yet resilient young girl called Maylee Htoo in the back blocks of the Burma. Her father had just recently died, and coupled with that tragedy, her funds for college had dried up.
Her father had been a farmer in Karen State—eking out his living by diligently growing rice on the steep mountainsides, sending precious contributions to the Adventist College where Maylee was studying to become a teacher. His dying wish was that Maylee would be able to finish her studies and one day return to Karen State, a large community near the Thai border previously ravaged by war for more than 45 years, to teach other poor tribal girls in the mountains.
This is a human trafficker’s paradise. Poverty abounds; tribal girls, a porous border, corrupt officials and soldiers, narrow choices and no aid organizations able to work in the area, no anti-trafficking education programs, and the constant threat of hunger and diseases like malaria compound to create great misery. The difficult lives these families experience sometimes push them to make the difficult decision to send one of their daughters to work in Thailand—in a "restaurant" or as a "housemaid"—without being too concerned because they simply don't know the reality.
Their poverty is such a desperation factor that it seems better that one family member takes the ultimate gamble rather than that they all perish. The eight refugee camps along the Thai—Burma border are testimony to the problems that these families are facing, on top of decades of war in their backyards. Research shows that non school-attending girls also marry very young and have multiple health problems, and infant mortality rates are high. Few of these young women progress to begin a small enterprise or business that may add some financial benefit to their family life.
Girls here are terribly vulnerable, extremely marginalized because of their ethnicity and by being socially dislocated out of their home regions. School is but a dream for these girls: so many of them simply lose their innocence in a foreign brothel, enslaved by poverty and traffickers’ avarice.
Maylee was far too proud to ever ask for money or handouts, despite the grim prospects of having to go home without her degree. I asked her if she would like to do something meaningful in exchange for a scholarship. Her eyes widened and lit up as she responded with a hearty "It is very OK for me!” The final agreement has her tutoring the younger ICC children—living close by, in exchange for her tuition fee. You couldn't have found a happier person on earth. It was simply a delight to see her so happy after the misery and anxiety she has been through.
My dreams may be as simple as Maylee’s: quality Adventist education for these poor tribal children and a future full of eternal hope.
But what about God’s dreams and plans for these children?
I see their suffering in a microcosm. God sees it in 3D, not living it vicariously or from a distance—the devastation and pain that they daily suffer as victims of brutality. And while our Saviour weeps for the lost, hoping His faithful saints will rally to the call of justice mingled with mercy, who will stand up and go where He calls?
Do we appreciate His gift of grace enough in our own lives to put our shoulder to the wheel for others who haven’t heard the good news—the gospel that has purportedly reshaped our lives?
Our schools need many desks and benches, teachers and textbooks. The children walk from their villages each day across the steep mountains in what is still a very dangerous place: land mines are a constant curse to the civilian population.
We’re building people to His glory here, though. That's the investment Jesus left as a legacy--building people for His kingdom. Maylee’s dream will come true.
And mine—I see it come true in the eyes of children when they come to school for the first day. They glow with smiles that reach from ear to ear. Have you had anything to smile about lately?
You can support ICC Australia’s education program for children like Maylee at this link:https://iccaustralia.worldsecuresystems.com/support/support-compassion-for-kids-fund
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