Narrator: With me is Jimmy, a refugee from the country of Myanmar [MEE-an-mar], formerly called Burma. Jimmy, tell us what life was like for you and your family in Myanmar.
Jimmy: I am from a tribe of people called the Karen [kah-REHN]. For years my people have suffered political oppression. Government soldiers raided our villages, killed our leaders, and burned our homes. When I was 7 years old our family fled our village and hid in the jungle to escape the soldiers.
Narrator: How did your family survive living in the jungle?
Jimmy: It was difficult. We ate roots and plants and hunted animals for food. We had to move constantly to avoid being captured by soldiers. Thousands of Karen, including my family, managed to escape to neighboring Thailand, where we lived in refugee camps.
Narrator: What was life like in the refugee camp?
Jimmy: Our refugee camp housed more than 40,000 people, all living in simple huts made from thatch and bamboo. We received rations of such food as rice, fish paste, flour, and mung beans.
For our safety we were not allowed to leave the camp, which was guarded by soldiers and protected by barbed wire. It felt as if we were in prison.
We children attended school. I com-pleted high school in the refugee camp.
Narrator: How is a refugee family resettled in a new country?
Jimmy: Each family must apply for resettlement through a special committee that works in the camp. They are interviewed to determine whether they are suitable to be resettled in another country. Then they are screened for health problems. Once they are assigned a new country, the refugees learn a little about their new homeland. For me, my new homeland is the United States.
Narrator: What is it like to arrive in a new land and begin a new life?
Jimmy: It is overwhelming. Imagine getting off an airplane in a strange, new country, unable to speak the language and not knowing anyone. For most of their lives my people lived either in the jungle or in a refugee camp. We arrive in a country where we have to learn so many new things, even a new language. We need so much help until we can find a job and provide for ourselves. This is so hard when we don’t speak the language! We have many day-to-day challenges, such as how to shop for groceries in a store, how to open a bank account, and how to budget our small living allowance.
Narrator: What is the greatest struggle for the Karen people in their new country?
Jimmy: Life is so different in a new country. Some of my Karen Adventist friends face strong challenges to keep their faith and their family ties strong in their new homeland.
Narrator: As a church family, how can we help refugees who live in our community?
Jimmy: Offer to help them learn or practice their new language by talking to you. Use simple words to begin with and speak slowly.
Often refugees don’t have a way to get to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment or a government office to file paperwork. Be their friend, volunteer to take them where they need to go, show them how to get the best buys in the grocery store, and help them set up a bank account and learn how to use it. In short, help them meet the day-to-day challenges of living in a new land. They’ll be so grateful!
Most important, refugees want to learn about their new culture, including new ideas about God. We have a great opportunity to show them God’s love and lead them to Christ.
Narrator: I’m glad you mentioned befriending people and showing them God’s love, Jimmy. Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help minister to the hundreds of refugee groups throughout North America, providing funds to share God’s love with them and planting churches that worship in their own language. Volunteer to help a refugee, give to the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering, and pray for your new neighbors from around the world. Jesus is waiting for your help. ⎭
Jimmy Shwe is planting churches among the Karen in North Carolina and encouraging scattered Karen Adventists in more than 30 other cities across North America.