I showed up to Refuge—the children’s home—to find out that Sunday school had been cancelled (these things happen when communication is dependent upon WiFi, and your WiFi stops working). I thought about what I should do, since I had an hour until church started, and there was no point biking all the way home.
Some of the girls came out of their rooms, anticipating I had a lesson planned. I tried to say “no lesson, just hang out,” but then some of the boys came into the room too, and then the translator came. Before I knew it, they were all sitting in a circle with me.
“Ok, maybe I teach something?” I said, as they all looked at me rather expectantly—maybe one or two of them understanding my English.
I whispered some frantic prayers, asking for something to talk about. I had just read the book of Ruth the other day, and something felt so right about the idea of directing all my attention towards the girls sitting in front of me—almost forgetting about the boys to my right. So, I attempted to tell Ruth’s story on the fly.
I started by talking about how it was very difficult to be a woman in the times of the Bible—“they were very low, property of men, and their value was usually based on how many sons they could give birth to,” I told them.
I went on to describe how Ruth had lost her husband, and had no sons—she had lost everything that would give her worth in that culture. So she left everything she knew behind to follow Naomi, her mother-in-law, and Naomi’s God—the God of the Hebrews. She left her land and went to a foreign place.
As I unpacked this Bible story, I realized this might be theses girls’ stories. No, no husbands lost, but maybe they too left everything they knew when they departed Burma to come to Thailand in hope of something better.
While talking about how hard it must’ve been for Ruth, I saw tears in one of the girls’ eyes, while others watched me intently as the translator spoke in Karen (their people group language).
Now, completely forgetting that the guys were in the room, I leaned in and spoke to the girls about how they were loved, and how our God—who’s a loving Father—is a God who sheds a tear whenever they shed a tear.
In the same way Ruth trusted Naomi and this new Hebrew God, I encouraged them to trust God.
With tears in my own eyes, I spoke soberly about how things could continue to be hard for these girls when they trusted God—like how Ruth had to work in the fields to survive—but that He wanted to enter their circumstances.
I also encouraged them to love people that didn’t look or act like them, in the same way Boaz was kind to a Moabite woman (this seems compelling to me, given that the book of Joshua and Judges comes before Ruth, and in those books they kill a lot of outsiders—like Moabites).
This is a good opportunity to now look ourselves in the mirror. Are you loving people that don’t look like you? Do you ever take a moment to enter the world of someone who identifies as LGBTQ? Have you ever stopped to consider that maybe a person of color has more obstacles in life than you do (white people)? I’m not suggesting you have to agree with someone that is different than you, but have you ever even tried to enter their life for a moment?
I’m thankful for these moments to love on these transplant girls, who probably haven’t had much of a voice over the course of their young lives. I also can’t help but think of my beloved country—talking about America here, not Canada 😉—and cringe when the topic of refugees comes up.
People think Anna and I are great for loving on the Karen people who are often refugees in Thailand, but it’s like something changes when we shift the context to refugees in America.
I can’t really think of a home run sentence to wrap this up, other than please take a moment to look inwardly and ask yourself if you love people well that don’t look like you. I know I am on my own journey of staying teachable.
A video of the “Refuge” kids, courtesy of Candace: