After a 16 hour bus ride…
After a 16 hour bus ride through the mountains I was feeling weak, car sick, and hungry. The fish sandwich and probiotic drink they gave us on the ride wasn’t doing my stomach any favours, but I could either eat that or nothing. Thailand is hot. I mean, I know they told us that going into this whole outreach thing, but it was actually really hot. I had my cute touristy hat on, and my sunnies but that couldn’t save me from the heat and humidity.
We pulled up to the bus stop, exited the bus, and grabbed our bags. We were told to wait at the station until the Pastor showed up with a van to pick us up. Where were we? I was confident that I couldn’t point out even a general location of where I was on a map. Finally, we saw a small van and pickup truck pull up with what could only be a pastor stepping out of the driver door.
He was clean cut, wearing an all black suit, and had a massive smile on his face. At this point I was over the whole car ride thing, but here we go anyway. Another 10 hours later we pulled up to the orphanage. To be honest, I wasn’t excited about this week.
I don’t love working with kids, and that wasn’t why I signed up for this particular DTS. I wanted to fight for justice against slavery in the world, and be a part of this big powerful message that is tangibly making a difference. I couldn’t understand how teaching english at a random orphanage in the middle of no where was going to do any of that.
The bus ride was literally terrible. It was hot, sweaty, and my classmates thought now of all times was a great opportunity to sing church camp songs… give me a break. We pulled up to this dust bowl of an orphanage and I remember praying that this couple of weeks would fly by so we could get on with the main objective. We were aiming to work with the women in the city who were working in the bars there.
I could see the kids peaking through the windows of their bunker, and I felt my stomach turn. Kids are smelly, messy, needy, and have no awareness of others around them. They are usually not grateful for anything done for them, and are kind of helpless when it comes to looking after themselves.
While it sounds terrible, this was my reality at this time in my life.
As I stepped out of the van and glanced over to the kids dorms I saw him.
He was wearing a tiny camo shirt with an American flag on it, and blue cotton shorts. His eyes were big, and I could feel the pain they carried instantly. I knew in that moment that my entire life would never be the same. I loved this little boy. He couldn’t have been but 6 years old, and he knew not a word of english but it didn’t matter. I knew that I loved him, and that I would never for the rest of my entire life forget this little boy. I could feel my eyes starting to swell up with tears and choked them back. Maybe I was tired, hot, and hungry but that’s not why I was emotional. I couldn’t believe the love that overcame my soul for this one child, for no particular reason that I could identify. I remember saying to myself, that’s it. This kid is “my little man”, and he is the reason I am in Thailand.
The days we spent there often seem like a blur, how did it go so fast?
All of the sudden the sweat, dirty mattress, lack of a/c, rice three times a day, mystery meat, and bucket baths didn’t matter. When I met Ohnmar* his tiny rough hands shook mine, and he looked at me with big beautiful brown eyes. I noticed the fear, hurt, and nervousness in him and I could tell he had a story. As I learned about him my heart broke. Youngest of two brothers, and they both had watched their parents be brutally murdered in the Civil War in their home in Burma only a year before I was there. They were driven out of the village, their home, their country, their life – with no parents, and no familiarity. I imagined the strength it would take to keep going at that point, and I realised that it was a type of strength that only comes from God.
After being a church goer my whole life, it wasn’t until this moment that I fully understood the love of God. It was easy now. He just loves us, because he does. I understood that love because I wasn’t just receiving anymore… I was learning to give it. Ohnmar* had done nothing to deserve my love, and I knew that he could never do anything to get rid of it. It was unconditional, and it was free. For him, it was a gift and for me it was inevitable.
Ohnmar* was a bit of a rebel. With his cheeky grin, and small fits of anger I knew he had a long road ahead of him. I have hope for his life, and faith for him to thrive. He is smart, and tenacious. He is hurt, but he is strong. He is small, but his heart is mighty.
As we left in that dirty beat up van we took to get there I looked out the back window and soaked in that moment. I knew that I would most likely never see him again. I will never know if he lives, or dies. If he goes to school, gets a job, gets married, or has children. I’ll never know anything else about him, ever again. With his photo in various places throughout my home I am reminded of him often. My Little Man that changed my heart, and taught me the meaning of love.
I am thankful my prayers are heard, and there is a hope I can believe in that doesn’t disappoint.
At 20 years old, I was in no place to adopt a 6 year old Burmese Orphan Refugee that knew no english. For the weeks we were there all I could think about is how could I save him? How can I get him out? How can I trust that leaving him here is even a viable option? What can I do?
The reality is that the answer, in a physical, tangible, and logical world was nothing. I had nothing to offer Ohnmar* .
The other reality is that my faith is in a God far bigger, stronger, and more promising than those realities. His reality is filled with hope and a future that does not disappoint us.
My prayer for Ohnmar is that he discovers hope and a life full of the same love he taught me.
*if you’re keen for adventure, making a difference, and growing in your faith and character then we’d love to chat with you about doing a DTS! It’s 22 weeks of life changing experiences that will build foundations for life. Enquire on the form below!
Lea Emerson joined us in 2011 for her Discipleship Training School from small town Paris, Texas.
Lea serves in many different areas but plays a main role in Marketing and Communications. She’s an excellent leader, teacher, story teller, and never short of an idea. She enjoys coffee, being with good company, and watching documentaries.