We visited the first family in Jacksonville, Florida. I met Thein Than Aye (Kasu) in 2007 while I was staying with Pastor Stanley and his family in the jungle. About 100 people had built a temporary village in the jungle to keep from going into refugee camps. A few years went by before we re-connected in Mae Rah Moe refugee camp where Kasu was pastoring a small church in the camp and was headmaster of the Karen Adventist Academy. He also was my contact person in the camp and distributed all the sponsorship money we sent and helped us register the children when we visited the mountain camp. In 2017 he, his wife and 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls were resettled by the UNHCR resettlement program to Jacksonville where Kasu's sister resides. She opened her home to them and they were very happy to be together. His sister entered the U.S. through a lottery visa 20 years ago. They named their first daughter Betty and their second daughter, Judy, after my sister who had died from cancer.
His oldest son, Joel is in the second grade and is learning English at a rapid pace. Jonathan is in first grade and also is adapting very well. Kasu's wife works at a Pilot Pen Company factory and Kasu cares for the children. We had brought gifts for all of the children and we all enjoyed watching them play with them. We stayed in a hotel close by and spent two and a half days visiting them. It was fun taking them out to Chick Filet and Mc Donald's for lunch, it was a new experience for them as they hadn't been there before. We had a wonderful visit and hated saying good bye, however we are very happy they are adapting to life in the USA and doing so well.
This is a photo of Thein Thein Aye and his family taken during our visit
Our next stop was in Knightdale, North Carolina to visit Suzie, the daughter of longtime friends of mine, Lucky and Kyi Kyi. I first met Lucky and Kyi Kyi in 2004 when I stayed in a Karen village for two and a half months. Lucky was teaching in a church run school on the Burma side of the border. He traveled with me many times in the ensuing years and was my interpreter and guide when I traveled to remote villages. All four of his children were born while living on the Thai/Burma border. Suzie was my camp contact for many years and disbursed all the money and gifts we sent in for the children in Mae La refugee camp. Her husband was re-settled to the U.S. several years before her and their daughter were allowed to join him. Suzie has been in the U.S. for almost 5 years now and they have two more daughters who were born here. She asked me to name her youngest daughter and I chose Sierra, after my granddaughter.
We had a great visit with them and Rick bought a frozen pizza and showed her how to use her oven. She had been afraid to use it for fear of starting a fire. We had sent her a beginner's cook book when she first moved to North Carolina and she has been having fun learning to cook American dishes. I was able to show her how to properly use her washer and dryer and also the dishwasher which she had been using for storage. We took them out to eat at IHOP for breakfast where they had not been before, they really enjoyed it. We also brought them gifts and really enjoyed watching them play with the toys. Suzie is also teaching children in the neighborhood how to play the piano and babysitting for a neighbor's son. It was wonderful seeing how happy they all are.
Suzie has just recently started translating all the refugee children's thank you letters to their sponsors that I receive from Mae Rah Moe camp. The translator in the camp has re-settled and my contact there has no one to do the translating. Once again, we were saddened to have to leave but stay in close contact by phone, e-mail and Facebook.
Rick and I enjoying our time with Suzie's children
Our last stop was in Louisville, KY where we visited Pastor Stanley and his wife Ler Pwe Paw. I had stayed with them in the jungle for about 2 months while they were trying to stay one step ahead of the Burmese troops. They did not want to go into a refugee camp, so they set up a little settlement on the banks of the Mae Way Klo River. It had been over 20 years since I had last seen them and we were greeted like honored guests when we arrived at their little apartment. We were given lei's and a dozen roses. Pastor Stanley is working in a small Karen church near whey they live and has been in the states for about 3 years. They have five adult children. Three of them and their spouses live in Australia, one daughter is in California and the youngest son is going to seminary in Michigan. He was there visiting his parents while we were there. It was really wonderful to see him and meet his new wife. He was only 3 years old the last time that I saw him in the jungle. They treated us to a wonderful Thai/Karen dinner at their home and the next day we took them all out for lunch. We visited and sang Christian songs together and had a wonderful time visiting with them. Pastor said it is his desire to return to Burma someday and work with the Karen still living there. He wants to spread the gospel wherever he can.
Pastor Stanley and his wife, Ler Pwe Paw greeted us warmly
The Lord truly has blessed us this past year and we are so thankful that we could visit some of our Karen families. Our child sponsorship program continues to grow and we presently have 563 children being sponsored. We disbursed over $55,000.00 to the children this year. I was very disappointed when we were not able to travel to Thailand this year, but God gave us a precious gift of visiting our close Karen families here in the U.S.
We want to thank each and every one of you for your continued support of our outreach and your encouragement.
Have a wonderful and very blessed Christmas and a prosperous 2019
Betty & Rick
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