Last week I met up with my new friend and long time Thai resident Laurie Dawson. Laurie’s missionary parents made their home and have spent their lives here in Thailand investing in the country and the people.
Laurie’s brother, Dave Eubank is the founder of Free Burma Rangers. He, Laurie, their parents and many amazing volunteers have created a movement that, in it’s entirety, has been a great supply of relief and support to the displaced peoples.
My first stop on the trip with Laurie was the village of Bungklung. Joined by her eight year old son Gideon, her 23 year old daughter Sarah and 4 high school girls from various parts of the United States, we piled into a car and drove the first seven hours to the small village on the Thai/Burma border.
Bungklung is a village with significant history to the ethnic groups of Burma. In 1997, Bungklung and the surrounding area came under fire from the Burmese army. Hundreds of Karen people fled to Thailand to escape. Just prior to this time, Dave Eubank, after having served several years in the U. S. special armed forces and completing seminary, had returned with his family to work with the people. Hearing the village of his friends was under fire, he jumped in his truck and made the drive to see their situation and offer help. Approaching the border town, he met hundreds of Karen peoples on the road fleeing to Thailand from Burma in an attempt to escape the Burmese Army. Some had been injured from land mines, other by bullets. He met up with his friend Eliya on the road and together they gave the people assistance and tried to get injured people to help. Wanting to prevent the Burmese army from advancing further, he climbed a small mountain to post the Thailand Flag on the border as a clear indication of the boundaries. When he got to the top, he found the Burmese army fighting on the other side and came under fire himself. This event was the beginning of Dave’s major security and relief movement to the ethnic groups of Burma that is now knows as Free Burma Rangers. FBR provides medical aide and support to distressed areas, intelligence and defense training as well as advanced communication capabilities that are important in self defense of the peoples. These communication capabilities are also vital in getting getting real time information and footage to News Media outside the country, and is regularly reported by the BBC and others. Because of request by the ethnic peoples, the movement has grown to 80 teams, inside Burma itself, with financial and volunteer support coming from many many people all over the world. FBR has become an important relief in the lives of the people.
Dave’s sister Laurie, working side by side with Dave in the movement as well as her father and mother with their mission work in Thailand, helps to coordinate support through the Thai Christian Foundation (TCF) which is based in Dallas Texas.. TCF supports many relief projects she, her family and a large group of volunteers have undertaken. TCF is now partnering with and new Thai foundation (The Pan Rak Foundation) that Laurie has helped established to carry on the work of her parents and her brother and many others in Thailand and Burma.
Spending five days with Laurie was pretty incredible. She was full of stories of oppression, danger, life threatening missions, but also hope. They were stories she herself had lived and seen and breathed. The main thing I took from Laurie after spending those days was Hope and Light.
To here more yourself check out the FBR website:
Our group, in Bungklung, spent two days working on different tasks. The young girls worked with the hostel youth by playing with the younger kids and surveying older kids about their needs and goals for the future. The hostel, having been set up by what is now TCF, houses young people coming from the small Thai mountain village of Laykontu or Burma in search of further education or even safety. The hostel provides that and now houses 50 kids, the youngest of which is six.
Laurie, Sarah and I spent a couple of days designing an expansion of a medical clinic for the small mountain village Laykontu.
After we discussed the design with the head men of Bungklung, our party parted and four of us, Laurie, Gideon and two of the high school women, Sara and Kaya donned our backpacks for a four hour hike to Laykontu.
The truck dropped us off and we began. It was wet. Sometimes we forded streams.
The relationships with these villages began with Laurie’s dad and have remained for years. The care they had for each other was evident in the visit.
Before we left I went over to Burma for a bit.
Here are some more pictures: