"White Girl"

"White Girl"

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Normal Life

 I haven’t written anything here for a long while, mostly because, it doesn’t seem like I have much to say or tell, which really isn’t true. But sometimes, life just gets into a rhythm that is normal and not all that exciting and doesn’t seem to have much adventure worth telling (which isn’t true either). I suppose this the part of growing up in life and what maturing is about, learning to be happy and content in the normal everydayness of life.  Even this is filled with little joys, adventures, and lessons too. So, as an update on my life for anyone who might still happen to check this blog, I will tell you about my normal, everyday life for now, and find some little adventures to write about later.

The Land of Snow and Cold
(AKA, Minnesota)
My Little Indoor Garden
I am in Minnesota right now and its November, so that means that I am actually in a place called the Land of Snow and Cold. I am supposing its somewhat like Russian-Siberia or the Canadian Wilderness, at least, that’s what it feels like to me! I tried to prepare myself for the long cold winter by making a little Indoor Garden, and I try to think of all the time spent indoors as a good time to catch up on some reading, and as a time to inspire some creativity.

I have been working at an office as an assistant, which means I do exciting things like make copies and file papers... I also have gotten to work with my twin brother, Travis, at the coffee shop he is now managing. It's pretty great getting to work with family, and get paid too!

Olive and Annabell, watching a movie
with their flashlights. Cuz it's much
better that way!
I really enjoy getting to spend time with my adorable niece and energetic nephew. I get to spend lots of Friday nights playing games, making cookies, and watching movies with these little guys, which I gladly enjoy.

Bekah, who stole my heart.

I also got to spend the past summer in Thailand visiting my friends and my Karen family over there. The time went by so fast! Thailand is still in my heart and I know God has a good plan for me there sometime in the future to do some good work! I just have to wait for his timing which is the hardest part, and missing all my “adopted” children over there. I love my dear little Bekah! I also got to spend some much needed, quality time with my boyfriend Lukai, whom I have been dating for a couple of years now. We keep getting to know each other better, and in a funny sort of way, get to improve our communication skills as we have been apart most of the time and only get to talk. Its not always fun, nor easy when you finally find your best friend! But, God has a sense of humor and a plan too.

Lukai is working on getting a visa and the money to come visit the US and to meet my parents. Its been a slow process, and continues to be sooooooo slow. Patience as never been my strength, and it seems to be the thing God really wants to challenge!
Lukai and I at a beach in Thailand.

What’s next for me? I don’t know. I’m hoping to find something that I can invest in a little bit more this year in the work department beyond making copies...  But, I’m thankful for a job that is allowing me to pay my bills. I’m keeping my eyes peeled, and trying to keep myself focused so I can jump at an opportunity when it comes my way, and then hopefully, the next thing will fall into place. Whatever that is!

P.S. I still live with my parents. I tell myself its because I would get too lonely otherwise... and that I’m still growing up. I think.


Central Park, NY

P.S.S. I also got to visit a friend in New York on my way to Thailand. That was a pretty cool experience as I had never been there, and there's no place quite like the Big Apple

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bilay: This Is My Story

Bilay with his two-year old daughter Smiley
Bilay: This Is My Story

Written and transcribed by Amber Wunderlich

Bilay is a Karen man from Burma who has had limited use of his legs since a young child due to a Polio infection. He walks on his hands and knees. Currently he is in Thailand along the border in a village called Takkolang where he has built a boarding home for poor Karen students from Burma and from refugee camps. Some of these students come from broken homes. He is also a lay pastor for a small Adventist church, as well as a kind father and husband.

Bilay working on building a house
for his family (I'm not even sure how he
got up there...)
     The first time I met Bilay I was twenty-one years old. I had just ventured to Thailand for the first time and was volunteering along the border. Contrary to my thoughts at the time, I knew nothing about what I was doing but I was blessed enough to meet some lovely people along the way who would help lead and guide my younger self, and Bilay happened to be one of those such lovely people. He is a bit of a surprise to meet for several reasons. The first being that he doesn’t walk like the vast majority of us as he walks on his hands and knees (but he doesn’t let that stop him from doing anything!), and another reason being that he has a different way of thinking and living. I have to say it’s been an honor and privilege knowing Bilay because of his trust in God and also because of his kind and compassionate spirit. If you do not get the chance to meet him and spend some time learning from him, then perhaps the best way to get to know him is to hear his story*. So here goes!

Bilay with the students he houses
      I was born on the Burma side. Now I am forty years old. When I was five years old I have a memory, that I had pain in my body and I was crying every night.  My mom and dad went to find the medicine for Polio. They saw a man, a jungle medicine man. They told him, our son is crying every day and every night. They asked him, “Can you help us?”  He said, “I have medicine for your son. I go to make it.” So my dad came back home to bring me there to the medicine man. That night, I slept and in the morning I could not walk. Sure I tell you, I could not walk and I had a lot of pain. My legs were very, very painful and sensitive. I could not even let my mother touch them. To this day, we do not know what the jungle medicine man did. My legs hurt for a long time. So my mom and dad went to look for English medicine from a white man. He gave them Penicillin and injected it. After that, I had no more pain but still I could not walk anymore. My mom and dad tried to find more medicine but we stayed a long ways away in the jungle from anyplace. After that, I still grew and grew and grew, except my legs were a little different. 
I was thinking to myself, I want to go to school, but my mom and dad were very, very poor. My mom and dad were doing the farming every year. I wanted to go to school, but I could not go. My mom and dad thought that in the rainy season it would be too difficult for me to walk to school and again, they were very poor. So, they didn’t take me to school. I did the farming with my mom and dad. I could crawl and do the grass, take out the weeds - like that kind of work. I did this every year.
Then, the Burma government and the Karen government were fighting. Fighting and fighting, and they were coming closer to my village. When they came to my village, my mom and dad ran. They could not carry me. So I ran one way and they ran the other way. My mom and dad ran to the jungle. They said to me, “Go with you friend. Go in the boat.” It was a small boat so they could not go with me. I was 25 years old. I ran. And I ran to towards the Thai border. I felt scared. Running was very painful for my body and my knees were so bloody. I was staying in the jungle hiding and a Karen leader said to me. He said to me, “Stay here and keep this gun since you cannot run. When you see the Burmese soldier coming, you kill one and then kill yourself.” I had three guns and many, many bullets with me. I stayed there for one day, and then a motorcyclist came by, and the person saw me and took me to the border. So God helped me. 
Before in Burma, I knew a little bit about God, but I didn’t know much. My home was very far away from the church. Sometimes I would hear the pastor speaking and feel very afraid but then later forget about what I heard. I wanted to know more about God, but didn’t think about it much. Then, I came to Thailand and I stayed with a Thai person for three months. Then my sister came to see me, and asked me to go to a refugee camp with her. I was thinking, “I don’t want to go and stay inside there.” But my sister was crying because my family was separated as we had run to different places. I was staying in the refugee camp when I saw the people who had many, many things and food to eat. Like the Karen government people, and they were wearing the beautiful shirt and went to church. I never saw western clothes or had any before. So I went to church to see the people there in the western clothes. I was very confused. I asked my uncle, “Why do they have the nice and beautiful thing. I don’t understand.” He told me because they are teachers, or government leaders.  
In the camp, I began to learn more about the Bible and I wanted to go to Bible school. I had a friend and he taught me a little bit of the Bible every time I saw him. I had another friend who was working with a foreign woman helping her build a home for children. He took me by motorcycle there and this woman was really happy to see me. She told me, “I have a new student, Bilay!” I was going to school every night and learning English. I was so very happy! I never thought this would happen to me. The woman asked me to teach the Bible to the younger students there and gave me time to teach them and 1,000 baht for one month. I was so happy to teach and I never saw any money like 1,000 baht before. I was teaching them every night. Then, the woman told me to go to a Bible school in Chaing Mai. Ok, so I went and learned the Bible there for five months. 
At that time I was thinking, I just wanted to be a pastor and only take care of the church, because I had stayed at a children’s home before I knew it was so much work every day. After I left the children’s home, I came to Takkolang to build a church here. I built only a small bamboo house and then had the church meeting inside my house. Then one woman came to see me. She told me, “Please, I want to tell you about something. I said, “What do you want to tell me?” She told me, “I have two children I want to keep here.” I was thinking if they were boys it would be ok, no problem, because I did not want any girl to say in my house since I was not married yet. She told me, “I have one boy and one girl.” I don’t have a wife. I don’t want the girl to stay with me. But, I tell them they can come to stay with me because they need somewhere to stay. Another day, the woman came again saying, “I have another student.” Then another day, school is nearly starting, and the students who have nowhere to stay start to come. Another man and woman came and asked me if three students can come to stay with me. So, I have to build more on my house!
Still I was thinking, “God, why do you do this? This is not what I was planning.” So I have to pray to God. Then God showed me, this is what I should be doing and gave me a heart to help the students. He showed me to think like this: I was looking at Thai people and they love their country and people very much, they help each other and work together and are loyal. I was thinking, why do the Karen people and government leader not care about the poor people? Why are they fighting, and not love each other. They don’t hold the people close to their heart. So I was thinking, if I stay here and help the new students it will be very good for them to learn about love. 
I want the children to know about Jesus and God. I want them to have an education, and to learn to take care of the old people and their Karen people. I want them to learn like this, some Karen people do not care of each other, so I want the student to know how to take care of the poor people and each other. I want to teach the students, “don’t do like those other people are doing.” I also want them to learn how to go and do for themselves.
Then, one day I went to Chaing Mai again for training. I was praying about how to do everything for the students. My friend called me and told me a friend will come to visit Thailand and is looking for some places to visit, but I was far away from Takkolang. My friend called me to ask me to come visit the visitor, but I didn’t want to go because I could not speak English well. So my friend kept calling me until I decided I needed to go anyways, so I called another friend to help translate. I came and met the visitor and he looked around my area that day. He did not talk to me, he just talked to my friend and he didn’t know anything about me. He came back with me to my house to drop me off, and then the visitor saw me staying in my little bamboo house with all the children. He asked me, “Why do you have so many children in this little house?” So, my friend translated for me. “I love these students. They want to go to school and learn, but they have no place to stay so they came to stay with me and go to school.” So he told me, “I want to build one dormitory for the students.” I was so very happy and thankful, and he came back to help build it later.
Another problem that I had, was that I was not married yet. Sometimes the people would gossip about me and the girl students staying with me even though I never did anything wrong and always treated the girls respectfully. So I was thinking I needed a wife to help me, and then maybe no one would gossip about me then. So I prayed to God, “Please, find me a wife.” And he gave me one, and now I have a family already.
Another thing I worry about and think about is, how are we going to feed the students because we don’t have money, and more students were coming. But every time I just pray and trust in God, and God is helping me and doing for me. In the future I want to build a new dorm, one for the boys and one for the girls. I want to have very clever students and teach them English. I want to build classrooms here. I want to build big! So, this is my story.

One of the lessons I have learned from Bilay, is that God often chooses to use the least expected to carry out his work. By that I mean, some of us would think Bilay should be the one who is receiving help from others because of his limited mobility, but instead, he is actually serving others and carrying out God’s work. So remember, if you feel discouraged and oppressed, and are thinking you cannot do something, allow God to strengthen you and use you in-spite of your weaknesses. For God is good and faithful. 


“Listen my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he has promised those who love him?”

James 2:5


*Due to Bilay’s limited English language skills some of the grammar has been corrected for easier reading, and in order to help the reader better understand the content.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Walking Home

I am back in Thailand again. I have been here for about a month and have spent time in Bangkok, on the coast, and at one children's home along the border, but I have finally ventured back up to my old home and village area also along the Thai-Burmese border. I wasn't sure what to think or expect as last time I left feeling disappointed and defeated. I had been working at a children's home there and had fallen in love with the kids, but after some issues there with management I knew I had to walk away. I felt like I was abandoning my children. I resolved to continue helping the Karen there and decided to teach English classes in a nearby village after being invited to work there. Again, after several months of not having the support necessary to build a good program there and having a visiting, alcoholic son return to stay in my host family home which ended up being very disruptive, I decided to leave again. I was very disappointed as I had really put my heart into trying to make a go of working with the Karen along the border. I was saddened and felt burned out after little more than spending a year there. At the same time, I had many lovely, happy memories and experiences there, but didn't know if I wanted to return as I felt like a failure. I may have failed in my endeaver to work at the children's home and in starting an English program there, but...

 What I didn't realize was that I had succeeded in creating meaningful and encouraging relationships with people there, and had gained valuable life experiences. I lived with one of the world's poorest and oppressed people, and even if I couldn't offer them riches or unlimited resources or opportunities, I offered them a loving friendship. By going to live and work with them I gave them hope in the world and let them know that they are not alone nor forgotten in their troubles. I may have failed in one sense but succeeded in another.

So, as I found myself dropped off from the bus on the side of the road there along the border surrounded by jungle and fields, I was unexpectedly happy to be back and glad that I could still offer my friendship to some of the most beautiful, kind people I am blessed to know. I had my backpack and a handbag, a pair of flipflops on, and a happy heart as I walked down the road towards my old village and I felt like I was coming home again. I may never spend a lot of time here again in the future, but this place has been imprinted upon my heart and soul, and I will never be nor live the same again.

When one has gotten to live, to work, and to be with the world's poor and are truly open to learning, one will gain a quality, a sense of something that cannot be put into words nor easily conveyed. It just is what it is. So I encourage everyone no matter where you are at in life to take some time to unexpectedly spend with someone different from you, and find some kindness and love to share and you will infinitely gain more than you could ever give.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Where's My Life Compass?

I imagine that getting lost in the woods or a jungle would bring on an overwhelming sense of fear and panic.  I've never truly been lost, yet.  Its kind of lucky considering how many hikes I've been on, and that I can't really read a map, and that I also don't have the greatest sense of direction.  I've never experienced any gut wrenching panic and worry for being lost.  It must be a natural tendency, when getting lost, to experience fear and panic. No one likes to be alone in some creepy woods, without supplies, and not knowing how to survive.  As humans, we also like security. We like being with other people. We like having a cozy home. We do not like to be lost.

The fear of being lost translates so well into other aspects of our lives as humans. Currently, for about the past year I would say I have been lost. I think the initial panic set in when I first realized I was "lost".  I had thoughts like these, I have no idea what I am doing or what I want to do which translates as, I have no idea where I am in life, or how to get to where I want to be, let alone know where I am supposed to be.  Where is my Life compass?  I have a sneaky suspicion I am not alone in these thoughts, nor is it uncommon for other young folks these days to be lost.  Its a crazy world out there.  Full of so many paths and possibilities, with so many rapid changes going on, and so many different messages coming at us 24/7. 

In the Christian world, its a little bit of a negative thing to be lost. No, I would say its considered a horrible thing. Let's not talk about it, or better yet, why don't those who are lost, just stop being lost.  Like its a choice.  Nobody ever wants to be lost.  It also seems like  that if a Christian is lost, then that person is no longer in communion with God, and lacks a purpose.  Have you ever heard, "So and so is so lost right now. He just needs to find God. He just needs a purpose."  The message seems to be, You are lost, get un-lost.  First, being lost allows us as Christians to let God lead us somewhere. Secondly, it encourages us to trust God and to be brave enough to step out in life even when we don't know where we are or where we are going. Plus, it probably just helps us mature in general.

I would say, embrace being lost.  Woe, what? Don't let panic and fear overrun our lives, our judgement, our perception, our contentment, our happiness, and our trust in God. Even in being lost, as Christians we can serve God with praise and worship.  As humans, we can enjoy what we have been given even in times of lostness.  We still have a purpose. 

Being lost is a good time to just be. Be alive. Be grateful. Be whatever. Trust.  Don't worry about this world.

Being lost doesn't mean we lack direction.  It just means we aren't where we want to be in life yet.  It doesn't mean we can't get there.  On the flip side, it could mean that we are lost because we aren't supposed to be where we think we want to be.

Being lost makes other people uncomfortable. I have no idea how many times I have tried explaining my life right now to someone else, and what I am doing or not doing, or where I am going or not going... People don't know how to respond to those experiencing lostness.  They feel a little uncomfortable. They don't know what to talk about. They feel panicked and worried for us.  They want to go out and do the job of finding us for ourselves.  Now, there are a few who do understand, who have experienced it themselves and know how it can be life changing.  By the way, people don't like their lives changed either. 

I am blessed by those who recognize my lostness but let me continue my journey of lostness, because these people allow my life to be changed, and I feel pretty confident that is going to be changed in a better way. 

So I may not find myself in the jungle currently, and I may find myself a bit lost in life. But that doesn't mean I'm not with God or that God isn't with me, or that I lack a purpose. My purpose is to let God lead me somewhere new, to give thanks, and to step out bravely in the dark as I stumble along. Although, I have another sneaky suspicion that I know exactly where I might end up one day. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happiness is...

Happiness is time spent with people we love, doing the things we love. 

Happiness can be found in achieving something, but rarely in gaining materialistic things. 

Happiness lies in forgiveness. 

Happiness lies within an attitude.

Happiness can be found in spiritual peace. 

Happiness is spending time in nature, protecting it and cultivating it, not using it up. 

Happiness isn't found in mindless consumption, but in producing something. Although some consumption can be fun.

Happiness isn't elusive. 

Its usually sitting in front of us waiting to be found by slowing down, prioritizing, and letting go of time wasters, and worldly goals and expectations for life. 

Happiness often means being a "loser".

Those who don't have happiness, don't understand the easy secret to having it. 

Happiness is thinking and living like a child. Innocently, full of joy and wonder at the beauty of the world. Getting excited by the most mundane of things and by the most amazing of things.

Love others. Live simply.

Its not difficult to find nor have. 

Happiness isn't spending hours on Facebook, using smart phones, taking Instagram photos, tweeting what we are eating, or spending hours on the Internet. Although, some joy may be found in these things. It won't make us happy.

Happiness is listening to others speak and actually hearing what they are saying and then caring about it.

Happiness is having someone listen to us and then caring about it too.

Happiness is sharing food and eating together.

Happiness is singing together in joy, in celebration.

Happiness is sitting in the sun and playing with children.

Happiness cannot be found in having a clean house, although satisfaction may be found. 

Being happy doesn't mean that we don't ever feel sadness or experience a blue day. It just means we can still smile in-spite of blue days sometimes.

Being perfect doesn't lead to happiness. 

Realizing your flaws, but recognizing your strengths can build the road to happiness and contentment.

Happiness is having nothing and being poor, but still finding joy in the world and love to give. 

Happiness is not having everything.

Happiness is not greed.

Happiness can be found in sharing with others. 

Happiness is a surprise note.

Happiness is found in receiving support from family and friends.

Happiness is counter intuitive. 

It is a surprise in its simplicity. 

Happiness is greeting one another with love and care.

Happiness is rarely found in isolation. 

Happiness is a warm hug.

Happiness is laughing with others.

Happiness is a warm relationship. 

Happiness is intimacy. Feeling close with another.

Happiness is letting go. Letting go of the past, of mistakes, of hate, of hurt, of destructive relationships, and of disappointments.

Happiness is found in enjoying the moment. In enjoying the small things.

Be together. Live in a way respectful to others, to our selves, and to the earth that was given us.  Give all the time, make time for each other, and happiness will follow.

Happiness is...