School Under Burma Army Fire: Taking Exams In Hiding
Karen State Burma
27 February 2021
We walked into a small jungle clearing to see children sitting under the trees reading their lessons. They were intensively focused on their books and learning their subjects. One little boy was reading an English lesson and one girl looked up from her reading and gave us a big smile. The headmaster said, “This is our school under the trees in the jungle where we are hiding from Burma Army attacks. We sleep here on the ground by this small stream. Tomorrow we have examinations and so the children are preparing right now for them. We have another little clearing just up on that hill 50 yards away that will be the examination room.”
We greeted the children and explained we had come to give help in the form of food and medicine, to remind them that God loves them, and get the news out. We want to tell people around the world what is happening and we want the people here to know that people all over the world care about them, are praying for them, and are sending help.
A 24-year-old teacher nursing a baby said, “Thank you for coming and we thank God we can keep teaching even when the Burma Army tries to stop us.” Another young teacher, 20 years old, told us with tears in her eyes that in 2010 her father had been gunned down by the Burma Army and that she missed him all the time. Now it was her desire to teach and help the children. As we talked, the Burma Army began to shell, and six mortar rounds were fired. The head teacher, holding his young son, radioed resistance forces that were between the hiding place and the Burma Army. He told them the Burma Army was not advancing, just shelling.
The village that the teachers and students are from is Ler Cho Ko, in Ler Doh, Nyaunglebin District, Northwestern Karen State. These are some of the now over 6,500 people displaced by new attacks of the Burma Army.
We did a Good Life Club program with the children, singing songs and playing together, and then handed out GLC shirts and snacks. The displaced children also gave a short tribute to a friend of FBR named Graeme Smith who just died of cancer last week. They sang a beautiful song in his memory and to honor him, about God being with us all the time. These children and families know about loss and their hearts went out to our friend Graeme and his family. We told them that the Smiths have been helping the people of Burma for many years spiritually, medically, and materially. The children and teachers expressed their gratitude for the Smiths and for all who stand with them.
From here we walked to the village they had fled from. There we met some family members and children who had not been in the school program in the jungle. We gave medical treatment to the sick and did a small children’s program for these children. In the middle of the singing the Burma Army and the Karen resistance who are defending the village clashed and the Burma Army began to mortar towards the village. Some mothers grabbed their children in terror and start to run away. We could hear that the mortar rounds were landing no closer than 1 km away and we were in radio communication with the resistance and they said they had stopped any advance. We encouraged the mothers to stay and told them that if they had to run we would help them. One mother said, “I am very afraid. This happens all the time.”
We told her we were with her, God was with us all, and we would help them escape if needed. She asked, “Are you sure?” I made a joke in a fake trembling voice and she and the others burst out laughing. “Ok, if you stay, we stay,” she said. They all stayed and we all began to laugh and sing together and the shooting stopped. After the children’s program we were able to give funds for emergency rice for every family and the gratitude on their faces gave us joy as well.
This week the Burma Army has sent 84 trucks of food and ammunition to re-supply the camps and launch more attacks in this area of northern Karen State. Of the 6,500 displaced, there are 1,500 displaced villagers in Mone and Ler Doh townships, Nyaunglebin District, and, in Papun District, 5,000 displaced in Butho, Dwe Lo and Luthaw townships. In spite of the daily mortar attacks, patrolling and shooting by the Burma Army the people have not given up. Even when hiding in the jungle, the dedicated teachers and children continue school. With the care of people around the world we and others have been able to feed every displaced family with one to three months of rice and provide medical care for those in need. This is a miracle and we thank God.
We believe that the power of good is greater the power of evil. God’s love is greater and we believe that these people will prevail. Our prayer with these children was that all their hopes and dreams will be realized and there will be no limit for their future.
It is a blessing to feel useful and on these missions we do feel useful, that, in spite of our own sins and weaknesses and our inability to stop the Burma Army, we still are able to do something of love and give out food, tarps and medical care. All this is only possible because of you all who pray and help support the people here. You all are part of this mission and also part of the witness around the world that God cares for all people.
We are grateful for the children to be able to keep learning, for the teachers that keep teaching, for the moms and dads working their fields under fire, for the resistance that keeps trying to stop the Burma Army and for our teams from all over Burma who can help. And we are grateful for you all who care. Our prayer is that the Burma Army would go back and that forgiveness will be extended and there would be reconciliation.
We pray for the protesters and civil disobedience movement in the cities and plains. We pray for unity between them and the ethnics which we have already begun to see and for the building of a new representative democratic Burma. And we pray against any power of evil and for all the people in Burma to be reconciled and that God would heal this land. Thank you for being part of this.
God bless you,
Dave, family and the Free Burma Rangers