- Posted by Kelsey
- On August 16, 2018
- 1 Comments
- Earth Mission Asia, Volunteer
This letter is coming to you from the jungles of Burma, from a brick building, down a dirt road, tucked close to the mountains and surrounded by jungle. This is my second trip into our clinic and it’s been much different than I anticipated. The old Baptist church still stands proud and tall at the end of the soccer field.
The staff still makes their way down dirt roads to 8am devotions. Karen children still laugh and giggle and wave wide. It’s me that’s different this time around.
The jump straight to the jungle has been like a bucket of ice water to the face, shocking. Coming directly from a hectic, polished, paved Western winter to dirt roads, hot days, flexible plans, and rice, lots of rice. You couldn’t find more contrast if you went from one end of the earth to the other. Oh wait…
I’ve done the distance before, said a hundred goodbyes, and I know the cost of splitting a heart between two continents, but the sharp switch this time made the relational losses feel new all over again. Mourning relational closeness anew was something I didn’t anticipate. There’s no seamless way to transition between these worlds, but I’ve done it often enough I thought I had it beat. It feels surprisingly lonely this time, the distance feels farther, and the losses cut deeper.
There are certainly good things about the simplicity of life here- the time to feel the sun on my skin and smell the spice in the air. But I mourn the loss of family and friends and love. There’s a very obvious unbelonging for me here. I’m the tallest, whitest person that most of these Burmese and Karen people have ever seen. I’m an outsider in language, looks, and nearly every other aspect. I’m the only media personnel here in a sea of medical staff, and nothing about the world I come from translates to life here. I feel my own foreignness starkly.
I’ve been here for a week and a half already. It’s a Sunday and while everyone is off at church, I’m sitting outside the staff house with my jar of peanut butter, a saving grace, a precious commodity, a respite from all the rice. I’m sitting quietly, watching the road, pondering and praying and journaling. Tired, waiting, needing to hear something, feel something.
I watch the boys’ wide smiles, bare feet racing on red dirt. The girls in their perfectly pressed skirts, posse of quiet giggles and fervent glances my way. The old men gathered on the side of the road, crouching with feet on ground, saying nothing, seeing everything. The cautious eyes that hide the widest smiles. The wrinkled women and the warmth that fills the gaps between their toothless grins.
Our students and their joy, determination, kindness, and the hint of mischief in their eyes. I see that dirty feet often make for clean souls and breathing comes easier.
And slowly it begins to break through. God speaking my heart back to peace, untangling it little by little, like a tree shedding the old, one falling leaf at a time. He comes through clear, strong and silent, like the towering trees, and the snaking vines.
Gradually the gospel begins to make sense again, like it hasn’t for a long time. Like a fog slowly clearing, God appears, soft and quiet and full. He uses this place to woo me back to His heart. The truth of His love rushes in through the leaves, on the tips of the light beams. I can smell it in the air, feel it in the sun on my skin, hear it in on the lips of foreign tongues. I’m overwhelmed and in love with Him all over again. He meets me here among the greenery and the buzzing mosquitoes, the cold nights and blazing days, the songs belted above guitar strums. This wholly place, full and dirty and perfect and imperfect in the best kinds of ways. He meets me here and speaks my soul down into rest once more. And I’m learning to stop and listen. To hear Him in the moments I least expect to.
Kelsey is EMA’s artist in residence, ie videographer, photographer and overall art enthusiast. She also teaches the year one students and almost certainly over-encourages the crazy ideas of those around her. She secretly thinks though that we should all indulge a little more in our own wild imaginings. Her degree is in Elementary Education with an unofficial degree in sarcasm and she once accidentally ran a 10k, just don’t ask her how that happened. When she’s not neck deep in media projects, you can find Kelsey in a local coffee shop or outside soaking up the sun.