It’s Saturday and we celebrated completing our first week of teaching! Tamla Htoo took us sightseeing to some elaborate Buddha shrines in the morning and in the afternoon to Maungmangan Beach on the beautiful Andaman Sea. Today is hot and sultry, but we were driven to the beach in an air-conditioned van. A curvy mountain road, crowded with motorbikes and little trucks carrying passengers in the back, led to the sea resort. Rounded mountains framed one end of the sea. We waded in the warm water, collecting shells and trying not to step on the hundreds of tiny sand crabs. Canoe-shaped fishing boats bobbed in the water. Two on the beach were being prepared to set sail. We were joined by three of the women who work here. After lunch we strolled past the many market stalls and took photos.
Despite the heat and the over-crowded classrooms, the teaching is going well. We are each re-creating our plans daily to meet the students’ needs. They all seem to be learning. They have accepted a style of instruction that requires individual participation instead of straight lecture style. We include some singing in every lesson and we are all amazed by how beautifully the students sing.
We each experienced a day of sickness, but were cared for by our hosts and are ending the week feeling well.
Greetings to all and thank you for your continued prayers.
We have completed our first morning of teaching. The day began with an Opening Ceremony. Hera Htoo, Leadership Director, introduced us to the students and other school leaders. Two hundred ninety students, grades 5 to college. sat quietly on the floor as the school program was explained. The students sang a song they had prepared for us. Although I am the only person here who is not Karen I felt entirely comfortable. People who demonstrate love and hospitality surround us.
After the ceremony Giri, Mishiah, and I each went to a different building to teach our assigned grades: Mishiah– 5th and 6th, Giri – 8th and 9th, and Cecilia 10th. Seventh grade will be taught this afternoon and college in the evening.
The day has warmed, but a breeze blows through the doors on either side of our guesthouse. From the front door I can see the laundry drying on the line behind a little grove of cashew trees. The rooster crows as he struts across the sandy dirt, signaling lunchtime.
Thank you for continued prayer for our good health and energy. We miss you all and pray for our church family in St. Paul.
Hello to everyone who will be following us on our journey to Dawei!
We will be on our way bright and early at 7:30 a.m. Thursday March 30.
Thank you for all of your prayers and blessings.
166th ANNUAL MEETING OF THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA,
SUNDAY, February 7th 2016
- Margaret Lovejoy from the Family Place, offered her appreciation of FBC in the on-going support they have received the past 10 years. She gave a brief summary of what has happened this past year and what plans will take place the upcoming year.
- First Burma Christ Church: Pastor Bill reported that FBC will be celebrating their 9th year at FBC in February. They now have an ordained minister: Rev. Mehm Mya Thi.
- Alcoholic Anonymous Group: Pastor Bill reported that this group, called Main Idea, is meeting downstairs under the sanctuary 3 times a day, 5 days a week.
- Director of Children and Youth: Sheila Ahlbrand reported that the Youth have relocated to the basement under the sanctuary. One of the highlights in working with the youth is that Sheila and a number of the youth have been going to the Hope’s cabin to plan their SS lessons for the coming year. Sheila mentioned they are doing a fantastic job teaching the kids. Geri Johnson suggested each of the persons in training receive a Certification of Appreciation for their dedicated service to the Lord and FBC.
Sheila is also studying at United Theological Seminary and is working toward ordination. FBC will sponsor her as she becomes an ordained minister.
Pastor Bill praised Sheila for her 15 years at FBC and emphasized what a wonderful job she is doing in training the young people.
- Investment & Endowment: Ann Fitch went over the year-end report explaining what the cash withdrawal from that fund was for 2015. The total record of withdrawals in 2015 was $117,466.00. The year-end report of account balance is $361,926.27.
- 2016 Proposed Budget: Wally Johnson presented and explained the proposed budget from the Budget Committee to the Trustees and then from the Trustees to the Congregation for 2016. Wally Johnson made a motion to accept the proposed budget for 2016 as printed. Motion carried
Download the entire Annual Report 2016
The First Baptist Church of Saint Paul was organized on December 29, 1849 by twelve persons who had recently arrived at this frontier village on the upper Mississippi River. A Sunday School had begun two years earlier, led by Harriet Bishop, Minnesota’s first public school teacher. She invited the children who attended her first week of classes to return on Sunday, July 25, 1847 for Sunday School. The first church building was erected on the present site of Mears Park, bounded by Sibley and Wacouta, 5th and 6th Streets. Before the streets were graded, this was an elevated plot known as “Baptist Hill” which sloped down to the river at the Jackson Street “Lower Landing.” This part of early St. Paul became known as Lower Town.
When I returned from my trip it was my privilege to meet with Karen leaders and Minnesota legislative representative staff members (from Senators Klobuchar and Franken and Representative Betty McCollum’s offices). I described my experiences in the camps on the Thai-Burma border. I also presented reflections and recommendations as to what we in the United States could do to help the situation.
TALKING POINTS (January 29, 2015)
*There are talks going on now between the military governments of Thailand and Burma. The intention is to close the refugee camps along the border and forcibly repatriate the refugee people (120,000) on the border and resettle internally displaced people (120,000) within Burma. Most of these people are Karen.
- The target date is 2016.
- The Karen protest: “DON’T TALK ABOUT US WITHOUT US!” they are not a part of the negotiations.
- The Karen presently manage the nine refugee camps along the Thai Burma border. Several camps have been in existence for 20-25 years. Camps are guarded by Thai soldiers who have instituted more rigorous security policies. Few come and go from the camps.
- Food and assistance come from 19 international NGOs whose activities are coordinated by The Border Consortium. The Thai government does not participate in this effort.
- Karen fear returning to Burma. Only 245 people in the past six months have returned to Burma permanently or on a “go and see” basis. Virtually no one believes it would be safe.
- With political unrest in Thailand and other factors the numbers of refugees coming to the US has dropped dramatically.
- The Thai government has forbidden the registration of new cases with the UNHCR since 2005. If a person does not have a UNHCR I.D. card there is virtually no way for them to leave the camp or Thailand for a third country resettlement. Half the residents of the camps have no UNHCR I.D.
- The Burmese government has worked hard to improve its image in the world community. There have been some positive changes in the urban area with relaxation of restrictions. However in outlying areas, particularly Kachin and Shan State there is daily bloodshed and state sponsored terrorism. Little has changed in the genocidal activities in which they have been involved for years. No one we talked to believes that the plans for repatriation are of the scale necessary to serve a quarter million people.
- The Border Consortium informed us that the only real chance for an individual or family to be resettled would be if they had the UNHCR I.D. and family working from the U.S. to be reunited.
Insist that Karen representative be a part of the ongoing repatriation talks. DON’T TALK ABOUT US WITHOUT US.
Insist on real cooperative plans for the security and viability of returning refugees to their homes.
Assist families here and in Thailand by expediting reunification efforts this year.
Reverend William Englund, Pastor
First Baptist Church, St. Paul, MN
You are invited to a performance of The Karen Fountain of Life and “The Sprinkles”
When: Saturday, April 11th 6PM – 8:30PM
Where: First Baptist Church of St. Paul (9th & Wacouta)
- A Praise Service including stories of life in Burma-Thai camps
- The journeys of Karen to MN
Download the brochure. (pdf)