What a wonderful visit on Sunday and Monday with Klogay and Margaret Doh. Their niece Elsa Doh also lives with them and we all felt like we knew each other for years as we met again tonight.
As I had explained in a previous post from last summer, the Doh's are refugees from Mai La refugee camp in Thailand. They are Karen who have become displaced from a civil war in Burma that has raged for more than half a century. The Karen who comprise more than 50% of the population of Burma want their own independent state. The repressive Burmese will not let them have it. The Karen are stubbornly adamant about establishing their own state and this clash of wills has led to a war that has killed about 50,000 people a year. I'm surprised that so few people know about this war.
War refugees have often spilled over into refugee camps over the border in Thailand Some of the Karen refugees adopted various Christian faiths. A group of them came into the then Worldwide Church of God. We had often heard that term "Karen brethren" in the Church. Well, that's who these people are who I visited. Now, some of them are in the United Church of God.
The flight from Helsinki up to Kemi took a little over an hour. Outside it's dark from 3 pm on in Helsinki and it was dark throughout my entire stay in Kemi. It is such a great contrast from this summer when there was no darkness. As I landed I noticed that they have quite a bit more snow than Helsinki and the temperature is about 5 degrees above zero Fahrenheit.
Klogay Doh who does not have a car brought two friends by the name of Nawu Kham and his wife Hser Lwey Wahy.to drive me back to their apartment about ten minutes away. They are also Karen refugees who have resettled here in Kemi in May last year.
When arriving at the Doh apartment I was warmly greeted by Margaret and Elsa. The first thing they asked about was Beverly and why she didn't come. People generally are more desirous to see Bev rather than me and I fully understand why. I would much rather spend time with Bev than me, too.
The Doh's are cut off from their families, their homeland and brethren in the Church. They have been resettled from the tropics of Thailand to the Arctic. Here it cold and dark almost 22 hours of the day at this time of year. My heart goes out to them. In order to give them connectivity to life outside their new refuge, LifeNets bought them a desktop computer so that they could through the Internet connect with others. I was so glad to see the computer up and running. At first they told me about connecting to the Internet in some complicated way through cell phones, but I was glad to see them have a high speed DSL connection. Tbey have learned about Skype, email, free VOIP services and are connected well beyond most people. They even have a webcam for their Skype. They expressed special gratitude to Peter Hawkins a number of times and UK UCG who have been sending them sermon CD's and literature and periodicals such as the United News that gives them a sense of community with the Church. They spend the Sabbath listening the sermons sent to them by Peter Hawkins.
Another UCG Refugee Family Moves to Norway
One of the first items of business when I walked into their apartment was to contact another Church refugee family who has recently moved to Trondheim, Norway. It's a family of five. The woman is a member of the United Church of God. She also has Skype and a webcam. Trondheim is on the Atlantic seaboard of Norway about halfway up the country. Bev and I once took a cruise up the Norweigian coast on the Hurtigurten which is a combination of cruise and cargo ships that sail daily from Bergen all the way to Russian border way north of the Acrtic Circle. The trip takes 13 days. These ships are an important part of the coastal economy of Norway. The ships sail in and out of the spectacular Norwegian fjords. You can start the trip anywhere on the route. We took only about three or four days on this cruise before the 1994 Feast of Tabernacles and got off at Trondheim before going to Idre Fjall, Sweden for the Feast. Someday I'd like to take this journey again. To me some of the world's most beautiful scenery is right here.
Elsa was all set to to connect to Ka Paw Gay who was standing on Skype She introduced me to her husband whose name is Hteehser on the Skype webcam and all her three children. They are in the same situation as the Doh's: cut off from everyone. She was asking for any UCG fellowship in Norway. At this time it's non-existent. I wondered what the logic was resettling people from the camps across Scandinavia. Margaret told me that people from a particular refugee camp would all be assigned to a particular country and town.
Elsa's parents who are still in a refugee camp are likely to be resettling in Norway from Thailand. Elsa's mother is a member fo the United Church of God as well. She is hoping that this will take place something this summer. The United Nations has already been out to Elsa's refugee camp and interviewed the parents.
I have special interest in refugees since my parents lived in a United Nations refugee camp in Hannover, Germany for four years after World War II. That's where I was born in 1947. They finally found a sponsor to bring them to the USA in 1949 where they began their life anew. The situation with the refugees in the Thai camps is the same. They cannot go back to their native Burma ever as it stands now.
After communicating with Ka Paw Gay, Margaret served dinner that was a mixture of Asian and Finnish food. There was rice, oriental soup and then salmon. It was fun and tasty.
We talked about all kinds of things ranging from the Church to their new life seeking citizenship in Finland. It's also amazing that as refugees they have never had citizenship in any country. We talked about life in the camps back in Thailand. For generations people being born in refugee camps became refugees by birth. We talked about their keeping the Passover at home and how it's done. We then talking about the Feast of Tabernacles. Their closest venue will be Estonia which for them is completely reachable by bus or train with a four hour crossing of a narrow straight in the Baltic between Finland and Estonia. We want to help them to make it to Tartu this fall.
This coming fall (2007) we are planning a larger transfer-in Feast in Estonia which will be kept in Tartu and the island of Saaremaa.
After dinner we settled around their computer for fun and I downloaded some fun programs. We particularly enjoyed Google Earth together. We took a trip around the world. I showed them our home in Indianapolis and pointed out Beverly's garden and all the trees she planted on our property. Then we went to Mae Sot, Thailand and Jerusalem that Margaret said she always wanted to see. It was a lot of fun. Elsa is computer-savvy and keeps all the household connected. I have continual Internet connectivity with them before coming to visit them. As a host gift I brought mp3 players as host gifts. I gave one to Elsa and it was a hit and she immediately knew what to do with it. In all three places I left mp3 players were really happy with them.
It was getting late. They had a bed made for me in their living room. They were able to move to an upstairs apartment which in my opinion was nicer than what they had downstairs. They were so thankful that they could be moved upstairs - they said it was freezing below. When we visited in the summer they were so concerned that Bev and I could not sleep because of so much daylight in the middle of night. Well, we didn't have to worry about that now as my whole was visit with them in darkness
Even thought I was tired from a long day that began in Tallinn, Estonia, I couldn't sleep for 45 minutes because I just couldn't stop thinking about our meeting with the Doh's and how we can improve our fellowship in Christ.
Tomorrow it's back to Helsinki and on to Gothenburg, Sweden.
An unforgettable visit with the Doh's in Kemi
Monday, January 22, 2007