Taylor F. Thailand Spring Break 2013
We would leave the refugee camp before the heat descended. Hot and humid, we had toured the camp the day before, walking past village-like huts, until reaching a point at which we were forbidden to continue. We talked with some of the refugees. A young man told me about how he felt like he was under house arrest at the camp, with only two options: 1) continue his life at the camp, with limited freedom, or 2) return to war-torn Burma. I thought of how in a few hours, I would leave the camp for Chiang Mai -- a privilege he could only hope for. From Chiang Mai, I would get on a plane a few days later -- a freedom he could only dream of. Here we were, two people filled with ambition, passion, and hope, yet with entirely different sets of freedoms.
My new friend was studying ministry. Although I am not Christian, I do consider myself a spiritual person, and have immense respect for how Christianity distills hope from despair and inspires beauty in the face of hardship.
The morning that we were to depart from the refugee camp, we sat before a room full of refugees, close in age to us students. I gazed out at their faces and wished that there was something I could leave with them -- an offering of hope, or a sign that I cared.
As part of our good bye, our group sang a song:
"Praise God from all whom blessings flow
Praise him all creatures here below
Praise him above ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost"
In turn, the students sang the same song back to us -- some singing in English, some in their own language. Here we were, thousands of miles from home -- peoples of different faiths, nationalities, cultures and backgrounds -- united by a common harmony that we all knew.
Below is a picture of the students singing to us. This memory is what I took with me from the refugee camp. What I left was a small piece of my heart.