A year ago, we passed on a request from the Baptist churches in the Karen refugee camps on the Thai/Burma border for help to support the STEP Program for IDP (Internally Displaced People) students in Thailand. Many of you responded and provided valuable assistance to students from inside Burma enabling them to come to the refugee camps to get an education. Sadly, nothing has changed inside Burma. In fact, in many areas of the country the situation is worse so the same need remains today. Right now in this part of the world, the school year is ending and preparations are being made for a new school year. So we will repeat the appeal and hope for an even better response for this year as the needs are even greater.
Just $2.60 will support a student for a month which amounts to $31.20 per year per student. The most difficult part is that communication and transportation is so poor within Burma that it isn't known just how many students will come. Last year the refugee churches sought funding for 110 students but there were substantially more that came. It is hard to say how many will come this year, but it is almost certain it will be more than last year. So please help if you can.
To contribute to this program, be sure to mark the contribution for "STEP Thailand IDP". There are lots of programs using STEP within Thailand and contributions come marked for Burma in various ways too. But if you can use "STEP Thailand IDP" there will be no confusion. It is easiest to send your contributions through International Ministries, PO Box 851, Valley forge, PA 19482-0851. This way 100% of your gift goes to the students.
Maybe the best way to illustrate the need is to introduce you to one of the students: Saw Bwae Mo is 10 years old but just finishing the 1st grade. He does not recall his home village of Bae being attacked but he estimates he has had to move about twice per year to keep away from the Burmese army. He was never able to go to school at his home village so this is the first year he has been able to attend a school. It is particularly hard for him to get back to his home. Bwae Mo would first have to get to another refugee camp which is half a day's car ride, then walk for 6 days. He is the youngest of 6 children in his family and the only one able to attend school. He and his family are Christian.
This information is based on an interview we did with 50 of the IDP students last July. They all had similar stories or worse. But people are still being driven from their homes and arriving at the refugee camps almost daily.
Last week the overseas mission leaders from the mission organizations we work with here in Thailand met for a series of meetings. One session was with Pastor Robert Htway and other refugee and Burmese church leaders. At that meeting Pastor Robert was getting phone calls about a group of refugees trying to get into Thailand. First they were rejected and turned back at the border by Thai authorities. Then they disappeared which had Pastor Robert worried. Unable to stay in Burma though, the group came in to Thailand once again only to be caught by Thai authorities and this time put in jail. The fathers, mothers and even the kids were all jailed in Mae Sariang. At last report they were to be let out of jail and permitted to go to one of the refugee camps after mediation efforts by Pastor Robert and others.
These are just samples of the difficulties the tribal Burmese people face daily. To get the scale of the problem, take these stories and multiply by millions.
Another way you can help is to participate in the Global Day of Prayer for Burma which is marked for March 12, 2006. This effort is organized by Christians Concerned for Burma which has a website at www.prayforburma.org. The problems are huge but not beyond what our God can handle. Your prayers for peace, stability, and the opportunity for the people of Burma just to be able to make a simple living are the best hope for change that we have.
We are starting to prepare to come to the US in June for a year of US/PR Assignment. We anticipate coming back to Thailand in June or July of 2007 to get directly involved with the Karen people both in Thailand and along the Thai/Burma border. We are overwhelmed with the magnitude of the problems but excited to see what doors for ministry the Lord will open. We hope you will join us in this work and we will be writing and telling more about it in the coming year and years to come.
Yours in Christ,
Duane & Marcia Binkley