With a World Challenge scholarship, a Karen refugee is pursuing God’s calling into the unknown.
I was born in Burma, but I’m not Burmese. I’m of the Karen. Really, my story begins long before I was born.
Adoniram Judson was the reason my family was Christian long before they came to the United States.
He was an American missionary who spent his whole life dedicated to Burma and translated the Bible into the local language. Initially, he meant the gospel to go to the Burmese, but most of them didn’t accept it.
The Quiet History of Genocide
Then Judson met the Karen people, and they accepted the Good News, setting them even further apart from their Buddhist Burmese neighbors. Karen evangelists started going to other tribes. Even to this day, they are reaching other ethnic minorities and sparking a revival in Burma.
When World War II came and the Japanese invaded Burma, the Burmese allied themselves with the Japanese. However, the Karen people helped the British; so when the British gave Burma independence and left, the Burmese saw the Karen as traitors and began killing them.
Even though the war ended a long time ago for England and America, it’s still going on between the Burmese and Karen.
Taking Flight into the Unknown
Because of the war, my family and I had to flee the country when I was about 4 years old. There are refugee camps on the Thailand-Burma border, but we couldn’t reach them right away.
I lived in the jungle for almost 3 years before we finally entered one of the camps.
However, growing up in a refugee camp, you don’t really have any future. Burma wouldn’t acknowledge me or my family as citizens because we were Karen, and Thailand wasn’t going to let us become their citizens.
We were aliens with no state and nowhere we could go.
This was the plan of God, I think. When the UN started moving refugees to other countries, my whole family had a chance to come to American when I was 14 years old. We moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, and I experienced my first winter, which was amazing. Really, the cold is better than hot weather, at least in my opinion.
Meeting the God of Your People
Despite my family being Christian, I didn’t know Jesus as my personal savior. I went to church because I had to, and they never directly preached the gospel, so I didn’t know what it meant to be saved.
Right at the beginning of college, though, a friend invited me to a Pentecostal church, and a guy preached the gospel message to me.
At that moment, I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. I felt that fear of going to hell, you know? I knew I needed Jesus, and I asked him into my life. When I went home to tell my parents, however, they weren’t happy hearing that I’d met God in some strange, unknown church.
They forced me to stop going to the Pentecostal church, so I told them, “I’m not going to your church. I don’t want to go to church anywhere!”
When I look back, I can see God was walking with me through a journey to prove his purpose for my life. That moment you’re born again, God keeps. He keeps you.
Climbing to the Summit
At the time, I was going to college to be a mechanic, but I didn’t have any goals or any sense of purpose. Some people grow up just knowing what they want to do in life, but I had nothing.
After I got born again, though, I had this persistent whisper in my heart: “I just want to study the Word of God and minister.”
I didn’t know what that looked like, though.
After college, God did a couple of things that changed my life again. First, he transformed my parents’ hearts. My mother came to me and told me, “If you want to go to that other church, you can go.”
Second, I went back to the church and then attended a Revive conference. That’s where I heard about Summit. I worked one year to pay for my tuition, then I went.
An Unexpected Gift
The second year at Summit, though, my car broke down. After repairing it, there was no way I’d have enough money left over to pay for the semester. Now I’m the kind of guy who’s always proactive. I’m just do things and expect God to be with me, but there was no way I could fix this situation.
Then Ms. Ella called me into her office at Summit and said, “We have a scholarship from World Challenge that we wanted to give to you.”
It was incredible.
When I think about everything God has brought me through and why he’s put me here at Summit, I think it’s been to build a firm foundation. The studies, the prayer—these are tools you need to have to face whatever life throws at you.
I’ve decided that instead of planning what I’m going to do after graduation—because I have a lot of options on the table—I’m going to wait and see what God does.
Sometimes you don’t know why God puts you in a certain place, but God always has a plan. Always.