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Protests, Studies, and Coup Concerns

Sunday, 12 January 2014
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As governments worldwide are telling their citizens to get out of Thailand before the scheduled gigantic protest starting on Monday, or as in the case of the American government, they told us to “stock food, water, cash and essential supplies” to last a week, and as academics are warning of a possible civil war, and over 245 schools and colleges across Bangkok are closing (Although mine hasn’t made any announcement yet! And we are in one of the zones of caution. Go figure….), the Army chief says that the armaments and troops being moved into Bangkok over the last few days have nothing to do with a coup and are just for Children’s Day, not for any nefarious purposes. Children’s day just so happened to align conveniently with the huge push to shut down Bangkok (Also, just the perfect timing for the opening day of our next semester of study! I wouldn’t have it any other way….) in the latest of the ongoing protests to oust the government. He says “The public should not be afraid of things that have not yet occurred”. I’m wondering if the key word in that statement is, “yet”. At the same time he says that he cannot confirm whether there will be a coup or not. hahahaha It is all just hilarious to me. Although it isn’t a laughing matter at all and even if the shutdown of Bangkok is pulled of relatively peacefully, I’ll be shocked if at least a couple of people aren’t killed.

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I think the chances of a coup or civil war are a bit less than 50/50, but the chance is real and the situation is genuinely tense.
Bangkok and its surrounding sprawl has somewhere near 10 million people (and MANY more coming in from all around the country for the protest), so you can get some idea of what kind of mess the coming days, perhaps weeks, will be like.

Prayers for Thailand would be a good thing.

If you actually want to read any of the newspaper articles, you can click on them to get the full-sized pic.

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Weather During This Rainy Season

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The weather has been a friend of the forecasters these days. They have had a pretty easy job calling for rain.

Out of the last 75 days, 66 of them have had some rain! And only one clear day being forecast among days with thunderstorms for the next 7 days!

The highs generally seem to average in the mid to upper 90’s (35-37 C), a handful of days reached 107 (42 C), and some days in between.
The lows are usually somewhere between 77 (25 C) to the mid 80’s (29-30 C).
The temps vary a fair amount, cooling off quite a bit during prolonged rains.
The lowest low temp in these past 2.5 months was 74 (23.3 C) and it lasted for a whole 30 minutes until the next temp update came. That was in the early morning hours during a marathon 26.5 hour rain! With temps getting that low, I might need a winter parka!

I’m glad for the rains even though it seems that Thais don’t care for it much. I like rain. Maybe it’s because being from California, we don’t get much, unless you live in the forest or mountain areas. I like the feel and smell of the air during and after rains. And I feel like the plants are happy. 😀 But sometimes it isn’t so pleasant if you get caught outside in a rain that you can’t avoid. Fortunately I’ve been able to avoid being outside during almost all of the rains! Getting caught in some of these rains can be hazardous for the health of your possessions! For example, cell phones, laptops or tablet computers in your bag can still get damaged or even rendered useless. Books don’t fair very well either. I was walking back to my room from school (about 1.5 miles / 2.5 Km) recently and got caught in one of the heavy rains that happen frequently. It was kind of like when it rains cats and dogs back home, but it was more like Siberian Tigers and Saint Bernards! And half of the walk seemed like I’d have been better off in a canoe. Even with an umbrella, by the time I got to my room, the only part of me that was more or less dry was my head. Thankfully, my bag kept my stuff relatively dry, as I held it up to my chin, as close to the umbrella as I could get it, all the way back to my place. It helped preplanning for the possibility of this scenario by having strategically placed all of my stuff in between my plastic file folders that I keep on the sides of the bag!

The rainy season should be over soon. The cold season will be next. I don’t think I’ll be making any igloos or snowmen… but if I remember to post it, I’ll let you know how frigid it gets. I’ll be glad for the reduced electric bill, since I won’t use the air conditioner much at all. Actually, if I can afford it, I’ll be up north with the Karenni for part of the cold season. Up there, in the mountains, it really does get pretty cold during the nights, which is good because the mosquitoes don’t seem to like the cold much. There is an up side to weather conditions that otherwise might not be appreciated! 🙂

Oh! By the way, did I mention about how lots of water combined with heat seems to create a fair amount of humidity!? 😛

Bringing a Friend to Visit the Karenni Bible School!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

The day before I was leaving the Karenni Bible School, heading back to Bangkok to continue my studies, back in August, I heard from a friend, Jay Wegter, that he would like to visit Thailand on his way back from teaching in a couple of Pastor training conferences in Nepal in October. I immediately thought about the possibility of Jay visiting the Karenni Bible School and when I brought it up, he was interested. To make a long story short, he will only have a very short time available, but it coincides with the Karenni Pastor training conference and I’m hoping he will be able to meet some of the Pastors from the refugee camp as well as the Pastors teaching at the Bible school. Our visit there will be over the last weekend of October, the 25th to the 27th. There are many logistical difficulties that may make this very difficult to happen, but at the least he will be able to meet some of the Karenni. At the most, perhaps teach a bit and even maybe preach on Sunday before heading back to the airport. Jay is also being accompanied by his wife, Michele. It will be great to have them both come!

A Karenni Pastor friend of mine, Wai Lin Aung, who is finishing up his linguistics degree in Chiangmai, will be able to come with us and translate for Jay and Michele during the visit.

There are many details that I won’t go into here, but there are so many things to consider and I am hoping for the best. It is a very busy time on the Karenni church calendar and it could turn into a total bust or a total boom (the good kind of boom!). They have a Silver Jubilee Celebration happening inside the refugee camp on top of the Pastors conference. Since the Thai army doesn’t allow foreigners inside the camp except for very special occasions, this could mean an empty school, with every one in the camp for all of the activity. But on the other hand there are other possibilities that could be really great.

I have prayed for many years for an opportunity of this sort. I have hopes that it will lead to something more in the future. Please pray for this event and for Jay and Michele’s safe and healthy travels. I also was generously given funds that are enabling me to go up there with them. I wasn’t so sure I would be able to go until just a few days ago. It is arranged around a weekend, so I will only miss one class on Friday and return on Monday morning directly to class, probably just a little late.

This sentence is a link to a video that Jay put together introducing his trip to Nepal. Check it out, it really sounds like a great opportunity there!
And this sentence is a link to Jay’s ministry website. He is an excellent artist as well as theology professor and preacher!

Update on Chaa Nay Choo – Karenni Refugee Camp Fire

Friday, 30 August 2013

I just saw an update on Chaa Nay Choo from my friend at Christian Far East this morning.

Here is what she wrote:
Chaa Nay Choo is back in the Refugee camp 2. For so many months, we only saw him in bandages and hospital gowns. He looks very care-free and well taken care of. What a blessing that he is able to sit comfortably between his mother and father once again. We want to thank all of you who helped giving towards his hospital bills, but most of all we want to thank God for what He has done for Chaa Nay Choo. God is Faithful!
Chaa Nay Choo with parents
It may be from my perception of things, but I can’t help but think that there are a couple of super happy and proud parents in this photo!

I have only seen a couple of somewhat recent photos of the camp, but I talked with a Karenni friend when I was up north a few weeks ago and they said that the camp was completely rebuilt. I imagine there may still be many details that will take time to iron out for the entirety of the camp to be back to how things were before, but it sounds like things have pretty much been brought back to a reasonable living condition (for a refugee camp in the middle of the mountains…).

For some background on the refugee camp fire and Chaa Nay Choo in my previous posts, click to read posts from the following dates:
25 March 2013
26 March 2013
12 April 2013

Praise God for his loving mercy!  And thank you all for your prayers and financial support of this camp and these people!

Update 2 on Thoe Reh

Monday, 26 August 2013

For the previous posts on Thoe Reh, please see here, for the first post and here, for the first update.

When I was at the Karenni Bible School I was able to talk with Thoe Reh about his health and experience through his ordeal. We tried to get permission to do a video so he could say thank you directly to the people supporting him, but were unsuccessful. The video will hopefully someday be allowed to be made and be shared. The school’s new policy is their attempt at protecting its students and their community from what appears to have been perhaps some zealous foreign Christian ministries and individuals who didn’t understand how much they were offending the cultural sensibilities and solidarity of the community by some of their actions. Thus the temporary (hopefully…) pause in being able to get more things like this video done. I had a number of ideas that I was really hoping to do on this last trip that will just have to wait for another time.

Thoe Reh is doing very well. He is extremely grateful to all who supported him in prayer and finance. He is still not fully recovered as his body still needs time to heal from the surgery. But he is able to continue his studies. He is now staying in a different building on campus so that he can get enough rest, not needing to wake up so early along with the rest of the students. And he cannot do a number of the physical activities like the daily gardening or occasional wood or bamboo foraging in the jungle. And of course sports are out of the question. He is looking forward to having more strength and energy.

He will be graduating from the school in March of next year. He has a desire to study further, but of course this would require total support since he has pretty much nothing. He has strong, natural leadership and I think his English is among the best of the bunch. I believe he would do well if God does indeed provide a way for him to move onward to study further. I believe he will prove a great asset to the Karenni church.

I was very surprised by the new school policy and without thinking, I more or less shelved my camera. So, while I did get a number of videos and some pics before that, I never got a pic of Thoe Reh! 😦  Well, take my word for it, he looks great! And it is always refreshing talking with him, as it is in different ways with all of the students there!

Linked here and here are a couple of videos in which you can see Thoe Reh along with a bunch of the other students singing on a Sunday morning at church. One of these days I might even understand these songs! 😀  Thoe Reh is the one with the white t-shirt that has a round graphic on it. I believe it’s a globe with children linking hands around its circumference. Enjoy listening! 🙂

Update on Phe Bu Htoo

Saturday, 3 August 2013

I have been wanting to write a more comprehensive update than I am able to at the moment. But since I haven’t been able to get in touch with Phe Bu Htoo to get more of the details that I was hoping for, I’ll just post what I have. If you aren’t familiar with this story, please see this post – Karenni Friend in Need.

Thanks so much for the response of some of you. We will be able to send a bit to help Phe Bu Htoo with the rebuilding of his family’s home.  In the whole scheme of things, it isn’t much, but it will be an encouragement and I am sure it will be stretched to its utmost effectiveness. As he still doesn’t have nearly enough to finish building their home, by all means, if you feel the urge, any help you may like to provide would be gratefully accepted. Phe Bu Htoo also relayed his thanks and blessings for anybody’s prayers and financial assistance.

Some people responded asking for what the total amount would be for the remaining rebuilding of Phe Bu Htoo’s family home. The best estimate that Phe Bu Htoo could give me was somewhere around $8,500. He said that the carpenters keep adjusting the price every time he talks with them. I imagine materials aren’t getting any cheaper as the months go by. I haven’t heard yet how much others have been able to raise for him yet, but I believe he will still be needing at least $7,500.

Regarding his father’s health – Although Phe Bu Htoo did tell me that his father is doing better, the doctors are recommending some kind of surgery on his back, which was new information for me. He said his father’s back was “fragment”. I was hoping to get more information on this, but that was about the extent of our last communication. Phe Bu Htoo lives in an area that does not have any kind of internet access and I’m not sure how often he travels to the capital city (Loikaw) of Karenni to get to the internet. I will update with more details as I am able.

Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

Contact as below for any questions and/or on how to send funds to me. Funds can be sent via my home church or directly to me.
– Leave a message with your contact information at the end of this blog post
– Leave a voice message for me at 1-925-322-4457 (be sure to leave your number)
– Call me direct or text me at 66-87-906-1755 (my phone’s ringer and vibration mode is broken, but I’ll do my best to have my earplugs on when practical) I can’t text back, but I can call you if you leave your number. Please remember the time difference to Thailand if calling. But I’m open for text messages 24 hours a day! :)
I can call the U.S.A. and Canada for free. If you are from elsewhere, we can probably connect better as follows:
– Skype – My ID is HelloFromDale
A bit slower contact, but still fine:
– Email me at sigmundson@yahoo.com (slower mainly because I don’t consistently use email as often as seems to be the norm these days. I sort of treat it like snail mail)

Karenni Friend in Need

Thursday, 25 July 2013

This is regarding a Karenni friend who I know from the Karenni Bible School.  His name is Phe Bu Htoo. He was teaching there when I got to know him and has since returned to work in his church back home inside Karenni. He is now a Pastor there. Just for the heck of it I’m linking to a clip of him playing a bit on the guitar.

Phe Bu Htoo a little over 3 years ago when we were at the Karenni Bible School

A little over 3 years ago at the Karenni Bible School

Phe Bu Htoo’s family home was accidentally burned down 7 months ago by orphans and extremely poor children his parents were caring for. This is a tragedy anywhere in the world, but Phe Bu Htoo lives in one of the poorest regions of one of the poorest countries in the entire world: the war ravaged land of Karenni, forcibly annexed by Burma in 1948. They began raising money for the house, and had made good progress but have since run out after simply getting to the foundation.

Since then, tragedy struck again. Phe Bu Htoo’s father is now in the hospital with malaria, the flu, and a gastric problem. Without immediate medical attention, he may not live much longer. My friend’s devastation is heartbreaking, more so because I know there is a way to help… and that’s why I’m appealing to you. Building a house and getting medical attention in Karenni State can be done for a fraction of what it would cost here. That being said, it is still not cheap. But with the people who may read this, combined with a couple of other friends who I know posted about this, we should be able to make a significant difference, if not maybe even find a person God has led to foot the entire bill! Maybe you know someone or an organization that may be interested. Feel free to pass this along to your heart’s content 🙂

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Click on photos to see full size images

It may seem trivial in comparison to the rest, but Phe Bu Htoo also lost all of his books. Anyone who knows any Pastor knows what a loss that would be! I know he would also really like to be able to acquire at least some of the books that were lost too.

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Click on photos to see full size images

Please pray for Phe Bu Htoo and his family. And also pray and consider if you may be able to help. Maybe you aren’t a person to foot the whole thing, but 5 bucks makes a difference, especially when a couple hundred people or more chip in the cost of a couple of Happy Meals or a couple of cups of coffee at Starbucks. No, I’m not joking. Small amounts make a difference. The main point is if you want to do it or not. No guilt trips here… I would just like to encourage people who may really want to help, but feel like they don’t have enough to make any difference. And of course prayer is a help also! I am not intending to say that financial help is the only possible kind of help to be given.
For my friends who don’t pray, obviously you can help too! And your thoughts, concerns and/or financial help are greatly appreciated!

I have a way of getting the funds to Phe Bu Htoo with no fees at all. All the way from America to his remote location. So, every penny will be directly delivered to Phe Bu Htoo. There is a narrow window of opportunity to get funds to him with no costs coming in the next week or so. I’m not sure when the next opportunity will arise, but if this one is missed we can get more to him at a not too distant date again. Barring a huge outpouring this will be an ongoing effort, so don’t worry if you want to contribute but can’t make it this week or even this coming month.

Please contact me if you have any questions or for information on how to send funds to me. It can be done via my home church or directly to me.
The best ways to reach me with any kind of speed would be:
– Leave a voice message for me at 1-925-322-4457 (be sure to leave your number)
– Call me direct or text me at 66-87-906-1755 (my phone’s ringer and vibration mode is broken, but I’ll do my best to have my earplugs on for the next few days…) I can’t text back, but I can call you if you leave your number. Please remember the time difference to Thailand if calling. But I’m open for text messages 24 hours a day! 🙂
I can call the U.S.A. and Canada for free. If you are from elsewhere, we can probably connect better as follows:
– Skype – My ID is HelloFromDale
A bit slower contact, but still fine:
– Email me at sigmundson@yahoo.com (slower mainly because I don’t consistently use email as often as seems to be the norm these days. I sort of treat it like snail mail)

With Phe Bu Htoo at the Karenni Bible School just over 3 years ago

With Phe Bu Htoo at the Karenni Bible School just over 3 years ago

Thanks to Tim Hedberg for additional information on this.

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