August 19, 2017


How a group of refugees saved a church on the brink of collapsing (Bob Smietana, August 18,. 2017, Washington Post)

Ye Win was 16 years old when government troops showed up at his family's home in an ethnic Karen village in eastern Myanmar.

They pointed a gun at his mother, recalls Win, and accused his family of supporting rebels in one of the world's longest-running civil wars.

The threat against his mom angered Win, who wanted to fight back.

"I knew that was not right," he said.

Win, who had just finished high school and hoped to become a missionary like his father, was long gone when the government troops returned to the village and burned it to the ground.

It would be 10 years before Win would hear his mother's voice again, and even longer before he would be reunited with his parents.

During those years, he saw many friends and fellow Karen suffer and die or end up as refugees. More than 100,000 Karen relocated to refugee camps in Thailand, which shares its northwest border with Myanmar. Others, like Win, would be resettled in the United States.

Through the arduous journey, says Win, God was close by.

"We are the people of God -- even if we are lost, away from our home, even if we are isolated, we are still close to God," he said. "God never left our people."

When Win and about 70 Karen refugees ended up in Smyrna, Tenn., a small Bible Belt city about a half-hour from Nashville, they found God waiting for them -- at a tiny Episcopal church that was on the brink of shutting down. Together, the refugees and a handful of older congregants brought the church back to life.

Posted by at August 19, 2017 7:56 AM