I’ve been extremely privileged to have been able to do a yearly mission trip under my church’s youth missions to visit the Moken people. It’s my second year going back there and it’s been an amazing experience both times!
I didn’t manage to write my thoughts down last year, so i thought i HAVE to do it this year. Part documenting my experience there in hope to give light to who they are and why we have adopted them as a church to support and pray for them…and part documenting my experience…for life. I don’t want to get too busy ‘just doing’ but i want to ‘be’. Some things NEED to be recorded – to be remembered, relived and re-read in the future and i wanted this to be one of them.
Known particularly after the tsunami crisis, the Mokens came to light. Neither Thai nor Burmese, the Mokens are settled in the islands and coastal regions along the Andaman Sea. They are still lacking identities, causing unequal opportunity and deprivation of public services and benefits including education, medical care and social security benefits.
They make their living fishing and crabbing, making fresh ‘belacan’ (read: shrimp paste) for sale. We had the privilege to walk through the village in two islands, just making friends with the people there. Some of the older folks are able to speak Bahasa but mostly connect better through the Thai language. The Mokens also have their own Moken language that they communicate verbally but there is no written form – making it a challenge to learn, but not impossible! We visited them in their homes, asked them to share their life with us…and when the opportunity arose, we asked if we could pray for them. They are predominantly animistic, but most were obliging and i thank God that they’re so much more open to us now than they were last year!
One of my highlights was just seeing how some of the Moken kids grew up. We’ve been partnering with a boarding school that has taken in some of these Moken kids who have shown potential in their education and helping them grow. These bright young kids are amazingly talented and would put most of our city kids to shame. Seeing them all so happy, so comfortable and CONFIDENT in themselves, really blessed my heart. We did a Christmas programme there, singing carols, acting out a Christmas story and ended with a celebratory dance. We also had a mini dance-off at the end of all of it, proving once again, that just because you’re born into a minority group, it doesn’t mean you’re poor. These kids were rich in the mind.
They play sports just like we do. Like the same corny, bubblegum-poppy music just like we do too. Never will i forget or hear One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”, the same way again. In case you think you have nothing to give or do to sow into these people group, know that God has put something into your hands for a reason. There’s a need for medical teams, children’s ministry (arts & craft!) and if you play sports, well, just playing a game of ball CAN make a difference in just building friendships within the community.
I had grown attached to one of the little brown boy’s from one of the islands. He is one of the typical Moken kids who may not be so well-versed as the ones at the boarding home. But wow! This kid used to pick fights with the other kids and now, seeing how much he’s grown and being so much calmer, he showed me how evident God is in this village and how He’s going to do so much more.
I may not be able to go every year to visit and sow personally (although i hope to!), i’m hoping that this post would inspire some of you to also be part of the Moken work. To not just pray and give (as we do weekly), but to GO and experience it for yourselves. To allow God to break your heart for what breaks His. Then, would you truly understand Matt 28:19 in its fullness. This is definitely not the ONLY place you can go for missions (especially under our youth missions banner), but this IS the place that has changed me.
I was personally seeking God for direction. I did not get an immediate answer. I went there, tired and stressed out from work, but i experienced His goodness (how He saved a particular job despite me not being at work) during the trip and i KNOW, that God has allowed me to taste just a little bit of His faithfulness. An encouragement to believe that when i give, He gives back tenfold. That when i set aside time to be present and ‘there’, He has settled everything else by the power of His name. That i may ask myself this…
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” – A Hat Full Of Sky, Terry Pratchett
He is working in their lives, as He is working in mine.
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth! – Psalm 46:10
Last but not least, to the people that went on this trip with me, you guys are legends. I didn’t have a proper and complete group photo but you guys know who you are. So, i’ll just end this post with the fact that i had fun being with all of you :) May God bless your hearts abundantly and open your eyes to see Him every day of your life. And if there are days post-missions that make you miss the Moken people and me, don’t just ‘shake it off’. Heheheheh.
I am blessed. And i share that you may be blessed too :)