Saturday, January 17, 2015

There are weeks

There are days when I think I could do this job for forever. Days when the smiles, the small victories, the "thank-yous" outweigh all the stress, long hours, and difficulties.

Days when I get asked if I come from the blue-eyed clan, or if my hair is real. Days when my clients wonder what actually happens in a church, and can it be possibly be true that Mark (a boy) does the cooking for me?

Oh those days make me laugh- I have found so much glee, so much delight- in discovering more about them and letting them discover more about me. It is so good for us all- this unravelling of "the other". Laughs abound.

But sometimes there are weeks- never just a day, but a series of days that stack one on top of the other and I wonder how on earth I will face them again.

I watch their tears fall and their hearts break. I listen to them try to muster courage up, whispering just a word or two of their devastation. Just posing one question to me, to the world, of how they will survive?- but behind it so many more- Will things ever be different? Does anyone care? Is this what life is supposed to be?   I watch them get defeated again and again- and always they amaze me, move me, motivate me.

I've seen a quote going around on social media, likening motherhood to deciding to have your heart go walking around outside your body. I know it's not in my job description, and certainly no one has asked me or expected it...but so often I feel like my heart is diced up into a hundred different pieces, walking around with each of these 100 kids, whom I hope and long and pray for. These kids that make me laugh and cry- make me crazy and make me scream.

Sometimes I think it is unhealthy that I give them each a little bit of my heart, but I don't know any other way to do this job. And I think I carry their hearts too-what they give to me. I hold them as carefully and wisely as I can, sometimes with the realization that I may be the only person that sees them, loves them, wants for them, looks after them.

Sometimes there are weeks and I wonder how on earth I will face them again.

But then I just do.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Every time we have flown out of Bangkok and begun the descent to our destination, I look out the window and my breath catches. Trees, mountains, land, grass. Nature. The hand of God so clearly visible. I don't notice how badly I miss it in this Concrete Jungle until I see it. Suddenly a weight is lifted and it is well with my soul. We are meant to commune with God in His creation, all of us, I promise.

So when it came time to decide on our Burma itinerary, I knew I wanted to do a trek (yes, even after the infamous KK disaster). We signed up for a three day, two night trek leaving from Kalaw, a wonderful and chilly little mountain town. We flew Yangon to Heho and drove the short distance from Heho to Kalaw. Arriving mid-day, we meandered about the town until we stumbled upon Sam's Family Restaurant, where we had heard we could book a guide for our trek. Sure enough, there was a small crowd of tourists all trying to warm themselves over tea and soup, while waiting their turn to book a guide. We sat with two Dutch guys and, after being explained the route options (one short, one long), we all decided to do the trek together, and since you only live once, we chose the long route. We were set to leave early the next day, so after a delicious Indian food dinner, Mark and I went to bed at promptly 8:00 ( we were exhausted from our few days with Maung Ways family, which included 6:00 am church services and many midnight, or later, orange soda parties while we met yet another distant relative).

The next day seven of us started out. Mark and I, the two Dutch guys, and a couple from Israel, and our wonderful, magnanimous guide, named Zaw. We walked a total of 60 kilometers, which averaged out to be between 6.5 to 8 hours walking a day. The landscapes were breath-taking, the people beautiful and friendly, our group of six were quick friends, and we all agreed that our guide was the best. Zaw, in all his 20 year-old vigor, sang, danced, jumped, skipped, and laughed his way through the Burmese hill tribes and straight into our hearts. I have never met a more joyful person. Zaw, born in a small village called Kanbani, of the ethnic minority, Taung Yoe, is one of those kids teachers pray for. From a young age he says he heard English and he felt like he wanted to know it, so he practiced and tried and is the first in his family of rice farmers to finish school and speak English. I look at Zaw and I really think he could do anything, he most definitely has the charisma.

He was a most excellent guide- explaining culture, agriculture, language, and religious beliefs to us. We saw Mustard Seeds, Chilis, Rice, Green Tea, various vegetables, Sesame, Beans, and Wheat. Zaw's wonder at all things was infectious, so when he stopped to pick a spider off of it's web and slowly started extending the spider's webbing, explaining as he did so, "I've already spent a WHOLE day pulling the webbing, and it never ends!", I felt certain that my years reading my science text books in an air-conditioned classroom paled in comparison to his vast knowledge of all things living in his backyard, the hillsides of Burma.

After three days, aching legs, and sun burnt cheeks, we arrived to our destination, Inle Lake. We rode a long boat from a small village off of the lake, passing houses on stilts, and the most unique "farming" I've ever seen. It was a truly magical three days....I would love the chance to do it again.

Friday, January 9, 2015


We arrive in Yangon full of expectation, misconceptions, and excitement (with just a little bit of know, about the whole somehow finding strangers and then staying with them thing). Sometimes you can tell by an airport if you're going to like a place. I knew at once, in this small international airport that reminded me much of the Vava'u airport, that I was going to get on well in Burma.

As we rode down the escalator to get in the immigration line we saw three people waving frantically in our direction. We cautiously waved back as we tried to decipher the signs they held. Once we got closer, I didn't need to see the meticulously printed "Mark Cooprider and Alissa Cooprider" sign accompanied with our wedding photo, I would have recognized Wonderful as Maung Way's youngest brother anywhere.

We exchanged hellos and introduced ourselves, and before we knew it we were in their car and leaving the city to meet Maung Way's mother and four sisters.

It's funny how things can be so foreign and yet so familiar all at the same time.
It is strange to think these people were all strangers to us only a few weeks ago. We felt so at home, as if we'd known them for years. We have a home in Burma now, and a huge family waiting for us there. I am certain we will visit many times.

We drove a few hours outside of the city to the small village Maung Way was born in. A village is a village is a village. So when the generators kicked on and choir practice began (at 10 pm, of course), we looked at each other and laughed- this was not our first rodeo. We visited (literally) every house. We knew when we met the ofisa kolo Village chief that it was important to eat every scrap of soup they served (approximately our 15th meal that day), and we posed for more pictures than you can imagine. Oh, and we were forced to sing at the Christmas pageant, you can imagine my delight.

We made memories and we wondered at the life we have lived. But mostly we loved fully this dear family who dearly loved us. We heard stories of Maung Way as a naughty child and we answered questions about his life now. We felt the unfairness of our privileged life as we acted as the link between a mother and son, over 20 years separated. And we decided that week that it just wasn't right, so the schemes and the planning have begun.

It was a very merry Christmas.


We all come to this time of year and do the same things- we reflect. Reflect on what has passed, what we've accomplished, how we've changed and grown, who we've met and lost. We look through old pictures- we laugh, we cry. We walk down memory lane and regardless if it's full of triumphs or regrets, we all think towards the new year and we hope.

As I think about 2015, my heart is full of all sorts of hopes. Hopes for myself, for my husband, for my family and friends, for my kids. With so much hope, I'm bound to be disappointed sometime in the next year. But I rest now, as I will rest when darkness comes my way, in the everlasting faithfulness of my God. And when I think of all the dear ones in my ever growing world, and all of your whispers of Hope and pleas for Change and I feel the chains of my limitations and the inequality of my own western privilege, I pray ever more fervently that His kingdom would come, and that in my own small way, that I may quicken it's arrival.

When He answers

I used to cry, really just bawl my eyes out, on a somewhat predictable 3 month cycle. Cried for passion and gifts unused. For a life I knew I was meant to live, but wasn't living. If I'm anything, I'm a passionate person. (Just like my mama and papa).:)

I was remembering some of those cry fests this last week. Remembering how unheard, unused, and confused I felt. Remembering how often I cried out to God for something more.

Remembering has made me laugh, and ( big surprise here) cry. In humility and swimming, nah-drowning, in God's boundless grace, I praise the one who is and is to come.

Maung Way's brother told us of their pleaded prayers. Of their brother missing, perhaps dead. They gathered that could, with tears on their cheeks , and prayed that their brother would be found to them, or that they would know for certain he had died. And of course I can't know for certain, but I sure do wonder, if that's not the exact moment I cried out for more and stumbled sleepily to my first refugee meeting all those years ago. Who's to say the exact moment God began knitting our stories together? But there are so many who can say that they were an answer to so many of my prayers and that we were an answer to so many of their prayers. What a strange and beautiful thing.