Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Back to the US

So in case you haven't noticed, plans have changed! When I returned to the Thai/Burma border in August, I was planning on being here for "about a year." How silly of me to make plans, when every plan I've ever made concerning Thailand, God has changed! So here's to trusting in His sovereign plan over my own. As I hope every knows, not only have I fallen in love with the Karen people on the Thai/Burma border, I have fallen in love with a Karen man. Because I love him, I want to marry him (the sooner the better)!! The only way this can happen is for us to apply for a Fiancé Visa for him to travel to the US. Much of the 3 months I have spent on the border has been devoted to gathering information and documents required for this Visa. If anyone is familiar with applying for an American visa, then you will understand how difficult this. Now imagine your fiancé has no permanent address, no phone number, no birth certificate, and little knowledge of how to use a computer... Let's just say, it's been difficult. But, by the grace of God, we've gotten almost all we need! Tomorrow Chapoe and I will be going to Burma to get the last bit of information we need, and, Lord-willing, I will finally get to meet his whole family! Please please PRAY that we are able to get everything done! Burma is still new to allowing freedom, and traveling and acquiring documents can be, well... Difficult. Haha. But we are trusting that what God has started by this love between us, He will bring to completion! When his visa comes through, all glory will definitely go to God because there is no way we could do this without Him!
Another requirement of the visa is that I am working, which means I must return to the US. I will be flying from Burma back home on November 1st. The separation is going to be difficult, but once again, we are trusting God!

Here is how you can help: PRAY PRAY PRAY!!!!
1)  That everything in Burma goes smoothly
2) For safety traveling back to the US
3) That Chapoe will be given the understanding and help needed to fill out visa forms as they are needed
4) That I will be able to save save save money in the US as visas (and plane tickets and weddings) do not come cheap!
5) That the visa process goes quickly so we will be able to see each other again soon!

If you have any questions, please ask! And  Please pray! I could have never survived on the Thai/Burma border without your prayers, and know I will need your support again now!

"The steadfast love of The Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness! 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in Him.'" Lamentations 3:22-24



Thursday, August 22, 2013

It's raining, It's pouring

Hello from Thailand! Sorry I have been delayed in an update, but the weather here has been raining non-stop and I have been unable to get much internet access. But we've got a break today so here I'm going to take advantage!
Thank you all for your prayers as I traveled, all went smoothly! The only problem was when I went through immigration in Bangkok and found out my visa was shorter than what I paid for, but hopefully we can work that out.
One big surprise when I arrived was to find that my Karen adopted father had built me and my friend Ashley (who will return in January) a new hut! This was a blessing to have my own space and place to put the surprising amount of stuff that I've acquired, but also a big expense that I had not planned for.
Like I said, it's been raining alot which makes travel difficult, so most days have been spent organizing and cleaning the house, as well as working on improving Chapoe's English as I try to improve my Karen. Pray that I have the determination and patience to finally learn how to read and write!
I am excited to say that I now have PO Box so if people are interested in sending letters of encouragement or supplies or anything it is now possible to do so. The address is:
Kelsey Elizabeth Erickson
PO Box 27
Tha Song Yang
Tak Province, Thailand
63150

Thank you so much to those who have responded to my plea for help on behalf of my friend Saw Arthur, president of the LMTC (Leadership College) in Mae La Refugee Camp! There is still a need for more supporters so if you would like to help please contact: lmtc_maela@hotmail.com

The Karen Women's Organization has recently talked to me about helping support an elementary Karen school in Burma. There are 60 children mainly under the age of 12 supervised by two Christian teachers, whom I have met. They currently have very little support but are excited for the opportunity to teach Karen and the Bible in Karen state. I will keep you posted as I have more information, but I am excited to meet the students and help in anyway I can!

I'm afraid my time is up but I will try to have more information for you soon! I ask you to continue to pray for me and the Karen! There is much to do and a lot of hope for the future. Pray that I can be a light of hope in the darkness as changes are forming in Burma.

God bless you my brothers and sisters,
Kelsey


Friday, August 2, 2013

Finally!!


Matthew 25:35-40 says:
'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

God has called us to give and to give generously, of not only our money, but our time and our love. I thank you for giving all this to me and more—not just this past year in Thailand, but for my entire life. You have encouraged me and disciplined me and been examples to me in faith and love and I can see how that training was part of God’s sovereign plan for me and for you to teach faith and love to the Karen people of Burma.

From the beginning, I have been asking God to give me a church that could really step up and stand beside me in this mission He brought me. A church that would stay updated and show interest as well as send support and be faithful in prayer; my prayer has been answered by you here in Lustre. I am constantly overwhelmed by the support you all have given me and I truly cannot thank you enough. May God forever bless you as you have blessed me and the Karen.
There are few things more exciting to me than talking to a Karen person who is hurting or in need and being able to tell them there are hundreds of people in America praying for them. It is so awesome for them to see that they are not in fact unknown, and their struggle is not forgotten. Isn’t it tremendous how we can unite as a family—even from across the world—when we pray?! As I sit and pray with a family in Thailand, as you sit with your family and pray in America, we come before God as one body and one family. We are all his children seeking his will and guidance. I hope that you will continue to uphold me and the Karen in prayer. Believe me when I say that it is impossible for me to go back without knowing there are warriors lifting us up in prayer on a regular basis.

The eight months I’ve spent on the Thai/Burma border have been fantastic. I told you last time I spoke here, how God had opened my heart from falling in love with the children’s home to falling in love with the whole people group. God has definitely been moving and creating opportunity for me to show love to people outside of the Children’s home.

I have always known that I cannot help everyone, but I have prayed and prayed that God would bring the people that he wants me to help to me. He has done all that and more. Whether it is single mothers who need a friend to talk to or food for their babies, or a family that needs prayer, or a child who needs a trip to the hospital, or a man who needs funds to visit his family, or an leader who needs meat to feed his men, God has allowed us to show his love to all of these. I now have a network of Karen leaders who know me and the heart God has given me for the Karen people. I am so blessed to have these people as my friends that are comfortable enough to ask for help when they need it. I have had meetings with leaders of youth organizations and with the president of the Christian leadership college in the refugee camp. We are looking forward to working together to raise young people to be leaders in faith, character and community.

One opportunity that I am really excited about is the planning of opening Karen schools in Karen state in Burma. Since 1965 when the military took over the government, it has been against the law for schools to teach any language other than Burmese and a poor amount of English. Furthermore, hill-tribe people have to pay a lot of money for their children to attend the Burmese school—more than most can afford. Because of this, many Karen people cannot read or write in their own language. Parents that saw the value of education and the value knowing your own language often sent one or two of their children to Thailand in hopes they would get accepted into a school across the border. It is difficult though. At just our children’s home alone, we would have to turn away dozens each year because of a lack of space and staff. I have already heard plans for three schools in Karen state ranging in age from kindergarten through college. Not only will this provide accessible, cheap and better education for Karen students, it will provide jobs for Karen people and opportunities for those who apply themselves. If valid school paperwork can be acquired by these schools, the students could be eligible for Burmese ID and then be able to go to a university in cities in Burma, find a job, or even apply for a passport. There is election in 2014 that will determine if these schools will be possible. Please keep them in your prayers and contact me if you are interested in helping fund them. 

The President of the Leadership College in Mae La Refugee camp has approached me asking for help with funds for this school year. Young people are realizing the importance of education and they have been able to accept 31 more students into their school. He has asked me to come before you and ask for your help for funds for food for the new students.
It costs about 17 USD to feed one student for a month; so about 517 USD a month to feed all 31 and 6200 USD to feed all the new students for the year. If you are interested in helping monthly or a one-time gift, please talk to me and I can give you information on how to send the money.
 
Being one of the few white people in the area has it's advantages in that everyone wants to be known by you. Because of this, I have gotten to know a lot of children in the area. Most of them are very poor and almost all come from Buddhist families. These children are desperate for love and I would have many frequent visitors to my house in the evenings after dinner time. Many of their parents have approached me about teaching English to their children. While teaching is not one of my strongest gifts, I am interested in going to these villages to teach English through the Bible and Bible songs. With the help of my boyfriend as a translator I think this could be a successful route of teaching the gospel to Karen children. 

As most of you know, yes, I have a boyfriend. Yes, he is Karen and yes, he can speak English. Another twist this return will have that's different from the rest is that I  will have to travel to Burma a few times to work on Visa stuff for him so he can come to America and we can get married. He is a wonderful man and I am honored to know him. I think that the love I feel for him helps me I understand God's love better and how God wants us to love him. I hope I can convey that to the Karen as Chapoe and I work together. He has spent this summer in Burma with his family as well as teaching English to the children in his village. Please keep us in your prayers as we deal with immigration and visa paperwork. Also, that his family, who are all Buddhist, open their hearts and minds to the truth of the gospel and Jesus Christ. I pray we will be able to visit them often and be an example of God's love to them. 

One of the most exciting things I look forward to returning to is to the young people of the area. Many of you who have read my blog have heard and prayed for students from NohBo Academy school. God has been showing up and doing work with students at this school. He has been touching the hearts of the youth to not only claim to be Christians, but to earnestly seek him and to dedicate their lives to serving Him. I am so excited to be able to visit them and talk to them and encouragement and sometimes explain things that they don't understand. They are getting a hunger for the Bible and I ask you please to keep these young people in your prayers that they can be a light in a dark place. I truly believe that the most effective way for the Karen to accept Jesus Christ is through another Karen person telling it to them. I can share the gospel and they will listen. But truth goes to a deeper level when it is coming from one of their own. Please pray that I will be able to share what Bible knowledge I have been blessed to know with these young Christians so they are ready and confidant enough to stand before their families and friends and proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord.  

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. Leave a comment or email me at: erickson.kelsey@gmail.com

I am flying out of SeaTac on Monday morning so prayers would be much appreciated as I travel across the world alone! I will try to have an update soon after I arrive.

May God's stunning glory shine through me-- in my weakness.
God bless,
Kelsey


 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Important Update-- please read

It has been a long time and there is much to say. Let me start with giving glory to our gracious God, who has blessed me and molded me and loved me through every up and every down of my journey here on the Thai/Burma border. He has pushed me, stretched me, disciplined me and trained me. Without Him, I am nothing and capable of nothing. Thank you Jesus for the abounding love you've shown for your young, easily-distracted, emotional daughter. I love you, Lord. 

School is officially done for the year! Most of the kids have gone home to whatever family they have so we're left here at camp with only a handful of kids. This means a lot of playing, some cleaning and ice cream! Everyone has been healthy and injury free! Praise God for taking care of His children! Thank you for your prayers! We have not had any hospital runs on a long time! A group of our students have just gone deep into Burma to fellowship with other believers and share God's love with others. Please pray for safety for them as they travel! And that they take advantage of all opportunities to show God's love to their people. May this trip be the first of many that they take to share what God has done for them- especially those who made the decision to be baptized. God is raising these kids up with a very special purpose! They understand God's love for them more every day, and in return, love Him more everyday. It is an honor knowing and being known by these children. 
The kids packed and ready to go!
As some of you already know, I will be returning to Montana in May for three months. During that time, I will be working and saving money before I return to the Thai/Burma border in August. It is when I return that things will be different. 
Both I, my parents, and the staff here realize that my time at Shekinah Children's home has come to an end. My heart is being pulled in so many other directions and ways to help the Karen, that I cannot be as committed as the leadership here need me to be. Here at Shekinah, they need people who are here 24/7 to watch, discipline, love, clean, and disciple the kids. For the year and a half that I have been here, I am forever grateful for what I've learned and how I've gotten to love and be loved by these Children. But my heart is not content to stay at the Children's home any more. 
If you have ever read my blog before, I often talk about the many, many people who need help. The area I live in is full of young, starving, abused, Buddhist people that are desperately in need of help. Many people have never heard the basic truths of the gospel before. Many do not have the basic supplies they need to take care of their families. Through the support you have entrusted to me, I have been able to meet and help a lot of individuals and families in need. I also have been able to support a section of the Karen army that lives close by. They now treat me as an equal, like a sister or friend, and are no longer shy to ask if they need help. After talking to some Karen leaders about my desire and heart to help the Karen people in a more effective way, one of the main men in command asked me to please stay in this area so that I can continue to help, not just financially, but also with fellowship and just showing love to people that are so often overlooked. He even approached land-owners on my behalf so that I could build a house close to where I am now. I am humbled and honored. It is a privilege to know these men.

Ashley and I 

From the very beginning, I have been asking God to send me a friend, someone my age who I can laugh at things with, or share ideas, or get encouragement from-- someone who lives out here and understands how things are in ways that my friends in America aren't able to. Well, God has blessed me two-fold. Miss Ashley Sutherland has just finished a one-year teaching term at NohBo Academy school. She is 24 years old from New Zealand and she has very quickly become a good, good friend. What's even more exciting is that God has given her the same heart for the Karen as He's given me. She also will be returning home to work for three months in May and then we will come back and live and work together-- loving and serving the Karen people. I am so blessed everyday to have a friend in Ashley. 
Many of you also know that I now have a boyfriend. My mother says people keep asking questions, so I'll do my best to fill you in now. His name is Chapoe and he is 100% Sgaw Karen. He has finished his high school education and is going to attend YWAM in the fall to do their discipleship training program. He has been a Christian for several years and is committed to that decision and raising his family after God, even though everyone else in his family is Buddhist. He is gifted at working with children and shows a love for them that is rarely found in Karen men. Because he attended NohBo Academy School, he can speak fluent English (and two types of Karen, and Thai, and Burmese) and is very familiar with Western culture. We have been in a relationship for a few months now and it has been wonderful. He is a good man who loves God and is always encouraging me to keep God first and trust Him at all times. Please keep us in your prayers that we may honor our Father in all we do. Also, Chapoe will be returning to Burma next week to work for his father and apply for a passport so he can attend YWAM safely and travel in Thailand without worry. Please pray that the process goes smoothly and quickly! 

It is a bittersweet time of endings and beginnings. I am happy to leave Shekinah with a blessing from the staff, knowing I will still be seeing them often (and helping occasionally as needed). I am excited for what God has in store for the future. I ask that you please, keep me and Ashley in your prayers. That we can be guided by God and His wisdom and brought to the location and duty He has for us. We are both confident in His call on our lives to be with the Karen, but we both realize that we are young, single women in need of alot more wisdom and counsel than we currently possess. We are trusting that God will continue what He began in our hearts when He brought us to the Thai/Burma border and made us fall in love with these Karen people. 

If you have any thoughts or questions, please send them to me! None of this could have happened without you, my friends! I pray as my journey here continues, you will continue to join with me! 
God's rich blessings, joy and mercy to you all! 

"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5
"As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love... This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." John 15:9,12-13





Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Baptism Testimonies

Madgee and Mangue

They are 13 years old and in the first grade. Have lived at KT for 3 years. Before coming to KT, they lived with their older sister in MaeThaWa. When they were babies, their mother died of a sickness, and their father was killed by bombs. They did not know about Jesus until coming to KT. Madgee and Mangue came to KT because they wanted to get an education and learn western culture. They got baptized because they want to know their Savior. They believe Jesus is the son of God who came to earth, died, and rose again. Now they are saved from sin. They know they have new life in Christ. 
In the future, they hope to be teachers for their people in Karen State. Now that they are baptized, they want to preach God's word to their people. 

TiNuPaw

TiNuPaw is 11 years old in grade 2. She has been at KT for 3 years. 
Before coming to KT, she lived with her mother in a village on the Thai side. After her youngest sister was born, her father left them for another woman. Now that she and her sisters are all at KT, TiNuPaw's mother is working in Bangkok. She is unsure when she will return. TiNuPaw wanted to come to KT to get wisdom. She chose to be baptized because she wants to be saved and know her Savior. She said she came go school and heard the teachers talk about Jesus, then when we worship, and she raised her hands, she felt God touch her heart. TiNuPaw wants to attend Bible college and then be a missionary to Karen people. She wants to help them find salvation. 
TiNuPaw is praying that the rest of her family will be saved and baptized soon too. 

KawPawShee

KawPawShee is 12 years old in grade 3. She has lived at KT for 2 years. 
Before coming to KT, she lived in DoWah with her grandparents. After her younger brother was born, her father left for Burma and her mother for Bangkok. She had not heard of Jesus before coming to KT. 
KawPawShee wanted to come to school because she loves wisdom. She chose to be baptized because she loves Jesus and wants to live with Him in heaven forever. She knows that Jesus died and rose again and now her heart is strong. When she heard the story of her uncle being baptized and saw the pictures, God spoke to her heart and said she too should be baptized. 
In the future, KawPawShee wants to be a missionary in Karen state and tell them about God's word. 

Ay Ay Tway

Ay Ay Tway is 11 years old in grade 4. She has lived at KT for 2 years. 
Before coming to KT, she lived in Mae La with her father and sister. Her mother died of a sickness 5 years ago. Before coming to KT, Ay Tway knew only a little bit about Jesus from a teacher. She came to KT to get wisdom and learn more about Jesus. She chose to be baptized because she wants her sins to be washed away. She knows God made her and she loves Him. 
When she is older, Ay Ay Tway wants to be a soldier in the KNLA. She wants to help her people resettle in their homeland. She prays for her people that they can know Jesus, too. 




Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What you've missed!

Hello friends,

I'm sorry it has been almost 2 months since my last blog. Since I have last written we have celebrated Christmas, welcomed the New Year, lost students and welcomed new ones. My family has visited and finally been able to see and understand what I love and why I love it!  God has closed some doors but opened others. I'm excited to fill you in on as much as possible-- without this being ridiculously long!
The children excitedly beginning to open presents on Sunday morning. 


Christmas was wonderfully weird. It was hot and dry and I wore shorts and flip flops and played volleyball. In Karen culture, each village puts on their own Christmas celebration so our school was expected to do the same. 300+ people, 30 kilos of fish, and hours of games later, we had our Christmas party. In the evening we had karaoke style singing that lasted from 7 until way past my bedtime. Everyone loves the chance to show off their best singing and occasional dance moves, especially the kids. I too had to get up and embarrass myself, first singing a Christmas song in Karen (praying the whole time my pronunciation was correct) and then, of course, my cousin and I had to bring to Justin Bieber to the party so I could show off my amazing rapping skills. Needless to say, the people were quite impressed.

The next day we had worship with the kids and teachers and opened presents. Wish you all could have seen the joy on their faces! It was such a good day. The kids could not stop squealing and smiling! Thank you to all who helped to make this a Christmas to remember! Thank you to all who helped shower these children with love! 
After church, we had a baptism. Six of our students made the decision to get baptized. It was so amazing. (I will post their stories and testimonies soon.) Seeing the smiles on their faces as they came out of the water brought tears to my eyes. Every struggle or doubt or hardship of being on the Thai/Burma border was forgotten. Days like this made it all worth it. God is so good! 
Several more of our students wanted to get baptized but their parents told them no. Please pray for the children and the families that the parents may be softened and the children can shine the light of Jesus to their families! Pray that there is a revival in this land that brings abusive fathers, orphaned children, and wounded mothers to their knees! May they see and understand that what they need is Jesus and His saving grace! More than food or shelter-- Only He will satisfy!

Thank you to all who prayed for our children that needed medical care! Everyone is currently healthy and happy. All funding has been provided for. God bless you friends! 

Many of you have heard me speak of Pastor Jimmy. He and some other leaders in Karen culture have approached me and asked for help. They want to build two Christian Karen schools in Karen state for Karen children. There are still thousands of people living in Karen state but it is very hard to go to school. If the children attend Burmese school, they do not learn to read or write in their own language, they have to pay a lot of money, and they also get prejudiced against- sometimes even abused. The children want to learn and the leaders want to provide a safe place for them to do so. I am working on gathering more details so I can send specific requests out, but please be in prayer for these schools. They are hoping to start work on them soon, but still need a lot of funding. If you would like more information about this, please contact me! 

It is time for me to go but please, pray for me. God has made it quite plain that some big changes are going to happen soon. Pray that I can have clarity of heart and mind. That He continues to open and shut doors according to his will and that everything I do can bring glory to his name. I will tell more about what God has been speaking to me soon! Until then, pray for me! contact me! I'd love to hear from you.



God is so good and I have such peace in my heart. I am overwhelmed with the giving that has come in and the peace in my heart that could only come from prayer. Thank you thank you thank you for joining with me, standing beside me, and encouraging me. May God continue to bless you as you have blessed me! 

Your far away sister,
Kelsey

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Saturday evening [part 2]



Saturday evening, Mommy Paw arrived (Mommy is our head of ministry). With her she brought some of the most joyous news I have ever heard.
Background Story:
For those who have been following me for some time, may remember when we had trouble and vandalism at our school a few months back. One of our students, TaPoeTu, was behind a lot of it. TaPoeTu is 15 years old. Most boys his age have dropped out of school and started working, or "bumming" (aka living like many Karen men by mooching off their parents or relatives and using any money for drugs or alcohol). TaPoeTu started to get influenced by many of his friend outside of Shekinah Children's home. He started sneaking out at night and not coming to school. When he and his relatives showed up drunk one night, it was too much. He had to be expelled.
Last year when I came, TaPoeTu was a student that I got to know personally because he can speak English very well. He loved Jesus and served him best when playing the guitar. TaPoeTu is an extremely talented musician and was our regular worship leader. He called me "big sister" and I called him "little brother," and I loved him like it was true. Watching him being pulled into darkness was heartbreaking and when he was expelled, I was absolutely crushed.
A few weeks after the event, I was visiting a family in his village. He heard I was there and sought me out. We had a long talk by the side of the road. I'll never forget him looking at me and saying "I don't want to do these bad things. I want to do good, I want to follow Jesus. But if I stay out here with my friends I will never change."
We prayed and I encouraged him to keep praying and standing up for what he knew was right. I saw him a few times before I left for the U.S. in August and his eyes were shining again. He was working for his father and taking care of his family.
In early November, Mommy was able to get TaPoeTu a spot with a Christian Karen organization based out of Chiang Mai. He is now receiving on the spot medical training in Burma helping the Karen and other tribal people in need.

Saturday evening, Mommy Paw arrived. With her she brought some of the most joyous news I have ever heard.
Earlier that day, she received and email from the head of the ministry TaPoeTu is working with. He said it has been an absolute joy to have TaPoeTu helping there and that he is working hard and serving well. Furthermore, TaPoeTu expressed the desire to make his commitment to Christ public and permanent. On Saturday afternoon, TaPoeTu was baptized and fully committed his life to Jesus Christ.
Mommy shared the story and the pictures with the children at worship that night. The last time the kids saw TaPoeTu was when he was being expelled from the school. They know what he has been and were overjoyed and in awe of the transformation God had done in him. KawPawShee, TaPoeTu's niece, ran up and hugged me exclaiming "Teacher, I'm so happy!!!"
We are having a baptism after our Christmas service on December 23. Already, about a dozen students have expressed that they wish to be baptized at this time. There is excitement in the air at what God has done for TaPoeTu and for our students! Jesus IS worth giving our life to! And no one is beyond saving.

Please pray TaPoeTu as he continues to grow in his relationship with Christ. Also for his family that they too may come to know the Savior who has redeemed their son.

Please pray for our students who wish to be baptized. That they may understand what it means and truly want to commit their lives 100% to Jesus Christ. Also, that their parents support their decision.

God is Good, All the time! All the time, God is Good!


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