Sunday, May 25, 2014

Karen, the beautiful

I had just come into the house from the orchard, and Sunshine said as matter of factly as discussing the current weather, "I think we should learn the Karen language." This was completely out of the blue. And less than 12 hours later, I am writing this post while sitting in a Burmese convocation representing several eastern USA states. We drove this morning down to Indianapolis for this all day meeting.

Karen is a tonal language, one dialect of the country called Myanmar. This country was previously known as Burma. There are over 100 language groups in Myanmar. If you have ever studied about tonal languages, you will know that the same word completely changes it's meaning depending on very subtle tonal changes or inflections on the word. An example from today: "Duhblu" means "thank you", while "Duhblu" also means "your crazy!" Of course there must be a difference in how these identical works are said. Sunshine thinks a harder "u" at the end means "your crazy". Your mileage may vary.

This means that tonal languages are hard for westerners to learn. Since a year long stint of Espanol in college has left long lasting fruit of a handful of Spanish words, I would not say I am the most promising or proficient language student.

My first impression about Sunshine's language learning challenge was, wow, that will be hard! But it is not our abilities that matter, what matters is God's ability. I don't know if language learning is in our future, but what I do know if that the poor and displaced need our prayers and care.

A refugee arriving in the USA comes with very little. They may have no financial resources, and are expected to repay their travel expenses. They don't know the language or the culture. They have been torn from their farms and gardens. How can they find jobs, education and religious support? If you have followed our blog, you know refugee ministries has been a part of our thinking for some time. We are looking for what part we can play to help them. Here is an interesting thought from the pen of inspiration:
"Great benefits would come to the cause of God in the regions beyond, if faithful effort were put forth in behalf of the foreigners in the cities of our homeland. Among these men and women are some who, upon accepting the truth, could soon be fitted to labor for their own people in this country and in other countries. Many might return to the places from which they came, in the hope of winning their friends to the truth. They could search out their kinsfolk and neighbors, and communicate to them a knowledge of the third angel’s message."— ChS 200.4
The most effective outreach to these dear people would be to know their language, and help them with acclimatization: helping them find a job, and a church. I think it would be a real blessing to have land that they could cultivate and grow their own food.

Wikipedia states: "Aside from Burmese and its dialects, the hundred or so languages of Burma include Shan (Tai, spoken by 3.2 million), Karen languages (spoken by 2.6 million), Kachin (spoken by 900,000), various Chin languages (spoken by 780,000), and Mon (Mon–Khmer, spoken by 750,000)." (reference)

Why not dream with me? What if we had 100 or more acres of suitable land. And on this land, we made a beautiful pattern or collection of homesteads. Perhaps 2 acres each, where we build a very modest, one story home that could rest in the center of their gardens. No field would be very far from the home, and each family could have space of their own. A new refugee family is allowed 2 years rent free, The father could work 1/2 time at a cash job, and 1/2 time at his homestead garden. The mother would stay at home, 1/2 time educating her children, and 1/2 time working in their garden. After two years, they would pay rent, or work to establish a new homestead which would be permanently their own. Some cost for the land could be paid over ten years, and then the land is owned free and clear.

Community resources like a church / meeting house would be built, a school for ESL, parent tutoring so the mothers can teach their children, a commercial kitchen, so food could be prepared and sold, a pole barn with power tools that could be shared for a rental fee to the homesteaders, a market stand for selling produce to the public - farmers market style.

I don't need to create a commune, but rather this could be a supportive collection of independent homesteads. This idea would be so cool. I think it would be great to have one of these in each state. Any investors out there?

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