Suan (pronounced “swan”) is one of our youth leaders at church. His family is from Burma—and they have recently taken in a refugee from Burma to live with them. At our youth winter camp last month, I became curious about Suan’s family… wondering if perhaps they had been refugees themselves.
I asked Suan at camp, “Did your family immigrate to the United States, or did you come as refugees?”
Suan said they came as refugees. And then he told me their story:
When he was 10 years old, they boarded a small fishing boat with 50 people. They had nothing but the clothing on their backs and each other. He doesn’t know exactly how long they were on the water but he does remember how treacherous it was. And throwing up until there was nothing left in his stomach, then continuing to throw up nothing.
When they finally arrived on the shore, they were warned that men with machine guns might come and take them to use or sell as slaves. They were hidden in the jungle. There in the jungle, transportation arrived: a Honda Civic… and 15 people were loaded into the car (stacked in the back seat on top of one another, many in the trunk). They were taken to a safe place. From there, they eventually made it to Malaysia and were placed in a refugee camp.
They lived in the refugee camp for 2 years until finally they were given clearance to live in the United States. Today, Suan is a U.S. citizen. He has a job. He serves in the church.
And he has more joy than anyone I know.
Elizabeth Kübler Ross said:
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.
I know what it is to be poor or to have plenty, and I have lived under all kinds of conditions. I know what it means to be full or to be hungry, to have too much or too little. —Philippians 4.12