Grace, my Karen tribal friend, looked at me sideways and asked, “Would you like to go to a refugee camp with me? It’s on the Salween River.” Since I love to travel and see new things, I agreed. I didn’t suspect we’d have miracle #4, a boating accident on the Salween
By bus, then boat.
Next day, Grace, a young missionary named Jeannie, and I took a bus for six hours, then shouldered our bags. We slip-slided down the riverbank to where several small boats were docked
The boats were ingenious wonders. They used engines from cars or trucks mounted on fulcrums at the back with the propellers attached to the end of long shafts. The boatman could move the boat forward and steer it by swinging the propeller side to side or raising it for shallow water.
Four Karen men with bags of rice hitched a ride. We alternated our seating with our backs against the sides of the boat, our gear waterproofed by plastic bags and wedged between us. The boat roared off, fighting the current as we moved upstream.
Skirting the enemy
The Salween River forms the boundary between Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand at that point. It originates in the Himalayas, wide and deep in the rainy season and the watery grave of many Karen tribal people trying to escape the Burmese soldiers. On the far bank, the Burmese jungle concealed…what? Soldiers? Tigers and cobras? We had no way of knowing. I was a bit tense but mostly excited. I’d never ridden in a “long-tail boat” and I’d never seen Burma.
After a couple of hours, the roar of the motor died down and the boat headed towards a makeshift dock.
“Picking up more passengers,” Grace said. A couple of people waited on the shore.
The boat drifted toward the wooden dock and one of our passengers put out his hand to stop it. “Jesus!” Jeannie shouted. She’d been raised in Minnesota, the land of many waters, and knew the foibles of boats. She saw the danger.
The man’s hand was crushed between the boat and the dock. Blood spurted. A crewman took off his undershirt to stanch the flow. We sat there, wide-eyed, wondering what would happen next.
The crewman looked sheepish and confessed, “There’s a witch doctor in this village. Ordinarily, we’d go there and the man’s hand would be healed. But we know you folks are missionaries and you wouldn’t like that, so…”
The new passengers boarded, settled themselves, and the boat roared upstream for another hour.
The refugee camp
I was surprised by the “refugee camp.” Each family, usually a woman and her children, had a separate bamboo house with her own cooking fire.
“Where are the men?” I asked.
“At the front,” the headman told us. “All training or fighting. Boys as young as fourteen. We have no choice. The Burmese are trying to genocide us.”
A trusting refugee woman
Next day, Grace took Jeannie and me visiting house to house. Now and then, we’d find a woman who could speak English, having attended missionary schools run by the British before they were expelled. But most of them spoke only Karen or Burmese. Grace was our interpreter.
We came to a small bamboo house where the woman said she wanted to sing for us. She had a beautiful, sweet, clear voice and sang the old hymn, “God Will Take Care of You.” I thought, where is God? Why isn’t He taking care of His Karen children?”
And then a man came forward. Grace exclaimed, “You’re the man in the boat! The one that got his hand smashed!”
A miraculous healing
He smiled broadly and held out both hands. One was as smooth and unscarred as the other! How had this happened?
Then I remembered. When Jeannie saw the impending accident, she’d shouted, “Jesus!” Just one word, the powerful word, “Jesus!”
We praised God for His care. He does work in unexpected, mysterious ways!