A few days ago, I was invited to a birthday party for a pair of Burmese refugees, twin girls age 7. In the small crowd, there were uncountable children and three Americans. As the only American man, I was asked to bring some "encouraging words."
So I spoke - with someone else translating into Burmese - about God's grace and favor, and the great blessings he promises to those who worship and obey him. I talked about the rain falling outside as I spoke, which helped our food to grow. I talked about the good houses we live in - something new to my listeners - and about the family we have in Jesus.
I talked about the greatest encouragement and one of the greatest blessings in my life: their children.
Since these people - my friends - have come into my life, some of their children have become as my children. We play together, study together, eat together, and share life together. We sometimes struggle to understand each other, but we make it work. My life is far richer since I came to know these people, Burmese of the Karen ethnic group. Many of them are Christians, and most of the adults spent up to 15 or 20 years in refugee camps. All of the children were born there, except a few babies who are the first American citizens in their families.
A couple things impress me about these folks. First, they are happy. They have low-paying jobs with little opportunity for advancement, and few material possessions, but they are happy. Their difficult life in America is still life in freedom and safety, life with choices and a future for them and their children.
Second, they help me understand better the character of the Kingdom of God. Most folks in the Kingdom don't look like me: white, getting older, reasonably well educated. Most look like nearly half of our congregation: darker skin, different languages, coming from Karen State and Chen State, Burma, plus Liberia, Togo, Congo, Ivory Coast, Kenya and other places in Africa. There are Nepalis and there are Hispanics. We sing in four different languages and read scripture and pray in three.
God delights in variety. And since I have encountered my friends, my brothers and sisters from around the world, my life is richer and my perspective is broader. And I am far more thankful for the great blessings I have taken so much for granted.
Thank you to my friends and to our God who brought us together.