My life has been unexpectedly enriched by some of the improbable friends in it. Specifically, I am referring to my friends among the Karen population where I live. You never heard of them? Neither have most other Americans.
The Karen (pronounced kah-REN) are an ethnic group from eastern Burma. They have - like many other ethnic groups there - for many years been at war with the Burmese government. Several of my friends have disabilities from land mines and gunshot wounds.
The history of the conflict is a long one. Briefly, in colonial days the area of south Asia was controlled by the British. However, in World War II, all of South Asia allied themselves with the Japanese, fighting the British and their allies. Except the Karen.
The Karen remained loyal to the Allies, and were encouraged to do so by the British, who promised them an independent homeland after the war. Like the Kurds in Iraq and Turkey - who received similar promises - the Karen learned something about the value of the promises of western governments.
The result was open hostility from the Burmese government, one of the most repressive and brutal dictatorships in earth, and many Karen fleeing for their lives to refugee camps in Thailand.
Now, they are coming to the U.S. and being settled here as refugees. Some came to the area where I live, and we have developed good friendships with many of them.
That background brings me to this: A family of Karen Christians asked me a while back to come to their house and teach them the Bible. This particular family is a wonderful blessing in my life, and I was delighted to say yes. They are very enthusiastic about learning more about God and the Bible.
But only one of them speaks any significant level of English. And the one - a high school-age girl - is limited in reading comprehension and vocabulary.
Now, I have been teaching for some 30 years, and have taught in environments ranging from prison to university to church. All sorts of folks have been in my classes. And I considered that I had met and dealt with most challenges.
Teaching the Karen is by far the most difficult teaching task I have known. Every week, I feel lost, and pray, "God, I don't know what to do next. Help me, Lord!"
So we met yesterday and had a good time together. And I am already thinking about next time: What do I teach?
This is compounded by the fact that none of them has a good Bible in their own language, and so we are dealing with an almost entirely oral process.
This morning at breakfast, I was reading in Acts, and came to chapter 10. You might know it, the story of Peter in the house of Cornelius.
Here was a case of a people with no Bible as we think of it, and from a different culture - Romans in Israel. They also had a teacher who didn't know what to do.
So Peter stood and told them what he had seen regarding Jesus, and as he did, the Holy Spirit came upon all the listeners. There was a radical transformation.
Imagine! No invitation to "accept Christ as your savior" and no music playing. Nothing except the recounting of a true story to people whose hearts were hungry to hear.
So what shall I do next week? Tell the story of Jesus and his first followers, and see what happens.
Perhaps I, too, will experience a mini-Pentecost. I could do far worse.