Monday, February 8, 2010

February 8

On Monday morning, our ABCRM mission team checked out of the Chiang Mai “Downtown Inn”, and were driven by Becky to the Chiang Mai office of her and Mike’s “Integrated Tribal Development Program”, which is the focus of their American Baptist-International Ministry activities. Mike talked with us and showed a video about the wonderful things that ITDP has done to improve Karen villages in northern Thailand over the past 15 years through building over 200 village clean-water systems, providing village educational programs and medical assistance, and helping villagers to support themselves by growing and selling coffee to Starbucks and a Japanese coffee-house chain. We learned that the Huay Sam Poi village was selected by Mike on behalf of Starbucks to build the Starbucks Clinic to help seven Karen tribal villages in that area. The funds for the construction came from 5 percent of the sales of ITDP-produced Starbucks coffee that’s sold in the Far East and America. Starbucks employees were selected by them to travel to this village to help construct the clinic.

After Mike’s talk with us, he also gave us a tour of the coffee-roasting facility next to the office which process raw coffee beans brought to Chiang Mai from many villages in northern Thailand where members of the ITDP coffee-growing cooperative are located. After roasting, the coffee beans are backed into various kinds of bags here to be sold to individuals and churches in Thailand and the U.S. (Contact our team leader Kerry at if you or your church wants to buy this coffee.) Most of the coffee is shipped by Starbucks to their coffee-roasting facilities in the U.S. to eventually be sold in Starbucks locations in the Far East and the U.S.

God has been so good in His work through Mike and Becky that has helped particularly Karen and other tribal villages in northern Thailand. Becky and Mike need our prayers and monetary support to continue their good work in northern Thailand.

After having a delicious lunch at the ITDP’s “Lanna Café” coffee-shop next to their office and coffee-roasting facility, Becky, Sandy, and I were driven by Kuhn Boodai (a staff member of ITDP from the Lawa tribe) by truck over paved and bumpy dirt roads to the Karen village of Huay Som Poi about 2.5 hours (80 miles) south of Chiang Mai where the ITDP “Starbucks Clinic” is located. Towards the end of the journey, the bumpy deeply-rutted road took us near steep drop-offs which (as my family knows) is not my favorite thing to see. Kuhn Boodai jokingly called the last part of the bumpy road a “Karen super highway”.

We were greeted at our Som Poi village guest home by the “head man” (mayor) and our Karen home-hosts Khun Nate and his wife Khun Noi. We enjoyed an evening meal of rice, chicken stew, fruit, and herbal that they and Kuhn Boodai prepared. We talked over tea after our meal with our home-hosts thanks to Becky’s translation from English to Thai (and vice-versa). We learned that the village has over 500 people spread among 129 families, with many of them coming here from Burma (Myanmar) over the past decades. We also learned that in the past decade, over 100,000 Karen have migrated from Burma to many refugee camps along the Thailand-Burma border. Since these refugees are not Thai citizens, they can not receive free medical care from the government’s facilities, but they do have medical facilities in the camps provided by the United Nations and other refugee-help organizations. These refugees can not leave the camps and move elsewhere in Thailand unless they have government permission to do so, which is very difficult to get. Over the past five years, Karen refugees are being allowed to come to various cities in America through the help of the U.S. government, where many American Baptist churches in the cities they’re relocated to have helped them to adjust to our country’s culture and way-of-life.

We talked until 9 p.m. with our home hosts, and then headed for bed. We were not accustomed sleeping on mats and sleeping bags on the hard wood floor, but felt privileged to be in a guest house of wood construction instead of in the normal village bamboo house with thatched roof. The guest house was built by Starbucks for their work teams that helped to build the Starbucks Clinic. The rooms are spacious, and included a resident gecko and a few bugs, but it is a nice place to stay. Tomorrow morning, Sandy, Becky, and I will walk to the Starbucks Clinic from here to start our mission team’s project with the clinic’s ITDP medical technician Kuhn Rot.

Arlene Bowie

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