Finding Refuge

Sarah Kessen and Sarah Miller

n517825819_1960459_4521 sad boy2A couple summers ago, our youth group was given money to begin a local mission project. After several weeks of prayer and discernment, we decided that the money should go toward acts of service for the Golden Triangle Fellowship, a group of our church members who are refugees from Burma (also known now as Myanmar) and other countries in southeast Asia. Some of us started going once a month to their apartment complexes to do crafts and to play games with the children of these families. We intended to build friendships and to discover what more we could do to help. We never imagined how much we would learn.


Sarah K playing gamesBurma was taken over by a military junta in 1962. The junta drove adults and children from their homes and villages and into forced labor. When the United States recently decided to welcome refugees from Burma, many came to Nashville—some to our church.

“The first time I went to the apartments, I could feel God’s presence as never before,” says Sarah Kessen. “Later, I realized that what I had sensed was the strength God had given these people to survive all they have been through.”

During our play times, the children don’t talk about their experiences in Burma; but they seem to gain strength from being together with people who have had similar experiences.

Sarah M and Aum Yung“Both of us are awed by the strength of the children and their families,” says Sarah Miller. “We can’t imagine growing up in villages torn apart by violence.”

During one of our visits, one of the children drew a picture with a dog in it. When we asked about the dog, she said that she had a dog when she lived in Burma, but it was shot and killed during one of the conflicts. We were sad for her; and we felt awkward, not really knowing what to say.

The children and their families fled their homes to find shelter in refugee camps and finally left their country to come to the U. S., where they were suddenly surrounded by a new language and a new culture. How comforting it must be for them to find in their new home a community of people who have gone through the same frightening experiences.

IMG_5450 blow up slide2Because God gave the refugees strength when they were especially vulnerable, they are able to be open with one another now. Their need for one another allows them to form a strong, supportive community and teaches us that there is strength in vulnerability.

We feel blessed by getting to know the people of the Golden Triangle Fellowship, by witnessing the strength that helps them endure circumstances we cannot even imagine, and by sensing God’s presence in their community. We have learned from them the truth of Philippians 4:13 (NRSV): “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”



Try this activity with another person at your church or in your youth group. (Choose someone you have met but do not know well.) Sit across from each other; and for two minutes, look at each other without speaking. It sounds easy, but knowing that someone is gazing at you makes you feel vulnerable. Next, take some time to talk about the experience and to get to know each other. Now the two of you have a shared experience that gives strength to your relationship. If you do this activity with several people, you will form a community from a shared experience of vulnerability.

IMG_5072 Lwei Day in tree2

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Sarah Kessen and Sarah Miller — Sarah Kessen, 17, is a member of the youth group at Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Sarah Miller is an adult volunteer with the group.

—from devozine (November/December 2009). Copyright © 2009 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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