BY JULIA O'CAREY
You could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium at Camp Wagner, in Cassopolis, Michigan. The second Karen Seventh-day Adventist Youth Camp, themed “Talent for God,” took place July 17-20, 2019, and drew 450+ young Karen refugees from all over the United States. They listened intently as Doh Htoo, an 18-year-old student at Sunnydale Adventist Academy, courageously shared his testimony.
“At the beginning of the year I asked God what I should do this summer. He impressed me to join a canvassing team. I wanted to grow in faith, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy. On the very first day of canvassing I didn’t sell any books but I was still hopeful and happy to be there. Other days I managed to sell some books, and even in bad weather, I willingly went out with the team.
“One dark Friday morning, while canvassing in Des Moines, Iowa, every door I knocked on was answered by unfriendly people. Though they cursed and yelled at me, I prayed for them and kept going. But after a while all the rejections took a toll. Tears started running down my cheeks. ‘Lord, I can’t do this by myself. Give me the strength to get through the day.’
“I knocked on another door and a big, six-foot-two-inch man answered. The moment he saw me, he started yelling and swearing. He got so angry, he swung his fist and hit me in the chest and shoulder. I tried to shield myself with the books, but they came back and hit my face. A lady across the street saw us and yelled, ‘Hey, what are you doing? He’s just a kid!’ She called out, ‘Come here, sweetheart. Are you okay?’ She invited me into her home but it turned out that she was a staunch atheist. When she learned that I am a Christian, she angrily kicked me out. As I rushed out, I cried, ‘Lord, I don’t understand! I need a break.’
“I started walking straight ahead with my eyes closed but when I opened them, I was in someone’s driveway. I hadn’t made any turns, so I knew God had led me there. I mustered the courage to climb the long staircase to the house, which had a ‘No soliciting’ sign. I knocked on the door and rang the doorbell. No one answered. This happened over and over, but I could hear someone inside. The ninth time, a gray-haired lady opened the door and asked, “What are you doing here? It’s not a good time. I don’t want to buy anything from you.” As I introduced myself and started the canvass she became angry and told me to leave. Her face was stern but there were tears in her eyes. I calmly turned to leave, but when I looked back she was crying.
“‘Lord what do you want me to do?’ I asked. ‘Go back,’ He said.
“To make a long story short, God used me to reach this 65-year-old widow who had isolated herself for 15 years since her husband’s death. I was her first visitor. She needed God’s love and she found it that day. I gave her some books and after that I ended up selling all the books in my bag. These experiences grew my faith and my love for serving Jesus. After I graduate from academy, I plan to study theology.”
During the week, other Karen youth also related their powerful testimonies of how Jesus called them to be missionaries. Fourteen Karen young people told of their recent mission trip to Thailand led by Pr. Jimmy Shwe and his wife Jiap, where they shared the love of Jesus with students at the ASAP-supported Naung Bo Den School. Jasmine Moo, a recent graduate of Hartland College, passionately shared her call to Mae Ra Moe Refugee Camp in Thailand as ASAP’s first Karen student missionary. She is eager to use her training as a teacher to benefit her people.
Throughout the event, the presentations, testimonies, united prayer sessions, and seminars on trauma, relationships, health, ministry, social media, faith and prayer communicated a powerful, unified message to these young refugees: they are loved, redeemed, called, and gifted with talents to be used in service to God. He has called them to be lights in their broken communities. Yet they face myriad challenges. Some feel pressured to work to support their families instead of getting an education. Others deal with social pressures and the temptations of materialism and media. Please pray for them, especially the large group that stood during guest speaker Kyle Allen’s appeal to get baptized, rebaptized, or become a missionary.
Special thanks to Trudi Starlin, ASAP board member, for the many tireless hours she invested in coordinating this event. Thanks also to Adventist Refugee & Immigrant Ministries and ASAP donors for joining with the sacrificial efforts of the young people to financially support this event. And we praise God for how He is using Pr. Jimmy Shwe to mentor and lead Karen youth in the right direction.