trip to Thailand changes perspective of SHS teacher


Newcomer teacher Marsha Manning helps build a Church in Mae Sot, Thailand with some of Rangoon Bible Institute (RBI) students. Photo by Marsha Manning Newcomer program sayamah Marsha Manning nih Rangoon Bible Institute (RBI) mino he biakinn hram an dir. Mah hmanthlak hi Marsha Manning nih pek mi a si.

Grace Iang, Reporter

Out of the hundreds of memories Newcomer program teacher Ms.Marsha Manning made on her trip, sharing hope and encouragement letters written to refugees to SHS students was one of the experiences that changed her perspective on viewing life.

“It had an impact on me knowing the many of the students who wrote the letters knew of the life these people are living, as a refugee,” Manning said. “I also saw the compassion in the letters that SHS students, from all backgrounds, have for others less fortunate.”

She first began working with Burmese refugees in 2006. Ever since then, she has always wanted to visit and see the places her students have talked about, therefore Manning was super excited to get to begin her journey. Manning and her team from Mt. Pleasant Christian Church left the U.S. on Nov. 6, 2015 and landed in Mae Sot, Thailand. She has been working with the Chin Ministry of Mt. Pleasant Christian Church since it began so when she was invited to go on the trip. She was was tired after flying so long, but her excitement leveled upon landing in Mae Sot. She was ready to go explore new places and adventures. When they landed, there was so much celebration going on due to the election in Burma for Aung San Suu Kyi. Manning felt great to be so near a life changing election for the Burmese people.

On their first day, they went to a Christian village in rural Thailand and met with a mission pastor name Joseph Leeja. He brings Burmese refugees to his village and gives them food, shelter and work. The refugee men work for Thai landlords for $3 a day and the women look after children and work in the fields. Most of the refugees have converted from Buddhism to Christianity. With the help of a youth group called Rangoon Bible Institute (RBI), Manning and her team began laying the foundation for a new church. The RBI students would walk across the border each day, from Rangoon to Thailand, to work with them.

By the end of the day, they have to return to Burma each evening because the Thai government would not allow them to stay. Manning saw many different occurrences and sites, however the one that was life changing for her was when they they visited the trash camp site. The refugees were living next to huge trash piles, however they seemed very satisfied with their life, Manning says. Seeing them made her think of how people do not realize how much they take for granted. Another event that impacted Manning’s life was when their team took letters from SHS students and the RBI students read them to the refugees. Manning never imagined how much of an impact the letters would have on them.

“The smiles on their faces and the tears in their eyes let our mission team know the messages SHS students sent were making an impact on their lives,” Manning said.

One day, they visited a refugee camp of 20,000 people where they met the principal and head teacher of the high school. The fact that there were only 1200 students attending surprised Manning since the camp was so large. The reason for the low number was because the high school students stay at home to help their parents with working in the field or watch little ones while their parents work. She shared with the principal that the teachers in America do not lecture all day, but give students guidance to find answers on their own.

She learned that the refugee students are expected to learn from memory. She observed that they all listened intently to their teacher and were very well behaved. She also found out that the students had pencils and pens but no textbooks. English was being taught in every school as a foreign language. The curriculum is scarce and the rooms are dirt floors, in many schools, with mats that students sit on for class, according to Manning. Another highlight of the trip was when she visited an organic farm where they tried to cultivate a more productive way to grow rice. It’s called the Charis Project and is run by a guy from Canada, which surprised Manning. She was glad to see that school in some form was evident in all the camps and villages she was able to visit. She hopes that one day the refugees would be able to go back to their land.

“I would have liked to find a way to give them opportunities for freedom, a good job, education for all the children and hope that one day they can go back to reclaim the land and the lives that has been stolen from them,” Manning said.

She have always said that her students have taught her so much more than she have taught them. She feels more connected to some of their experiences even though most of the kids grew up in different areas. The reason for fleeing is the same. As well as the fears they have experienced under the watch of police and military in the country their families entered illegally, while waiting to come to America. She will be able to apply her experiences in her classroom now that she has seen and experienced a small part of their past life.

Two of her newcomer freshmen students, Duh Mang and Daniel Sang, say they are both very thankful that she went to Thailand and experienced pieces of what they’ve been through. Sang believes that she will be able to relate her experiences to her topic she is teaching making it easier for the students. Mang likes that being a teacher, she went to places like visiting trash camp sites and other that without making fun of and despising.

“The thing that I like the most is that as a teacher, she went to places like visiting trash camp sites and other places without making fun of or despising the way they lived,” Mang said.

Landing the U.S. on Nov. 17, 2015, she learned many things about living in a place with no flushing toilets, no refrigerators, no grocery store on the corner, fields where the food supply comes from, providing the weather cooperates and no privacy. She says all the appliances and items are not needed as long as God’s love is in people’s lives. Manning felt that women have the same worries for their children worldwide.

“I learned that all the above (I mentioned) is not necessary for happiness as long as the love of God is present in the lives of the people,” Manning said. “The people I met in every refugee camp and beyond were happy and thankful to the people working in the trenches everyday reaching out to people who, by our standards, have so little.”