Thursday, September 3, 2009

Talking about faith with the refugees

We bought a handful of kids books to read with Tee Reh and Soh Meh to work on vocab and pronunciation. One of the books is a kid's Bible. We know they are Catholic because of a conversation that was started by a little portrait of the Madonna and child and a string of prayer beads - the only decoration in the apartment. It was cool to recognize our common faith, so we have felt at ease bringing in the topic of faith In any case, since Bible stories would be familiar to them, we thought it would be a great way to teach vocab - teaching new words in the context of stories they understand.

Today we were reading the story of the birth of Jesus. A few new words came up, words like "Savior". We began to attempt to convey these theological concepts - salvation, sin, etc. Isaac very, very basically talked about the purpose/need for salvation, and the death of Christ, all using the photos and stories in the book that we have already read.

Tee Reh looked at him somewhat blankly, which sort of surprised us, because up until now he's been familiar with Adam and Eve, David, Jonah, the Israelites, Jesus, Mary, etc. Isaac asked him if he'd heard all of this before (the answer is almost always yes). He shook his head no and said, "Maybe I hear some very long ago, but no, I don't think so."

Wow. So we dug a little bit more into their faith. Was their whole tribe (the Karenni) Catholic? He thought about that and said, "No, some are... some are... um.... Christian."

So, then Isaac wrote down the broad category of Christian and we talked about Christians believing in Jesus, the Christ. Underneath that category are Catholics and Protestants, all of whom believe in Christ. Then we talked about those who do not believe in Christ: Muslims, which they are vaguely familiar with, Hindus, which they are vaguely familiar with, and Buddhists. Some people in their tribe are Buddhists, which is the influence of the ruling culture in Burma trickling into their minority people group. They'd never really heard of Jewish people before.

We went back to the story of Jesus again and he looked up the word "sin" in his English/Burmese dictionary, and we talked again about fallen man, and all of us being sinners. It was just really crazy to us that although he knew the story of this baby Jesus and the death of Christ, he'd never really been presented with the concept of Jesus' death being an atoning sacrifice for OUR sin, which makes Him our Savior.

It's been cool to know that we have a common faith, but now we realize just how little they've been taught before, so we are looking forward to talking more about it all as we continue to read through the kid's Bible.

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