Sunday, September 6, 2015

Pioneer Girl and the Missionaries

This is Part 4 in a story that starts here .

Phi-Phi at Phanat Nikom, possibly at the time
their names were called for departure to the U.S.
They were in this second camp for 18 months, from early 1980 to the summer of 1981. Phanat Nikom, Chonbury looked and felt more like an actual camp—there were little wooden shelters, and cots to sleep on. There was even a restaurant and a store, where people who had been sent money could purchase extras, like coffee, candy and cigarettes.

Phi-Phi and her dad rarely availed themselves of this luxury, not wanting to impose on their friends and relatives, but it was at this camp that Phi-Phi received her first doll—a chubby caucasian baby doll about six inches tall, purchased at the camp store for her by some friends they met in camp who had a little extra money from relatives already living in the U.S.

Humanitarian relief missionaries from several Christian churches volunteered at the camp. Some donated food and other provisions. Others taught English classes and American culture classes, where they learned things like how to fill out forms and register for school, how to use a telephone, how the currency system worked, how to shop at the store—simple things we take for granted that were all very foreign and unknown to most refugees.

Because Phi-Phi’s father spoke several languages, including English, the missionaries used him as a translator for their English and culture classes.

One missionary from the English-teaching program, Sister Cindy Bateman, befriended Phi-Phi and they remained in touch for over 30 years, writing each other as pen pals long after Phi-Phi and her father had left the camp. There was no proselyting and Phi-Phi had no idea which denomination had sent this missionary to help her family.

When their names were called, Phi-Phi and her father were sent to a third camp—this one just a holding station where they stayed for 3-4 nights awaiting their travel documents, which would be provided by the World Relief Organization. On the last day they were given plane tickets, boarding passes, and finally shuttled to the airport....

Read Part 5 here.


Sandra Assasnik said...

Thank you for writing this. Phi Phi is the wife of my cousin. All, I really knew about her is that she is a smart, kind, beautiful woman. She told me a little bit about her background recently when I visited Asia. This is a beautiful story and I appreciate her even more.

charrette said...

Thanks for you comment, Sandra. Phi-Phi is exactly as you describe her. The heartbreaking back-story makes her even more amazing, and reveals where some of that quiet strength and beautiful compassion originated.