By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer
Two students from Myanmar have learned how to help others by helping at Muskogee’s Ark of Faith.
The students, Pah Lar and Naw Harmony Kadoe, have spent the past two semesters working at the Ark, a Christian charity at 401 E. Broadway. The two are on a Christian ministry scholarship at Bacone College.
“Here, I learned to have good communication,” said Lar, 22. “Helping people in need makes me happy.”
Lar and Kadoe spent the first semester helping with the Ark’s Christmas shop. Kadoe, also 22, said she helped sort toys, clothes and other items. She spent the second semester helping with the Ark’s feeding ministry.
Kadoe said she has discovered how Americans worship differently than people in her homeland.
“In our country, Christians are more traditional in their ways of leading worship,” she said. “Here, there are a lot of different styles based on the denominations.”
Lar spent the past semester helping stock food and other items. He also has been active in the Ark’s Coffee House ministry.
“The coffee house has helped me a lot,” Lar said. “At first, I could not get up and talk in front of people.”
Ark of Faith Director Sally Weiesnbach said one thing she has learned from the interns is “we are all God’s children.”
“And it has helped me see how blessed we are in America,” she said, adding that she learned poverty in Myanmar is worse than it is in the United States. “There are places like the Ark that serve breakfast and lunch all over. These students have encouraged me beyond my wildest dreams.”
Dr. Leroy Thompson, Bacone College vice president of Christian ministry, said the college offers 100 percent tuition scholarships to children of American Baptist Church workers as well as people affiliated with ethnic American Baptist churches. He said four students from Myanmar are at Bacone this year, but only Kadoe and Lar are in the Christian ministry internship program.
Kadoe said she came to the United States in 2010 and spent two years studying computer science at Glendale Community College.
“After two years, I learned I had to go to a university or college, but it was kind of expensive,” she said. “Then I learned from a friend that Bacone offered scholarships. I decided to change my major to Christian ministry and minor in computer science.”
Kadoe and Lar are members of the Karen tribe, which takes up about 7 percent of the Myanmar population. She said Karens and Christians often face challenges in her homeland.
“I was raised in a church family. My mom and dad are Christian,” she said. “We lived in the capital city, so it wasn’t that hard on us. But it was hard for Christians in the rural places and villages.”
She said that when she came to the United States in 2010, her country was still in under a military regime.
“Now, there has been a change in politics, but there is still not as much freedom as we want,” she said. “They declared Buddhism the official religion. When you go to school or work, if you are a Karen or a Christian, you won’t have much opportunity to get top positions, even though you try.”
Lar, also a Karen, said he cannot remember exactly where in Myanmar he is from. He said he spent 11 years in a Thailand refugee camp before coming to the United States in August 2008.
“I remember once I heard that if your are a Christian, they try to kill you,” Lar said.
Lar said that once he gets his degree, he wants to serve his church in Phoenix. He said he might return to Myanmar if there is peace in his homeland.
Kadoe said she wants to go back to Myanmar and teach in seminary after she graduates.
Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.