April 3, 2017

From Khmer to Karen

Written by  Chris and Dawn Landes

Since we served with EMM and MCC in Cambodia for seven years, the people of Southeast Asia have been close to our hearts. Living with our Cambodian brothers and sisters, we worked with education, youth ministries, and the local church. During that time, our priority was learning the language, culture, and story of the Khmer, a people who had lived through genocide and 20 years of war. Our end goal was to encourage and build up local leadership among them.

Dawn and Chris Landes (back row, third and fourth from left) with other EMM workers and friends in 1998. Photo by Susan Caldwell.

Upon coming back to the United States, we enjoyed any chance to connect with others from Southeast Asia, often through Chris's work with international programs at MCC. Our first two children are Cambodian, so our family identity remains strongly connected to Asia.

Still, when we were asked in the spring of 2016 to consider working with Habecker Mennonite Church, where we knew there was a large population of Karen refugees from Myanmar (Burma), we initially said "No, thanks." We felt quite busy with our family needs and other jobs.

Then we were asked to pray about the invitation again.

When we prayed, we felt a tugging that reminded us of our love for the Southeast Asian people, the joy we find in helping to encourage and raise up local leadership, and the desire we have for our three children to connect with the global church. We thought, "what a great opportunity to get to do this here in Lancaster, Pa.!"

Dawn teaching a Sunday School class at Habecker Mennonite Church. Photo provided by the Landeses.
So we said yes to a part-time leadership role at Habecker. And we're glad we did.

Most of all, we want to be people of hospitality, responding to the call of Jesus to “welcome the stranger” and “love our neighbor as ourselves.”
Now, our goals in working with the Karen are similar to when we met the Khmer people. We are learning their story, their culture, and some of their language. For example, Dawn has found it fun to find the similarities between Khmer and Karen scripts, as they share the same ancient roots of Sanskrit and Pali. Most of all, we want to be people of hospitality, responding to the call of Jesus to "welcome the stranger" and "love our neighbor as ourselves."

The needs are great among newly settled refugees. It is very disorienting and sometimes scary for them to figure out new patterns and routines for work, school, transportation, medical care, and food preparation in a world that does not know their language. The demands of living in a new climate, culture, and home cannot be understated. We want to see Habecker be a place of peace for them — a place where we can worship the same God in two languages.

Dawn and Chris dedicating a baby on a Sunday morning at Habecker Mennonite Church. Photo provided by the Landeses.

Missions is both a joyful and messy adventure. Days and moments are rarely neatly planned. But if hospitality and love is in your heart and you want to experience the mission field in your backyard, come and visit us at Habecker! You can help in many ways, including teaching Sunday school, driving people to appointments, planning joint worship, or just building friendships. Tasks like these are how we at Habecker seek to help God's kingdom come ... on earth as it is in heaven.

Chris and Dawn Landes served as long-term missionaries in Cambodia with EMM from 1997-2000, as well as with MCC for four additional years. Now they live in Lancaster, Pa., and work with refugees at Habecker Mennonite Church. To learn more about Habecker Mennonite Church and the work that is done there, visit their website or Facebook page.

Read 2157 times Last modified on February 9, 2018

Eastern Mennonite Missions

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