'Elpis School' Changing Lives of Burmese Migrants

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MAE SOT, Thailand -- Parents worldwide want their children to have a good education and a better future. But in some nations, it's hard enough just to stay alive.

That's often the case for Burmese migrants living in Thailand.

But a school run by Christian missionaries in northern Thailand has changed the lives of thousands of children.

For more than 10 years, the Elpis School has provided free education to Burmese child refugees. As an expression of his gratitude, former student Tun Nai Oo is now teaching in the school.

"Elpis taught me many things. And now I want to share what I learned with my own people," Oo told CBN News.

Elpis takes its name from the Greek word for hope. The ministry works to live up to its name by helping children who escaped Burma's violence and extreme poverty.

The Moei River runs between Burma and Thailand. Most of the undocumented migrants use this "backdoor" to get to Thailand. The Burmese parents bring their children to this northern part of the country, believing their children can have a better life.

Elpis co-founder Maria Nelma Amihan is overwhelmed at how God has guided them through the years to help illegal child migrants. They have faced eviction and threats to their lives.

"The Lord gave me a verse, 'Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears for your work will be rewarded, says the Lord. Your children will go back to their own land,'" Amihan said. "And it is a promise I am holding on until now."

Trained by CBN's Asian Center for Missions, the student body has grown to 300 students. In addition to lessons, the youngsters get lunch, which for most of them is the only complete meal of the day.

Elpis also provides shelter for high school students, which helps protect girls like Phyu Phwe Way from prostitution or child labor.

Way almost missed out on this new life because her mother wanted her to work in Bangkok.

But her mother changed her mind after realizing her daughter was the first member of their clan to ever graduate from elementary school. Now Way is the first Elpis graduate to be admitted to a prestigious Thai school.

"I want to be an interpreter and my hope is I want to share about God and help the other children," Way told CBN News.

Elpis teachers also share Christ's salvation and teach the children to read the Bible. Amihan said she's happy to see them apply what they learn to their lives.

She fondly recalled how one of the girls gave up the doll she won in their Christmas raffle so her teacher could have a doll of her own.

"I said, 'How can you give this to me? I know your doll; you have the big one.' And she said, 'Yes teacher, but you know what? I exchanged the big doll for this Barbie doll because I want you to have this,'" Amihan recalled.

Asked why she did it, Shwetha Zin Phyu said, "Teacher Maria loves us and that is why I want to give her the Barbie doll because she never had one. I also learned that when we give much, we will also receive much."

This is just one example of how love sown by the Elpis missionaries is changing the lives of these children.

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Lucille Talusan

Lucille Talusan

CBN News Asia Correspondent

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