Joseph waited for days for his father and brother to come home. Days turned into weeks. Then months.
But 10-year-old Joseph didn’t lose hope. His father and brother had just walked into the jungle — he was sure they’d be back any day.
But eventually he and his mother learned the truth. Joseph’s family was of Bamar ethnicity, and after his father and brother had accidentally stumbled across a group of Karen soldiers, the soldiers were suspicious the two would leak their location.
So the soldiers had killed Joseph’s father and brother while they were out cutting teak wood.
When Joseph and his mother found out, a deep hatred began to seethe in his heart. One day, he thought, I will become a soldier and ﬁght against the Karen people. Whenever he heard the Karen language or even saw a Karen person, Joseph was upset.
A year later, when Joseph was 11, his mother fell ill and died. Joseph went to stay with his Aunt.
“God in his mercy moved me away from the Karen area because my love of my people, my culture, was too strong,” Joseph told us. “If I had stayed I would have become a child soldier. I stayed with my auntie at the border instead. I wanted revenge. God was calling me to love my enemies.”
Years later, a friend invited Joseph and his wife to a Christmas party, where he heard a message on loving one’s enemies.
The pastor asked, “Who has pain? Place your hand where the pain is.”
“I placed my hand on my heart,” Joseph said. “My heart…had physical pain because of all the hatred [against] the Karen. After that day, no more pain.”
The years of hatred were replaced by God’s love. Once Joseph wanted to kill Karen people. Now, he and his wife live in a Karen village. The Karen people are like family to him.
“Later I returned to my hometown for a visit,” Joseph said. “When I returned no one recognized me because my life was so transformed. They didn’t even know who I was when I returned. It was 12 years later. They already thought I was dead and worshiped to Buddha on my behalf.”
Joseph and his wife are now hard at work protecting children who are in danger of becoming soldiers, fighting poverty by helping children gain access to food and education. They have planted a church and have rescued many victims of child trafficking.
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