Working With The Karen, Part 1

by Greg Linscott

In the summer of 2010, the HR director at Turkey Valley Farms dropped in for an unannounced visit. I remember distinctly that I had been working pulling weeds in our garden plot behind the church building. He said that they were actively recruiting workers from the S’Gaw Karen refugee community in St. Paul. However, if they were coming here, there needed to be some measure of community support and stability for them, and for many of them, it was important that they find that in a local church, and more specifically, a Baptist church.

At that point, I was not especially familiar with who the Karen were, but as I began to put some of the pieces together in my mind, I remembered hearing about them before. One of my favorite biographies I read as a boy was To The Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson. It tells the story of Adoniram Judson, the pioneer missionary to Burma. It was Judson’s labors that ultimately led to the introduction of Christianity to the Karen tribe.

That day, I remember expressing a willingness to accommodate these people however we could. I had no idea what the Lord had in store for us all.

Impromptu Service at the Linscott’s During a Blizzard, February 2011

The first group came about a month later toward the end of August. That first Sunday, we had 10-15 Karen people, most of whom were from a church in Worthington and had been here in the USA for a few years, and were helping the initial Marshall residents get settled. Our first group was a core of anywhere from 3 to 7 people, with a few others who attended more sporadically. Those numbers grew quickly, however, and 6 months later, we were seeing numbers of 15-20 Karen each week, and 8-10 children and teens in our Wednesday youth programs.

First Karen SS Class, October 2011

First Karen SS Class, October 2011

To be continued…