Richard Saw Peter has experienced vagaries in his life, few of which were of his choosing, and blessings for which he expresses deep gratitude to God.
Richard was born and came to adulthood in Burma, also known as Myanmar.
He is of the Karen ethnic minority, a group that was subjected to harsh and bitter treatment under Burma's military government of the recent past.
Ethnic Karens are one of more than 100 minority groups in Burma.
The army regularly came through their villages and commanded villagers to be unpaid porters of army equipment and to carry out whatever work the army needed during the time it was in that village.
Richard's father is an engineer, now retired. The family lived on a lovely home site and Richard remembers fondly their home and the garden and fruit trees in which the family worked with joy. When he graduated high school, Richard wanted to take the entranceexams for university. He longed to study and learn. Lack of finances closed that dream. He worked on some of the projects his father engineered.
One day the Burmese army came through and confiscated the family's land, commanding them to leave. The army took the house, the garden and all their property.
Richard had no place to live and no job. He tried to get work in Thailand, which shares the border with Burma. Thailand had far too many people and refugees in its country seeking jobs. He was unsuccessful.
So he paid an agent to find him a job in Malaysia. He lived and worked in Malaysia for seven years, leaving his wife Naw SuSu and their son back in Burma. In Malaysia, Richard worked in restaurants, in construction and driving a forklift. Because he had good English skills and was a good driver, a friend recommended him as an embassy driver. He drove forthe Egyptian and Palestinian ambassadors.
A Karen refugee organization in Malaysia appealed to the United Nations office in Malaysia to support a program for resettlement of Karen refugees to other countries. It took two years for the program to be established. Richard applied for resettlement for himself, SuSu and son, who then joined him in Malaysia. They waited two years before being resettled.
The U.S. State Department began to authorize resettlement of Karen refugees in 2006.
On April 6, 2010, Richard and his family arrived in Los Angeles with their resettlement identification forms I-94, and that was all. They spent the night in Los Angeles and flew to Denver. They came to Delta from Denver in August 2011.
During the 16 months that Richard and his family were in Denver he became acquainted with Janet Johnson, a Karen refugee advocate/volunteer, who was personally invested in helping refugees from Burma. Inthe spring of 2011, Johnson contacted Pastor James Conley of the First Baptist Church in Delta.
She asked for his and his congregation's help in the relocation of Karen refugees and their smooth transition to Delta. The American Baptist denomination has had a long missionary presence in Burma, dating from 1812.
Pastor Conley says many of the Karen refugees who are in Delta are Christians. American Baptist churches across Colorado have been working with Johnson in the resettlement.
Johnson made several trips to the Western Slope, scouting for housing and employment for the refugees. The Alta Vista de la Montana agricultural housing development was underway in Delta, and she secured commitment from several farmers and orchardists to employ Karen refugees in agricultural jobs.
With a commitment of help from the First Baptist Church, housing almost ready, and jobs guaranteed, Johnson was lacking one other ingredient — an interpreter to help all the parties communicate with each other. Johnson turned to Richard, asking him to come with her to fill that role in Delta.
Pastor Conley praises Richard for his interpreter help with landlords, and with doctors' offices and the hospital in getting Karen children properly inoculated to enter school in September. Shawna Magtutu, counselor for the school district, gives Richard considerable credit in working with teachers, administrators and Karen parents in helping get students enrolled in their respective schools.
While Richard was helping others as an interpreter, he was also faced with finding a way to support himself and his family.
His first job was with John Harold picking Olathe Sweet sweet corn. He next picked for Rogers Mesa Fruit in Hotchkiss. When the season was over and the fruit pickers were laid off, Johnson suggested he apply to Russell Stover Candies. Both he and SuSu found jobs there. Fifty people, including SuSu, were laid off at the end of the season. Richard was transferred to the box factory and says, with considerable pride, "I have been with Russell Stover for a year and four months."
Housing has been a challenge. The Alta Vista de la Montana apartments weren't completed and open when the Karen refugees arrived. John Harold provided a place for Richard to live, and someone at First Baptist found a place for his family to live.
Alta Vista still wasn't ready while Richard worked at Rogers Mesa Fruit. The owner of Simmons Lock and Key offered a vacant rental he had, with the agreement that Richard pay the cost of utilities. Richard and his family lived there for five months. They moved to Alta Vista when the apartments opened.
When he was hired by Russell Stover, they could no longer live at Alta Vista, so Richard sought advice from Janet Johnson. She connected him with a local mortgagor. With two year's work history and credit history, Richard qualified to buy a house in Delta. It is home for his immediate family and his father and mother.
Richard and his family possess a deep Christian faith, and he sees the various opportunities in his life as being directed by God. Richard and SuSu named their first son — now seven years old — Blessing because they consider his birth to be a blessing from God. They named their second son, now three and a half years old, Solomon because they want to provide such a life for him that he will be filled with wisdom, as was King Solomon of the Bible.
Richard and family were pleased to move from Denver to Delta. He sees Delta as a small village, with not too many people and not too many problems. He says it is good to be here legally and to feel safe. He is trying to adjust culturally.
He wants to be able to provide a good education for his sons, including college or university. And above all, he is teaching his sons to believe in and trust God.
"We are all brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ and we need to love each other," says Richard. "If we depend on God as we live our lives, we will be real people and will give thanks to God for his blessings."
Living in Delta also provides Richard opportunity to help his people. His English skills are regularly in use translating at churches, hospitals, social service agencies, court and the school district. He does a lot of translating at Alta Vista de la Montana.blog comments powered by Disqus