The humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers started by American couple David and Karen Eubank to provide aid and share the Gospel in war-torn regions of the world is the subject of a new documentary that hit theaters this week.
“Free Burma Rangers” was released in theaters for two days on Feb. 24-25 in partnership with LifeWay Films and Deidox Films and follows the valiant Eubank family and the rangers/missionaries they’ve rallied to help rescue and provide aid to people whose homelands have become war zones. The raw and inspiring movie is an illustration of Christianity in action.
David Eubank, who grew up as a missionary child, is a former U.S. Army Special Forces and Ranger officer. Just weeks after marrying his wife, Karen, over 20 years ago, they moved to Burma to take on a life-risking mission to offer aid to those in need. David carries the words of the Bible in his heart and a rifle in his hand when he's out on rescue missions. Karen has been by his side every step of the way and along with their three children, they strive to deliver the Gospel and food and medicine in some of the most dangerous locations in the world: Burma (Myanmar), Iraq and Syria.
According to the Free Burma Rangers website, their team has helped 1.5 million displaced persons to date who would have otherwise died.
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post's interview with Karen Eubank who spoke about the instructions she received from God that enables her and her family to continue to live in war zones where they share the love of God with others.
The Christian Post: You are an encouragement to wives and women. Can you talk about where you get your strength to support your husband and the many people you come in contact with while out on the mission field?
Karen Eubank: I remember when my parents gave me a Ryrie Study Bible in high school and I started pouring through the Gospel of John. The first few chapters of John were almost completely highlighted with color as I devoured the depth of meaning and purpose for my life.
In my mind’s eye I can still see other significant passages that sustained me then, and still carry my burdens to this day. That personal devotional time as well as consistent discipleship through the Bible with my youth group leader and friends cemented Jesus’ love and plan for my life that established a bedrock of courage and trust in His guidance.
Relying on His leading and direction through college and into adulthood, including marriage and family, have been the central source of strength. Marriage and mission life came hand-in-hand.
Although my new life was completely unfamiliar and, at times, overwhelming, I knew God had offered me the gift of an amazing life, and at the same time knew that I was inadequate and unprepared for the task. Confidence in God’s leading in my life to join Dave in his vision was the only strength that could weather the storms of doubt and discouragement.
Throughout the most trying times, I’m thankful that God has shown me clearly the steps (of decision) all along the way that brought me to that point, always a path pursuing His love and faithfulness and therefore without regret. Believing in the vision that God has given us as a couple, and family helps carry my focus above my own fears and selfishness to the great things God can do through me.
As with my church family in high school, the fellowship of our FBR team has added strength to the vision and work of our ministry. All along the way, God has given me the love and prayers and help of great friends who came alongside for each phase of the journey.
CP: You have seen first-hand that there is safety in obedience even in the midst of danger. Can you share some encouragement for others who might see the film but are afraid to step into their own mission fields in life?
Eubank: My mission life is nothing that I had planned or experienced before jumping into it. Although I grew up in the church the only missionary biography I read was Corrie Ten Boom. As I began life overseas, I really didn’t have any scaffolding for what we were building in our mission life.
Thankfully, Dave’s family, the amazing community in Chiang Mai, and Amy Carmichael’s writings illuminated a way to a new normal. Still, the vision Dave had for ministering in war zones, and our desire to stay together in mission as a family, meant that we were breaking trail even in the “new normal.”
In these times I felt God reminding me to keep my focus on Him, as comparing my life to others would only scatter that beam of light that was my guide.
I remember, in my mind’s eye, seeing a wagon path of two tracks through a waving field of grass. Only two tracks existed in the picture and I felt him saying, “stay in the path I have for you, my provision for you is in this path no matter how unfamiliar or unconventional it is.”
Practically this has led us into unconventional situations such as staying in homes that were destroyed or under threat of being destroyed and in close proximity to drug warlords, terrorists, disease, rioting, and arrest. Yet, in all these situations the local people, as well as our team, we're committed to Jesus’ command to not be overcome by evil but to overcome evil with good.
We were never alone in our steps of obedience toward pursuing God’s love for healing of fear and injustice in each of these situations.
During these occasions, honestly, I knew I had no guarantee of our safety through it. But I knew that to give up or turn back would be worse ... that God’s promises for us, as called in that path for that moment, were straight through that door of obedience.
Every time a situation was terrible, after catching my breath and regaining my strength, I was thankful with every cell in my body, but I also never wanted to walk through that situation again. That is my honest human response.
I don’t claim to be bulletproof in my body or faith. But at the same time, when I’ve come face to face with each of these situations the answer and strength to follow Jesus through that door of obedience has been with me. I’m overwhelmingly thankful for that grace and mercy and pray that it will always be with me.
CP: There's a powerful moment in the film where you are sharing with a group of people about the “good life.” Can you explain what good life means?
Eubank: Good Life Club started in several separate threads that eventually joined together to make a program. It first began on an IDP mission I took with Dave to frontline areas in Karen State, Burma. We visited villages that had been attacked frequently and even on our stay we had to sleep outside the villages for security purposes.
During the day, the medics set up a clinic and saw patients and I tried to play with the children. I was surprised to find them so shy and afraid to join me in any games. Then, while I observed the clinic station I noticed that many more people were watching the clinic than were receiving treatment. This was a big deal to have our visit and have medicine available for the day.
I wondered when the last time was that they had medical help and when the next time would be after we left? I wondered what all the observers were learning from watching and if there wasn’t something lasting I could give them that would be a tool for better health beyond our visit. From this, I decided that if I couldn’t interact with the kids, I could probably entertain them with a show, and if the show was about preventative healthcare then I would have left something good.
It was probably this same time period that I felt quite overwhelmed by the needs of families in the villages we visited and felt that even if I gave away all I had, it would never be enough to meet the needs I saw.
God then reminded me of John 10:10 where Jesus said, “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy but I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
I felt God saying, “Yes, it is true you can’t meet their needs, but I can. Bring them to me and I will give them abundant life.” This seemed far from possible to the human eye, but if I believed Jesus’ words to be true then I must believe it was possible, whether I could understand it or not. From that time on I’ve been convicted that to introduce kids to Jesus is God’s primary expectation of me. I certainly don’t do it as well or consistently as I’d like, but I have the rest of my life to keep working on it.
CP: Watching the attitude toward mission work your children have is amazing. How can you encourage parents to rear their children in the way and work of the Lord?
Eubank: Raising our kids has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. Although I love teaching, when I had children I felt so purposeful and engaged, using skills from just about every vocation I knew.
Of course, I failed frequently attempting to manage on my own. And so God brought many wonderful people to pour into them amazing gifts of character that would grow their spirits into the people they are today. We have been gifted beyond measure by family and friends, ethnic aunts and uncles, FBR teammates, and vibrant church families who have blessed Sahale, Suu and Peter, body mind and spirit.
Personally, I’ve wanted to give them as much “eternal” as possible, remembering Jesus’ words to not be afraid of what can kill the body but rather what can kill the soul. I’ve felt that being in mission together as a family is part of that.
Dave have always been an example in bringing every decision to God for prayer, [showing] that God alone has the best wisdom for every issue, large or small. He’s vigilant about truth and integrity and I’m thankful for His leadership.
CP: You said in the film, "Jesus has promised things that are better than the reality we see." Can you expound on that for those that say, "The world is evil, how can there be a God?"
Eubank: From working in war zones where life is not as it should be, I want to tell children, and families, about the promise of Heaven and that Jesus offers a reality that is above and beyond their current catastrophe.
I personally don’t know how to work it out. It’s really hard to say the words without a concrete solution to fix their immediate situation. But I fully believe that the hope in God’s love can somehow change the equation.
CP: You also testified that God's hand is almost visible when you are out in the field doing what you do. Why do you believe He is so tangible?
Eubank: Many times I have seen that a situation didn’t follow its inevitable path, that something changed a predicted outcome either in a physical or spiritual way. When I feel I’m living close to my physical mortality, or in a raw place emotionally, the miracles of God’s intervention are easy to see.
I probably should welcome those moments to see God’s presence more profoundly, but they are usually fearful and or painful moments that I’d rather not repeat. In any case, I’m thankful to have been brought out of a normal reality into something much greater, and more divine, little peeks into the presence of God.
In these situations, I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce and how spiritual realities are not always gentle, but always rich and ever drawing us closer to Him.
CP: What do you want people to take with them after watching, "Free Burma Rangers”?
Eubank: I would like people to see how God can use people in miraculous ways through the skills and opportunities He’s put before them. All of us are able to be tools for miracles through the vocations He’s given us. Dave’s skills in the military and passion to share Jesus’ love have been used beyond his own imagination.
Any career can be used for purposes beyond what we think possible for giving glory to God. The wisdom, discipline, creativity, passion, and charity of Jesus takes us to a much higher level when surrendered to His leading.
I hope people see that all of us in the film want to thank God for the rich life He has given us and to be an encouragement for fellow brothers and sisters to continue offering their lives for God’s greater purposes.