Refugee and Friend to All
When Mitha Sung ’18 and her family arrived in the United States in 2007, she was escaping political and social unrest in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar. Eleven years later, she is a Bethel College graduate with a degree psychology, and her family now lives in Indianapolis, Ind. The turmoil she witnessed in Myanmar inspired her to be a friend to everyone on Bethel’s campus and in her Chin community in Indianapolis. However, it was a long journey to get from Myanmar to Bethel.
Sung grew up in the small town of Thantlang in Chin State, Western Myanmar (formerly Burma). Although Thantlang was not immediately impacted by the military junta (dictatorship), her family lived in constant fear.
“When the armies walked down the street, we would hide; we were afraid of them,” she says.
As protests in August and September of 2007 escalated, Sung’s family began to look for ways out of Myanmar. Her father left for Malaysia to find out if they could safely travel there. Once he received reassurance from the Malaysian United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), he called the family and told them to begin their journey to join him. The trip included traveling to Thailand, Malaysia and finally the United States.
They first had to ride a water boat to get from Myanmar to Thailand. Traveling from Myanmar, to Thailand and Malaysia was illegal at the time, so they were terrified as they crossed the water in the boat.
After spending two days in Thailand, a Jeep came in to pick up their group and take them to Malaysia, the second leg of their journey.
“They fit around 40 people in the car. No one could sit or stand because it was so tight. Somehow, I slept through the whole ride. It was all God because I didn’t feel any pain or suffering,” Sung says.
The Jeep took them to a shelter near the Malaysia-Thailand border. After only a few hours of rest, they left for Malaysia. They ran the whole night through the jungle, continually hiding behind the bushes from the military junta. Sung’s mother was worried for her family, but her faith kept her going.
“My mom and I were strong believers. She was panicking, but God immediately sent Psalm 121 to her mind. It kept her calm and reassured her that the Lord will guide us to Malaysia,” Sung says.
When sunrise came, they arrived at the Malaysia border and their father met them there. They lived in Malaysia for a year and a half before flying out to Indianapolis in December of 2007.
As Sung began middle school, it was challenging for her, but she soon excelled after a few months. She exceeded expectations academically as well as socially. She welcomed incoming foreign exchange students from Myanmar and helped with translating.
Sung continues to help anyone in need by serving as a translator in her Chin community in Indianapolis. Sung’s joy comes from helping others, and a warmth towards others is characteristic of Myanmar people, she says.
“There is one thing I love about my culture. It doesn’t matter if we’ve never met you, we are all very warm and welcoming to you,” she says.
Sung has many goals for her life beyond Bethel. She wants to build an orphanage shelter in Myanmar, start a women’s/teenage girls group, and restore the relationship between Chin parents and their children.
“My experiences have led me to want to help others in any way. It’s has made me want to live for others. That’s why I love Psychology,” she says of her chosen major.
Sung’s experiences have formed her servant-heart for everyone, whether it is her Chin community or friends on Bethel’s campus. Fleeing Myanmar, living in Indiana, and finishing her education at Bethel have created her life goal: to bring the joy of the Lord in the lives of those in need.