FBR was started in 1997 by David Eubank – with the help of a Karen (ka-RIHN) medic, Eliya, and other ethnic leaders. David grew up in a missionary family, but he is far from your ordinary missionary. Growing up in Thailand as a son of missionaries, Allan and Joan Eubank, he returned to the U.S. to attend college and then spent ten years as a U.S. Army officer commanding units in the Infantry, Rangers and Special Forces. Dave and his wife Karen were married in 1993. He graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1995 and returned to Thailand and Burma in 1996. He initiated the Day of Prayer for Burma in 1996 and started the Free Burma Rangers and Burma Initiative in 1997.
We started with the idea that even though we are small, if we helped one person they would be glad and we would be glad. I go to try to help because I feel it is God’s place for me – that is my soul; because oppression is wrong – that is my mind; because I love these people – that is my heart; and because I like to be on the frontline – that is my body. My wife and children go on missions with us.
Burma is a country run by one of the most oppressive military juntas in the world. For nearly 60 years, the country has been embroiled in civil war. More than 1 million people have been displaced, and hundreds of thousands of ethnic minorities have fled to refugee camps in neighboring Thailand, escaping forced labor, rapes, killings and imprisonment. The situation has so badly deteriorated that the U.N. Security Counsel has added Burma to its formal agenda.
The conflict, which has raged since 1948, has many ethnic people groups fighting for their existence against the Burmese Army who strives to annihilate them. There are nearly 130 different ethnic groups in Burma. The Karen is the largest, with nearly 7% of the total population. The other main groups are the Karenni, Shan, Pa’O, Arakan, Kachin, Chin and Lahu.
FBR trains, supplies and sends into areas under attack ethnic pro-democracy groups to provide emergency medical care, shelter, food and clothing – as well as documenting human rights atrocities. The teams also operate a communication and information network inside Burma that provides real time information from areas under attack. “We now have over 110 multi-ethnic, multi-faith relief teams and a wonderful staff of both locals and foreigners to support all of this.”
In addition to relief and reporting, the team’s actions have become crucial in the development of leadership capacity, civil society and the strengthening of inter-ethnic unity. Since 1997, FBR has trained over 110 multi-ethnic relief teams and there are 55 full-time active teams today from 11 ethnic groups. The teams have conducted over 350 humanitarian missions in the war zones of Burma. The teams have treated over 360,000 patients and helped over 750,000 people.
In recent years, Dave and FBR have been asked to bring their fight against oppression to Africa and in the battle against ISIS. They are doing so and in 2017, some of FBR’s courageous and dramatic efforts have captured the world’s attention in the political area – as well as the news media and social media. Dave’s personal rescue of a small girl in Mosul, Iraq took the international news and social media by storm.
“I prayed for three things: First, by God’s power the Burma army would turn back; second, that the villagers and our teams would not be hurt; and third – this I did not want to pray but felt led to – that the Burma army would not be hurt and just go back. I was angry at the Burma army and I wanted to have a part in stopping them, but I knew I should pray for them. For four days we kept moving to keep between the Burma army and the villagers as the Burma army kept changing course, until they went back to their base. No shots were fired and no one was hurt. All we did was pray, move and stand with the people.”
FBR is many things in many places, but mostly it is about Jesus. Dave explains:
“My family and I are grateful to belong to Jesus and want to be part of His kingdom in Burma and anywhere He sends us. We want our team members to know and follow Jesus more than anything else.”
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