"I believe that everything has its own time and that life has seasons of high and low," begins Nala Jakor.
Farmers who work closely with the land are perhaps the most familiar with the seasonality of life. Nala Jakor and her husband Nakorn have endured several drastic ups and downs. The two of them are primarily growers of maize, though they also earn an income from the sale of avocado in their community.
They live in the Mae Na Wang watershed of Thailand, a steep, elevated area that is prone to both droughts and flooding intensified by climate change. Environmental volatility can disrupt farmers' ability to grow sufficient food and earn a reliable income.
Nala did not always live in Thailand, however.
"I was born in Myanmar and I remember that back then, we lived in the minority Shan-Lua and Lahu areas. Conflict broke out between different groups and things were not peaceful, so we migrated to Northern Thailand," she shares. All this happened when she was ten years old.
"We settled in Mae Ai until I was 17, when I married Nakorn and we had two children."
While they were safer from conflict in Thailand, it was not an easy life upon arrival.
"After we moved here, it was hard to earn a living because we did not have our own land to cultivate. There was no work we could do. Our children moved away and found somewhere else to live in a different village. We settled there too, for less than a year. We also could not live there because we did not have land to cultivate."
The lack of citizenship can prevent farmers from having unambiguous access to forest space that they can live on, and can occasionally lead to rifts between refugee populations and forestry departments.
"We were new in town and did not know how to live life there, so we then went to Chiang Mai to work in construction. We worked there for ten years, but then wanted to return to rural areas."
While Nakorn and Nala were working in Chiang Rai, Plant With Purpose began operating in Mae Na Wang. The operation aimed to integrate environmental restoration with the spiritual renewal and economic development in the area.
"Afterwards, I settled down in this community. "We want to thank God for allowing us to live in this community where I can participate in church services with my neighbors and be part of a Purpose Group. I am so thankful to the local Plant With Purpose staff for promoting things like tree planting and nurturing the environment and training us. These things are very helpful."
Nala Jakorn's life has been full of ups and downs, however it was neither her childhood as a refugee or her struggles working in Chiang Mai that she considers her biggest challenge.
"The lowest point for me, spiritually, was a period of illness," she recollects. "I was worried because everyone at home was out working, so nobody was around to help take care of me."
Today, some health concerns in her family remain unresolved.
"My daughter-in-law also had health issues with her nervous system. It is being treated but she cannot be fully recovered right now. I keep praying and giving my daughter-in-law’s healing over to God.
"When I was faced with that problem, I believed that prayer was very important because God can heal. When we pray, we trust God’s guidance. Then we have to go see medical professionals for medicine and to come back and take care of ourselves at home."
Like many who've experienced God's healing through the processes of nature, Nala Jakor was able to find God's comfort through restoring his creation.
"Working with tree seedlings helps me build intimacy with God," she explains. "I don’t just plant them in my farm, but I sell the additional seedlings so my family can earn an income. When we sell avocado seedlings, I faithfully tithe from our earnings. It’s like giving back to God so our church can use it to care for others. This strengthens my faith in God."
"I now pray for wisdom while I work and in my everyday life, in both small and big areas. Before, I never grew tree seedlings like I do now. After Plant With Purpose trained us and prayed with our Purpose Group, we have actively implemented these tree growing activities. Now they are growing so fast, I thank God."