It all started in the summer of 2000 when my wife, Elaine, and I were leading a college group at Riverside Church in Denver. The students desired to take an international mission trip, and as their leaders, we wanted them to have a wake-up call as to their future priorities. We looked around for where to go.
Through amazing circumstances, one of the toughest destinations in the world became an option. This opportunity, we hoped, would allow us to see the hurting in the world and try to make a difference. We found the country of Burma, a country closed to westerners and known for the killing, raping, pillaging, and destroying of its ethnic minorities within the boundaries of its country. We decided to challenge our college group to step out of their comfort level and abandon the middle for the sake of victims of war inside Burma.
After climbing Colorado mountains with heavy backpacks for training purposes, in the summer of 2001 a group of 25 people, consisting of students, our family, doctors, nurses, a pilot, and an accountant, all armed with medical supplies and hearts to serve, headed off to Thailand in hopes of finding our way into Burma. It is amazing to see the hope you can bring when you show up in a conflict area with medicine and food and work alongside victims who, to no fault of their own, are sick, desperate, lonely, and forgotten.
The down side of all this is that once you see the effects of war on a population, and tools of war too despicable to even discuss, you then have the responsibility to make a decision: to either be a part of the solution, or ignore what you've seen and harden your heart towards the desperation. Regardless of which decision you make, your life will never be the same. As a result, Global Refuge was born.
- Brian McNeely, GRI Founder