We had lunch together after church, and the lunch was as American as we might hope for here. We had a sort of chicken, fried potatoes, cooked vegetables, rice, Burmese cabbage soup and then bananas and dragon fruit for dessert. Grace tells me we won't be having rice any time soon when we get home!
Tomorrow we have been invited to speak at the Yangon Bible College. It is an associated ministry with the Ebenezer-Yangon Biblical Baptist Church of Yangon, Myanmar. Many churches have what they call a Bible College (in addition to a childrens' home). In reality, it is more like a Bible institute with 10 to 15 students. Some of the students from this church/institute have attended our classes both years but many cannot attend because of the distance and cost of travel. It is a great opportunity to impact the young Bible College students there and open more doors for Global Baptist Training Foundation.
Friday Class and Graduation!
Well, today marks the end of our class time here in Yangon. Grace and I are both exhausted so I know the men and women must be spent as well. Our men's class had seven graduates and two men who attended most of the classes and quizzes. Unfortunately, without completion of two quizzes these two men went home without a certificate. But, they did go home with a copy of the notes and a lot of their own class experience which will hopefully serve them well. This morning we had a combined class by request of Pastor Siama. He wanted me to lecture for about an hour on the Charismatic movement, the gifts of the Spirit, and so forth. There is a lot of confusion in the entire province about the cessationist viewpoint. The Bible college on Monday requested the same lecture, so I guess we will have a primer today. I am amazed at the desire of these Christians to learn doctrine. They realize how important it is to be grounded, so grounding them is a real pleasure! We shortened lunch today to get ready for graduation.
Pastor Siama has to grade all of today's quizzes, add the grades to students' totals and then we needed to get the appropriate certificates ready for the service. The service was about an hour long, and Grace and I even included a duet. Neither of us sing as much as we used to so we always just hope it sounds good! You never know these days. After the service, we took time for pictures and conversation before many of the men had to depart for their homes. Some of them had a long way to go so we had to say goodbye until next year. We have already scheduled next year's class for early October.
Next year we will be including a second week of teaching in the Chin district to the north. It is a two hour plane ride. We will have access to about 60 pastors who we hope to be able to give the first level of training. Pray for us as we finish making these plans for October! We are taking the day off today (Saturday) and are resting up for the Sunday service. Please pray that we would have great spiritual results from the preaching and teaching.
God bless you all, Bruce
Fun Facts About Myanmar
1. They have no health insurance. If you get sick, you either pay cash or get no treatment. Dying? Too bad. The year old daughter of one of the women in my class had an accident on Wednesday evening. She was jumping up and down from a squat position, and her eight year old brother thought it would be funny to put a pointy stick under her from behind. It worked. The stick went up inside her, and she had to have vaginal surgery. The hospital wouldn't see her without cash, so Pastor Siama got some money together and paid for her surgery.)
2. They have no car insurance. No one follows any type of rule for driving. It can be quite frightening. Most of the vehicles are very old. You have huge buses packed and overflowing bouncing from the lack of shocks, bicycle taxis, motorcycles, taxis, trucks with open motors on the front, and everything in between. They all dart in and out of each other using mainly their horns as weapons. If there happens to be a crash, and we are amazed that there are not more, the two parties must work it out. If you call the police, you begin a long, painful, and expensive process that involves costly bribes.
3. The steering wheels are on the passenger side (by American standards), but they still drive on the same side of the street as Americans. Very strange.
4. The men and women both wear long wrap around skirts. For the men, it is called a longhi, and the women's version has another name. The attached picture is of man riding a bike in his longhi.
5. The women still carry large loads around on their heads. The weight of what they carry on their heads is astounding!! Yes, a pix is attached!!
6. Credit cards and ATM cards are still unknown in this society. CASH only - for everything large and small, even an airline ticket! A tax collector showed up at the compound yesterday while we were having lunch. Pastor Siama had to dole out the required tax plus a little bribe. P.S. They love the new $ 100 bills we brought.
Hope this helps you with understanding this country!
The Children of Myanmar
Jesus said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not." I have always been involved in children's ministry - as a mother, as a pastor's wife, as a teacher. The children of Myanmar leave me with a great burden. I cannot find that even the churches here are doing much to evangelize and disciple children. They have no children's programs and no resources.
Because of the extreme poverty, many children are abandoned on the streets. The churches have been burdened to help these children. Most of the Baptist churches here have a children's home associated with them. The government does not allow churches to have orphanages - only the government is allowed to do this. So, the pastors end up legally adopting the children. Pastor Siama has now adopted 32 children, and 28 of them still live here on his compound that has less than half an acre. The attached picture is the boys dorm.
Attached is also a picture of three little girls. Their heads are shaved, and they look very sad. They are the newest to the home here - two are sisters and the third is unrelated. Their fathers died in a civil war in the northern part of the country. Because their fathers had been part of a freedom force opposed to the government, their mothers were put into prison. The children were left to fend for themselves. These girls came lice-infested (hence, the shaved heads), covered with sores and insect bites, malnourished, and completely without hope. They are now hearing the gospel, experiencing love, and eating regularly.
I have also attached a picture of some little boys. They are sitting and ready for church on Sunday. The 20 year old young man came to live here at the children's home when he was 8 years old. He is now surrendered to being a pastor, and he (Moya) has been in Bruce's class this week. He has been very diligent and passed all tests, so he will be receiving a certificate in the graduation today.
Please pray for these children. We are planning to expand our ministry to include a children's training program next year. We have two ladies who have expressed an interest in accompanying us. Pastor Siama is excited about this prospect.
Greetings from Yangon!
They call Wednesday hump day and that's exactly what we encountered today. Four of our ten men were not able to return to class after completing two days. We don't know all of the reasons but our focus today has been on the six men who are strongly committed to finishing the course by Friday noon.
Today we were teaching Anthropology from a Biblical worldview. It's interesting to watch the men as you teach because oftentimes their understanding of basic concepts we might take for granted are new to them, or at least better understood. Most of the pastors we encounter were only mentored by their pastors and so on and so on. Theological training is allowing these men to have the basic Biblical training they have never been able to obtain for the ministry. Its so gratifying to see the men actually "getting it" as you teach.
One of the pastors among our six faithful students is the son of the president of Yangon Bible College. Today he asked if I would be willing to come lecture and teach at the college on Monday morning. They have 15 younger students in school this term who are able somehow to actually afford a Bible education. They truly are the priveleged few. I will be interested in getting to know these young men on Monday and I will keep you informed on what I discover about them.
Today when we broke for lunch, we were all excited that one of the dishes that was prepared was "fried chicken." Actually, it wasn't bad at all. Since Grace has not had an easy time of it eating here, it was a welcome treat. Our host Siama, who is my translator ate too much of it and got very sleepy during the afternoon session. When this happens I have to repeat things sometimes two or three times before he is able to translate it! Actually, it was pretty funny. I guess you had to be there.
This week is the festival/celebration time of the month on the Buddhist calendar. Unfortunately this means that just a few hundred yards from our compound they play this crazy music all day long loud enough to make it hard to be heard in our own building! There were a few moments of sheer frustration on my part today, but my Burmese students took it all in stride. They know that the only way to reach these people is with the unconditional love of Jesus Christ.
On our way back to the compound today, the road conditions were far better than yesterday. We left about 45 minutes later yesterday and the traffic was terrible. Today it was better, but the trucks and haulers were driving like madmen. There were some moments I almost had to just close my eyes and hang on. I am constantly amazed that there are not more accidents and outright fatalities but strangely enough, there are few. These people don't even know what car insurance is about. If they hit each other, they have to settle it between themselves. To involve the police is to invite a much costlier process which probably includes a hefty bribe.
Well, that's about all for now. I will catch up with you all tonight or in the morning. I want to tell you about my "morning runs" around the countryside here. What a hoot!
I have had between 12 and 15 women in my first two days of teaching. The numbers will continue to grow throughout the week. The same is true of the men's class. What is unexpected is that both Bruce and I have a couple of unsaved people who have showed up for the classes. They had heard about the teaching, and they came to listen. The two women admitted, during our introduction time at the beginning of Tuesday's class, that they are "investigating" Christianity. This is common for Buddhists. It is actually the first step toward salvation for many of them. One of the women in my class has two small children. This is a hindrance to her. Even though they children are unbelievably well-behaved, she is afraid they will interrupt others. Her husband is a sailor in the Myanmar Navy, and is away all but one or two days per month. Please pray for her. I am attaching a picture of her and her babies.
I am bringing out the gospel as often as I possibly can in light of these women. It isn't difficult!! We are studying women of the Bible. In yesterday's verse-by-verse study of the book of Ruth, Christ is seen continually through Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer. I had New Testament Scriptures to illustrate this, and I pray for the Holy Spirit to use His Word as only He can!
We are a little tired, and I am struggling with the food, but otherwise, we are overflowing with the blessing of this amazing ministry!!