As we left for the church this morning I prayed that God would give us more than the ten men we had yesterday. When class started this morning we had our ten but by 10:00 we had thirteen men sitting in our Tuesday class. Two of the three extra men were unconverted Buddhists who decided they wanted to hear a lecture on Christianity. I didn’t know it at the time but by our first break at 10:45, I was informed about their identity. Today’s class was on Christology and this morning we discussed in detail the person of Christ. For the benefit of our two un-converted Buddhist men, I couldn’t have picked a more appropriate or timely lesson for them to hear. I was reminded by this answer to prayer that theology without a connection to the gospel is empty and useless! Grace’s class was also blessed this morning with two extra women, both of whom were also Buddhist worshippers. She was teaching on the Book of Ruth and so the two Buddhist visitors were keenly made aware of the Kinsman Redeemer in the person of Boaz. Once again, the lesson couldn’t have been better suited for the occasion.
Please pray for the visitors today that God would begin a work of grace in these precious lives. Tonight back at the hotel, we have tried for hours to get on the internet but to no avail. You probably won’t be receiving this blog until Wednesday sometime, but now you know why. The internet is about as steady here as a broken leg, but hopefully we can keep communication going throughout the week. Thanks for remembering us in prayer as we continue to teach.
Sunday, Nov 3
Today, we ministered at the Independent Baptist Church in Yangon pastored by Vel Siama. Siama is a fifth generation convert of Adoniram Judson. Grace gave her testimony in Sunday School hour and then I preached the morning service. The service began at about 10:15 and was over at 1:00 pm. The electricity was off for over half the service, and so by the time it came back on we were literally drenched with sweat. The Burmese men, women, and children didn't seem to mind much at all!
After a lunch of rice, tofu, cucumber slices, egg omelets, and a native Burmese soup, we were pleasantly satisfied. I had never eaten tofu like this before, and Grace actually liked the taste of the chili gravy in which it was cooked. Miracles must still be happening! After Siama brought us back to the hotel in which we are staying we forced ourselves to stay awake all afternoon. Our bodies are nearly 180 degrees out of their normal time kilter this far from home, so fighting sleep was not easy. But, if we intend to sleep tonight, staying awake is necessary.
Tomorrow we begin with about a dozen men in Systematic Theology and about that many women in Bible Study methods. The number will grow throughout the week. We will begin about 9:00 am and stop somewhere around 4:30 or 5:00 pm for our first day. From what our host tells us, we will have a lot of the men who attended last year with maybe a few others slipping in for the class. Please pray for the men and women that they will be strengthened and encouraged in the Lord. Christians are in the extreme minority in Myanmar and those who are vocal and fervent do suffer persecution in many forms. The hope is that while Myanmar becomes more open to Western influence, it will also become more tolerant of all religions and actually practice religious freedom. The problem is that Western influence also brings many negatives too. Pray for Siama and this crucial little work in the outskirts of the city. Pray for his 29 orphans who he has personally adopted into his own family. Without him, his children face an awful existence without hope. The looks on these precious faces this morning was enough to keep me coming here and teaching. They are the long term hope of Myanmar!
Greetings from Yangon, Myanmar!
We finally arrived just a few minutes after 3 pm this afternoon, Nov 2. You would be amazed at the difference between Singapore and Yangon, Myanmar. We were reminded of that just moments after landing here in Judson's country. Although the gospel has made significant inroads into the darkness and chaos of Buddhism, this remains a country of tremendous need in almost every imaginable way, most notably the gospel. We were met by our host, Pastor Vel Siama of the Independent Baptist Church here in Yangon, and just said goodnight to him moments ago around 8:30 pm.
He is excited about this new class starting in Systematic Theology on Monday. He thinks we are going to have somewhere around 10-25 students. Tomorrow I will be preaching before the church and telling them about our foundation before the message. They are very thankful for the training that many of the area pastors will receive, as well as many of their wives and other women in leadership.
Right now, we simply need to go to bed and get some rest for tomorrow. In a little over 24 hours our second class will begin in Yangon, for which we are very excited. Please pray that God will bless the daily class work and give every one of the ministry students what they need to become useful vessels in His hands.
We have had an eventful day today. The journey began with the same car ride as yesterday, and I think our driver found every trench, pot hole, and pit the road had to offer this morning. But as we met the students this morning, they were singing and prepared for their first quiz. I believe everyone did reasonably well and the desire to learn among them was high.
You cannot imagine the conditions of life these people live under here. I took some videos of various things in the village that I will send before the end of the week. I think you will agree that these conditions are primitive at best. It was funny this morning as we took our first break how the little children gathered around me to just stare. I was one of the few if not the first white westerner that most of them had ever seen. As we drove into this remote village they would run along the car yelling “mazoongoo” or “mzungoo” (probably the second one) which means white man, but for them it was a grand announcement for everyone to hear.
As I stood and talked with them, they couldn’t help but rub my arm hair or laugh when I tried to talk to them. It must have been very strange to see this white teacher with an I-Phone taking the random pictures or video clips. The bathroom routine is quite the scene. There were two or three stalls off the back of two or three small block houses. As one of the men tried to tell me there, “This is no high toilet”. In other words, in each stall there is nothing but a hole in the crude cement floor. I won’t talk about the smell. But this is Rwanda, a small African country trying to emerge into the real world of civilization and international acceptance after genocide. But even after this occurs in the larger centers, these village environments will change but little. For most, it is a way of life they have always known. It is a simple life, lived one day at a time, with the most meager of resources. They have survived like this for centuries and they will continue to survive.
Our hope is that despite their primitive life, they can learn that preparation for the Lord’s work is important, even for the most humble villagers on the backside of Rwanda.
Final note: Our small class in Komanyi was cancelled today for reasons beyond our control. Despite our best efforts, there were insurmountable issues which surfaced today. Our hope is that the teaching contributions of these past two days will stay long with these humble folks. I will update our readers later after we have addressed them with our primary host here.
Update: I understand that the Congo class is going strong in its second day, and I trust we will have a report in the next few days about its progress. Keep praying!
Today began our second week in Rwanda in the area known as Kamonyi. I was taken about an hour away from the compound into one of the village areas. First there was paved road, then there was dirt road, and then there was a rocky path full of holes. Out the window I watched children, women with baskets on their heads, men walking to and from (who knows where), goats, brick huts, shantiess, and the most primitive looking areas I had seen since Congo of last year. I could hear the children running from the car yelling, “Mazoongoo, Mazoongoo!” which means "White man is here! “ By the time we arrived in the village my back ached from the jarring and banging from the road conditions, but we arrived in one piece.
Shortly after we entered the small village church I was met by a class of about twenty interested in taking the class in Interpretation. Evidently, the timing was not good for several of them. By the end of the morning we had 2-3 more pastors and a total of about twenty students who will take the first quiz tomorrow. I don’t know how many more we will have tomorrow, but I expect we will be giving quiz one a second time. As in Kigali, it took a day or so for all of the pastors to filter in from all over the region.
I am glad there is a definite interest and I trust there will be some fruit from this effort. These village churches are small and need attention in training adequate leadership just like the larger centers. The fact that we have undertaken an effort here is amazing to these people. Their exposure to the outside world happens very infrequently. Their pastors may be fortunate enough to attend one city-wide seminar or gathering once a year but that would be the limit.
When I got back to the compound today I realized that I had lost my room key here at the house, and I couldn’t access my computer or personal things. Finally, they had a man with a brown bag with various tools come by, and he jimmied the door open in about 5 seconds, and I was back in business. In Africa, everyone just seems to take life as it comes.
I took a little video this morning of the village. I hope you will take a minute to see it when it is up on our Facebook page. The videos are too large to attach to emails. The attached pictures are of the children who had never seen a white man and an interesting look at village life in Africa. Tomorrow and Wednesday I will concentrate on some interviews and hopefully get to know some of these pastors and other church leaders. Keep praying for me here in Kamonyi and the teaching going on in Congo this week. I will pass on that report as soon as I can get one.
Grace has told you of the new plans for next week's classes here in Africa. Akeem left this morning by private car for the Congo class. The class is expected to be a large one, possibly well over a hundred pastors from a hundred mile radius of Bagira!
This morning came too early for our entire group. You could see the weariness upon everyone’s faces. Five days of intense study is difficult, but today is graduation day! In the morning we began with our last quiz, and then we wrapped up the subject with the final lesson and some last hour application of the material.
None of these men have ever had the opportunity to have had formal training in the ministry. Whatever they have learned they have received from their mentoring pastor or family members. In turn, they are so grateful for the teaching. They know that they are privileged to have had the class offered to them without cost. They don’t realize it but it is also our privilege to train them! This is why Global Baptist Training Foundation exists! There are men all over the Third World who through no fault of their own, have no way to be educated for the ministry or the money to pay for it if they did!
At three o’clock this afternoon, we met in the auditorium of Baptist Church to hold the graduation service for 62 pastors from Rwanda and from the nearby provinces in the state of Congo. This is the largest class we have ever held and is now the largest graduation class.
The training of national pastors will continue to become a key aspect of mission work for churches in the west.