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Today winds up our final day in Myanmar. I preached the morning service at Independent Baptist Church just outside of the city. Pete and Marta also participated with Marta teaching Sunday School and Pete maintaining the camera and offering the morning prayer for the church and its continuing ministry.
Pastor Siama took us out to the goat farm yesterday and showed us the government farmland he was able to purchase via a US church donation. This five-acre plot is rough hewn and still very early in its development. Because of the price of bringing in heavy machinery to level and plow, all the work has to be done by hand. By ten-o’clock yesterday morning we estimated the temperature to be somewhere between ninety-five and and one-hundred degrees Fahrenheit. With whatever the relative humidity was (we never found out), it was like being a cookie in a hot oven. By the time we looked at the land with pastor Siama, and walked back to the truck, we were totally zapped of energy.
We then got some lunch and then went down to the market in downtown Yangon to do some souvenir shopping. You can’t imagine what this place is like. The market is best described as a bazaar where stalls of merchandise are stacked so close you sometimes don’t know where one ends and another begins. From rolled cloth for dresses and other clothes to hand-carved animals, tools, jewelry, and utensils, it seems like an endless array of stuff that just boggles the mind. And then once they see you are white and very possibly American or European, the sell is on! Most of the time we were able to negotiate good prices and like the Proverbial writer said, “Bad, bad says the buyer, but when he goes away he boasts!" We all had a good time buying trinkets for our families and some friends and by the time we got back to the hotel we were so tired we were almost delirious.
Tomorrow we will finish packing, do some office work in the lobby of the hotel, and finally after some dinner tomorrow night, Siama will pick us up here at the hotel and drop us off at the Airport to come home. It has been a long trip for me. I am very tired but very satisfied with what God has allowed us to accomplish here. We graduated nearly ninety persons from the classes and there have been some very promising students among them which gives us hope that the training will continue after we are gone. May God raise up strong national pastors and leaders who will commit themselves to changing Myanmar from the inside out by bringing them the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We are nearly finished with our third week of teaching in Myanmar, and I must admit I am wearying in the journey. We labored hard today teaching the last section of the doctrine of salvation, and I hope the pictures and videos are helpful. I am forever reminded here of the value of communication. When things are spoken clearly, people understand. If the idea from either the teacher or translator is muddled, the result is not profitable. So much depends on accurate communication! This is true in life in general but it is magnified a thousand times in teaching situations like this. We are thankful that God has continually, in each country where GBTF offers theological education, provided excellent translators. Pastor Siama, shown in pictures here, is an exceptional translator.
Our class has been small this week, but, regardless of the number being taught, the effort must be the same. There is no way of knowing whether or not you might be teaching another “Timothy” or another “Titus.” God can take just one of these church leaders or pastors and use them beyond what we may think possible. This is why God has simply commanded us that “It is required of a man to be found faithful.” On occasions, that may be what makes the difference. A shoe salesman by the name of Kimball was faithful to witness to his shoe salesman employee by the name of Dwight Moody. The world was changed by this “English butchering” New Englander in the nineteenth century.
Tomorrow we will have our smallest graduation class here in Yangon at Independent Baptist Church, but our prayer for these men remains the same. We are asking God to duplicate our efforts through these men by training others with the written, translated material in their native tongue. That will translate into “additions through multiplication." May God bless our human efforts with divine results for the sake of Myanmar, Adoniram Judson’s land.
Pete has sent some pictures of the children that Pastor Siama and his wife, Nutae, have adopted. We have told you, in previous years, that they cannot open an orphanage due to government regulations. So, they must personally adopt these children and raise them as their own - feed them, clothe them, educate them, everything. Not only do most of these children come to know the Lord, but their lives are literally saved as well!
In every country where GBTF ministers, there are orphans. The churches are all trying to provide places for these children to be raised with love and teaching about the Heavenly Father who promised to be a Father to the fatherless.
Here are some of the pictures and insights from Pete:
These bags of rice the girls are sitting on really is the main stay of all their food supply.
This little boy is passing over the concrete bridge between the house and the other part of the property where the animals are. The area below this has run off from the septic system. The children know where to go and not to go. They are very intelligent. In the background the dog and the goats happily eat old rice together.
Marta and this girl both have ducklings to cuddle. They are being stored in the wooden baptistry at the moment. Maintaining a small supply of livestock allows for more that just rice in the diet. Expanding the goat population will be a boom to the home.
We had a nice rainstorm last night, so “dry season” is only a relative term. Thus, when we went on our morning walk, it was still humid and felt like walking in pea soup. As the day wore on it was actually cooler and drier than yesterday J
Class started a bit later than yesterday, with the same number as yesterday, just a different arrangement. We covered Ruth, Orpah and Hannah, and the students again had some very good insights. Just before lunch, I lost my most talkative student after her son came into the room whimpering. It turned out that he had a rather serious cut that required stitches. It was beyond the capability of the local clinic to handle, so she took him to the hospital, and hopefully both will return tomorrow.
The ladies requested NOT to combine with the men in the afternoon, and since both interpreters were available, we stayed separate. Since there were very few ladies left, one of which was absent yesterday, we just did a review of the women we discussed yesterday. Before lunch I tried an experiment and had them read through Hannah’s prayer of praise in 1 Samuel 2 to see if they could do a short inductive study. It went reasonably well, but they are not overly talkative.
Pete and Siama went to a copy shop yesterday to make booklets of the week’s materials in the Myanmar script. However, when the completed copies were reviewed, it turned out that the first year’s materials were copied instead! Ahhh, to be able to read Burmese. So, the correct materials were found, and we dropped them off at a different copy shop on our way to the hotel. This was a small open-air storefront. As I peeked inside, I could see the family’s living room…with a well-used copier right in the middle…a new standard in interior decorating!
Here are pictures from class on Wednesday. Marta and Zoa are teaching in this building that is being constructed on the property. It will become a computer café and learning center in the future. This will allow Siama to reach out to the young people in the area. He does have vision on how to reach people in his neighborhood.
Bruce and Siama are teaching away with the men. It is a lot of material but the men are diligently listening and asking insightful questions.
This is Joseph Stephen. He was raised in a Christian home and is a missionary to his people. Currently he is working as Siama’s assistant at the home. He renamed himself with the American name Joseph Stephen at about the age of 13 because of the character of these men in the bible. A great testimony!
I am in your debt for being able to write this blog from Yangon, the place our journey started three weeks ago. Yesterday, despite the smoke from the burning fields surrounding Kalemyo, we took off in our turbo-prop airplane destined for Yangon three hours later. We landed just a few hours late, and, as a result, I was able to resume teaching today at Independent Baptist Church of Yangon. We have a small class this year in this teaching site. Many pastors have been taken away with various issues, but most of them relate to ministry conflict. We are saddened but not overly concerned at this point. The host and I are talking about next year or even the next half year for the coming class. Because of other invitations to reach into the Chin districts next year, we will have to consider two yearly trips at two different times.
It was great to renew fellowship with our friends Pete and Marta. Marta has taken over Grace's duties this year and Pete filled in for me yesterday and did a great job teaching GBTF material on the security of the believer. Pete kept us on track for the week and I was able to cover a lot of material today with the men. We even had the women this afternoon which definitely livened up the room!
Myanmar is slowly changing. It is imperceptible to people here because the change is happening at a snail's pace. Forthose of us who come once a year, the change is slightly more evident. But the corruption which has ruled the country for so long remains intact and in control of the populace. We pray that the openness continues unabated, but no one knows the future but the Lord. Keep praying for us as we attempt to empower as many nationals here as we possibly can while we have opportunity.
Tomorrow, after the teaching ends in the afternoon, we will go see Pastor Siama's goat operation which he has begun to help finance his continued ministry to orphans and outreach to the church's greater neighborhood.
Thanks so much for praying and giving so we may keep going.
Kalemyo March 22, 2015
About ten-o’clock this morning Pastor David picked me up at the hotel to preach at his church. The church finally filled up around 10:35, and we began. There were several songs and a short teaching message from one of his men (my student) which I would have loved to hear in English, but I had to simply sit and listen to it in one of the Chin dialects. He seemed to be a very good teacher, and I loved the clear way in which he enunciated every one of his words. He spoke about fifteen minutes and then sat down. He was followed by a young lady who sang a beautiful song in their tongue, which was in turn followed by the morning offering. The entire offering was then placed on the front table, and a blessing was asked over it by one of the elders. It was a very solemn element of the entire service to that point.
At about eleven-thirty I was introduced, and I began my message from Acts 26. This is Paul’s formal testimony before the court of King Agrippa. It serves as a great pattern for how to give a personal testimony. At the close of the service about ten to twelve individuals committed themselves to giving their testimony to at least one person whom God would bring to them in the coming year.
It will be great to return next year to see how they been used of God to witness among their family, friends, and co-workers. It has been a great week here in Kalemyo.
I noticed this week that my small hotel had other western people doing some kind of ministry or charity work here. Many of the cults are sending people into this country. The door continues to open in Myanmar to the influence of the west. Time will tell if the door remains open or the fledgling democracy begins to turn the other way. I kind of think that the new openness is here to stay, but strange things can happen in places like Myanmar.
Tomorrow I fly to Yangon for my last week with Siama, the son of Pastor David. Pray that Pete and Marta will have a great first day and that my plane will be able to fly out of Kalemyo. The fire smoke from the burning fields in the north have prohibited a lot of plane travel lately. I am praying that I can get out in the morning. The alternative is a twelve hour bus ride over washed out roads.