Sunday, November 17, 2013

God's amazing world in Myitkyina, Kachin State, Myanmar

A little bit about our Mekong Mission Forum teaching trip to Myitkyina, Kachin State, Myanmar:

Of all the Mekong countries, Myanmar (or Burma) has the highest number of Christians. Much of this is due to the perseverance of a husband and wife American Baptist mission couple, Ann and Adoniram Judson, who established a Christian Mission in Myanmar 200 years ago! The Myanmar Baptist Convention is expecting over 20,000 visitors for the celebrations in Yangon next month. Of course, those old-time  American missionaries just got the ball rolling. Since then there have been generations of faithful indigenous ministers, pastors, Christian parents and grandparents, and yes, Myanma/Burmese/ Kachin missionaries who have attempted to live lives of service, witness and love in extremely difficult conditions, in response to the Gospel.

Wayne and I had the great adventure of visiting the Kachin Theological College, in Kachin State, Myanmar. 

Myitkyina airport
We had the opportunity to teach alongside a fantastically diverse group including Kachin Baptists, Independents, Anglicans, one Presbyterian (Dr. Lal Tin Hre from the ATEM - Association of Theological Education in Myanmar who was the chief organizer of everything), two Lutherans (us!) and even one Roman Catholic priest! We Americans talk about ecumenism, but these folks are living it. When times are hard, when you are a minority ethnic group AND belong to a minority religion, when you realize the Gospel calls us to be counter-cultural, then you unite for continuing education events. Beautiful!

Along with a trip to the site of the Myitsone Dam Project (halted last year due to the outcry among environmentalists and the Kachin people who fear for their lives if the dam should break) and taking a boat ride in the cold and fast moving river
we also had the opportunity to visit the beautiful "Prayer Mountain, overlooking the exotic Kachin State landscape. Many people come up to pray for this land and its people who have been embroiled in war for years with the Burmese military (whose fighter jets we saw flying overhead, in what seemed a menacing show of power over the Kachin people).
Prayer Mountain

We were able to briefly visit an IDP camp (Internally Displaced Persons) filled with children. The children at the camp just shouted with joy as (together with the Kachin Baptist Church members) we shared the Gospel with them through a simple children's song. I imagine the sound of the angels are no sweeter to God! 

We also heard about a nearby camp where there are three toilets for 500 people, (a young Swedish guy working for UNICEF told us this... and thankfully it appears that together with the local people UNICEF is working to help this nearly unbelievable situation). Don't take your toilets for granted, people!

We then heard from one of the  Kachin ladies about her mission trip of encouragement and medical help in yet another camp, nearer to the Chinese border,  where people have to learn how to function without arms and legs, which have been amputated because of landmine casualties and lack of medical facilities. 

As we begin to head into the Advent/Christmas season, (decorations are up all over Hong Kong when we arrived back last night) I am newly aware, again, of the real Gospel of Advent/Christmas -- that into this hurting and dangerous world, God sent his son, fully human, a vulnerable baby, born to a poor family, in a land occupied by the Romans, where babies could be slaughtered upon the whims of a ruler.
What love is this that God gives to us, and which we are called to share in practical ways? 
Theologian, lecturer, at KTC (Kachin Theological College) wife, mother, daughter of God: Saw Nam.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Doing theology under the young mango tree

leaving Bangkok
I always feel how amazing life is when I take this flight -- Hong Kong to Bangkok to Yangon.

The lights leaving Bangkok are much brighter than the lights upon arrival in Yangon, but the Yangon airport is looking much, much spiffier than when I first started flying there just two years ago.

Most of today was spent greeting Lutheran Theological Seminary (LTS) Hong Kong alumni now teaching at Karen Baptist Theological Seminary:

Theology under the young mango tree

Theology in the clothing  shop
Karen culture textiles

Karen culture handwoven clothes
Heading out for lunch

The daughter of Dr. Christopher... who waited three long years for her Daddy
to return from his Hong Kong studies.

It's an incredible gift to be here again and to see the thriving LTS alumni. Tomorrow we fly to Kachin State... a place we've never been to before.  We are flying on either Asian Wings Airways (the name on the envelope with our tickets)... or Air KBZ (the crossed out name on the ticket)  or Air Bagan... the name handwritten on the confirmation printout.

Wayne will be teaching a seminar on healthy families and I'll be his healthy assistant :) Actually, I'm going to be doing a unit on church-based sex education, based on the Master's degree thesis from another Myanmar LTS alumnus. Please please say a prayer for us! May we listen, and learn, and perhaps be of some use in our teaching.

"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, 
as good stewards of God's varied grace:" 

[1 Peter 4:10]