Archives For Myanmar
The last day in MM started with our pickup to the airport at 6:00 AM by Joseph. With hearts still heavy from saying goodbye the night before, we were overjoyed to see many children join us for our trip to the airport. I was so happy to see David and Joel again.
With about 25 people and 20 bags crammed into the two vans, we made our way to the airport. David held my hand tightly and Joel wrapped his arm around me the entire trip. The same precious minutes ticked away for other team members.
When we arrived, we said goodbye quickly—much of our hearts were already shared. Ending our time in MM this way was much better than leaving it the way from the night before. We were all thankful for a few more moments with our precious ones.
We made it through check-in and customs with no problem. I come home with 75 or 100 nice polo shirts from the seminary. They have the International Calvary Theological Seminary logo on them and wording on the back. I’m selling them as a fundraiser and all proceeds go to the seminary. They come in white, khaki, and blue. Suggested donation is $25 in person or $30 to ship. Contact me for your orders. I’ll put a picture and order info on csheinz.com soon.
As the plane took off in MM, the sun was already shining on the land. Trees sparkled in the sunlight. Clouds streaked the blue sky. I gave thanks for the days we had in MM, and for the New Day in MM. It’s coming, I tell you, it’s coming and it’ll be far better than anyone imagined.
I thought of the childrens’ faces, of the joy and worship we shared, and the grief and sadness we shared. I thought of the seminary students, their futures shining glory brighter than the sun. I thought of the staff, and how they have given their lives to build God’s Kingdom one person at a time. And I wondered when I’d be back, when any of us would be back.
There will never be a trip like this again. For though some of us will return, all of us might not return. But in the off chance we all return, we will be at different points in our stories. We will know more, have experienced more, have lost more, have gained more. We will be different.
There is no time like now, which is reason enough to give thanks for it. Tomorrow will bring another page, and eventually another chapter, until the story is finished. I’m so glad I had this experience with the people I did. Cheers to Oakes and Betsy and Caleb and Lois and Barry and Ginger and John and Suzanne.
Yes, this trip cost us. It cost money and time and effort. I missed my nephew Elliott being born. I missed my sister-in-law getting married and my daughter Asia being a flower girl, and I missed her first art fair and seeing her drawing of Mt. Fuji displayed with her name on it. I missed my boy Rex being all dressed up for the wedding and posing for a picture with my son.
And beyond those events, I missed the every day, the little things that don’t seem like much, like praying for them in the morning and walking through the door after work, and kissing them in bed at night, and closing out the day with a prayer. I missed our dinners around the table and laughter and bath time and playing, their eyes looking right at me, their smiles that I’m there.
And I missed Colette, her warm embrace and smart, comfortable smile that brings me more joy than I am worthy of. I missed her strong confidence, her belief that I am more than I think I am. I missed her laugh and her charm, the smooth lines of her face and her figure. I missed her valiant protection of time with God, how she gets into the Word because she thirsts without it. I missed so many things about my family that I can’t get back.
We all did. We all gave things up with the ones we love, and we can never get them back.
But it was worth it. And I’d do it again. I think we all would. That’s what I told the students and staff on our closing night. I told them how much I loved my family and the ways it cost me to be in MM. But for the sake of God’s call, it was worth it. To be with them then was worth it.
We flew into Bangkok from MM. We recovered a suitcase we left in Bangkok. We took a taxi to the hotel. My dad gave us his reward points at a Marriott Courtyard in downtown, so we checked in there for the night. We ate lunch and hung out, and then met for our last team dinner. We ate at a small, local restaurant, and took turns sharing what God did in us on the trip, and how the experience changed us.
No one had the same story.
For the team,
We left the hotel at about 8:00 and arrived at MAO with many other people. It was the seminary graduation ceremony, where four graduates and two ministry leaders were being recognized. The people packed out the chapel. After a few pictures with the graduates and faculty it was time to line up for the procession.
Barry, Suzanne, and I were in the line of faculty. The music started, so we started the procession, down the center aisle and up on the stage. Barry went to the right and I went to the left as we rehearsed. I felt the deep honor of being part of this ceremony, celebrating the graduation of these precious young men: Aaron, Nehemiah, John, and Hosea.
The service started with a welcome and a reading of the history. Then Suzanne prayed for the seminary. I won’t list out every part of the service, but it was deeply meaningful. There were to solos, which were lovely and gave praise to God. Oakes got to hand out awards to best students in four categories: academics, spiritual life, hardest worker, and leadership.
Mary, who was with another group, but is from State College, has invested so much into MM. She has relationships with so many children they call her Mama Mary. She came to the service and handed out awards, too. Very precious. Barry prayed for the graduates and commissioned them. I got the honor of delivering the message to the graduates, which I am so humbled to have been asked to do.
I called them to be the salt of the earth, per the words of J——s (love that guy). In J——‘s day, salt had four purposes: as a seasoning, a preservative, an offering, and an export. I called for them to be salt by doing these things. I think they were encouraged and challenged.
Joseph also took time to honor the new visiting professors: me, Barry, and Suzanne, and gave us a nice framed order of our appointment. Again, humbled to be here. There were other parts of the service, and when it was over, we walked out and formed a receiving line and then greeted every person. After that was done, it was picture time in the chapel. Keep in mind we were wearing traditional Chin sports coats and ties, and my handkerchief was soaked about ten minutes into the service.
But if they want pictures, we give them pictures. After oh, an hour more, it was time for lunch. We changed and ate a delicious meal. Someone who came in for the service had just roasted a pig, so we ate some of it. It was very good. After lunch it was play time. I walked around with some kids. The kids are physical, so they hug you and wrap their arms around you, and some hold your hand. Not just girls. Boys too.
We ended up at the seminary, where one of the professors, Bawi, offered us a desert. I was thinking maybe apple pie or whoopee pie (ok not really) but instead he offered a refresher. It is a slice of lemon dipped in salt and chili powder. They call it a refresher because that’s what it does – it really wakes you up. After the first one I thought my throat was going to explode but when it didn’t I decided to have another one. My eyes filled with tears at the burning heat, but hey, I’ve had two, so why not three? After my third I knew I was done when my stomach started smoking inside.
After being refreshed, I heard commotion at the fish pond, and wouldn’t you know it, it was time to catch fish. There is a wedding the next day at the chapel, a whole community celebration, so they are preparing much food for the feast. The fish are caught by dragging a net across the pond and catching the fish in the net. A group of boys waded through the pond, dragging it to the other side. Suddenly there was much flapping and flipping of the fins.
The boys pulled the net to the shore, then on shore, and the boys beat the fish with sticks and then threw the fish into big metal bowls. It was so fun to watch. They were having so much fun. They brought the fish to the outdoor kitchen and scaled them and cleaned them. I noticed a big boiling pot of water and I asked what it was for. They said for slaughtering the pig.
I noticed a big fat pig laying beneath a tree. I asked for clarification. They confirmed it. They were going to kill the pig when the water began to boil. So I ran and got Oakes and we ran back together. They brought out a hammer to knock its head and asked if I wanted to do it. I politely declined. But Oakes was all in. He pulled the hammer back and swung it against the pig’s head.
The pig squeeled and tried to get away. That didn’t do it. So then Noah, the same guy who makes bricks and runs an orphanage, delivered the winning blow right square in the right spot. The pig went limp. We carried it over to a concrete area (when I say we, I mean yes, I helped with this part) where they poured the boiling water on the pig.
Then I’m so proud to say that Timothy one of the seminary students we sponsor, skinned the pig. The water makes it much easier; the hair came off much quicker. Then they began cutting it, but being careful to ruin the blood because they use it for food, too. They pulled out organs and placed them in a bowl. I held the pig’s heart in my hand, still warm. At customs, they ask if you’ve been around livestock. I guess this qualifies.
Malachi, another boy we sponsor, stood with us. I felt blessed to be sharing in this primal experience with the two guys we sponsor. By this time, there were no women around. It was a good time of community as each person did his part. I thought of what other guys might do together – watch a football game or something like that. But this was way cool.
After the desirable organs were removed, they began cutting the pig apart. I saw bacon, ready to be fried. It made me miss Colette, who loves bacon. Remember the time I said that cutting up a pig reminded me of my wife?
They threw the parts on the grill for a few minutes and then it was time for roasting them. I went around the corner and what did I see? Kids plucking feathers off chickens. Of course there are kids plucking feathers off chickens. They already beat the fish with sticks and slaughtered the pig, why shouldn’t they pluck the chickens.
Then I saw a kid kicking a soccer ball, but it wasn’t a soccer ball, it was the bladder of the pig blown up like a soccer ball. It worked great.
What struck me about this day was how so many people came together and did their part for the community. It was so cool how the community was worth everyone’s time. Granted not everyone helped in these tasks, some did crafts with our team and played cane ball and hung out, but many were involved in preparing the big feast. Like family would do.
Next Joseph wanted to meet with me, so we met for a while about future ministry stuff and let me just say I’m excited for a new level of ministry. I won’t say too much right now, but I will say new level, new authority, new anointing. Stay tuned.
We ate dinner and then it was time for the evening program. We entered the chapel, where all the kids from MAO and Blessing and perhaps other orphanages were there, singing worship songs and praising God. One of my very favorite parts of visiting MM is worshiping and praying with the kids. They really know how to press into the LORD.
I have to say, this trip has been so much more than serving. It has been personally reviving to everyone on this team, which is nothing that any of us expected. It’s hard to describe if you don’t experience it yourself, but faith is stirred up and passion for God invigorated and love for God’s family is strengthened and prayer is deepened.
I’ve had some great conversations with our team members about how much they have been touched by this experience. When we get to Bangkok and have a day to rest, we’ll debrief and hear more, but this trip has been so much more than a mission trip to serve. It has been a revival trip.
I believe a great revival is coming to MM, birthed by desperation, whose hallmark is prayer, worship, service, evangelism, and equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. Suddenly the poor won’t seem poor anymore; they’ll seem rich, and the rich will realize how poor they are. Blessed are the poor in spirit will become a reality that drives people to G—. I tell you I see it coming. As things are improving there in the natural realm, there will be a firming up in the spiritual. And more workers will be released in the harvest field in MM.
After some songs and performances on stage, our team was asked up. Actually, at first it was only Caleb. “Caleb, please Caleb, will you sing us a song?” is what was asked. He stood there by himself for a few minutes trying to think of something to sing. I wished he pulled out Napoleon Dynamite’s dance, but I suppose we were inadequately prepared for such a moment, which I suppose falls on the team leader. But Oakes saved him but jumping up and bringing John and soon all of our team was onstage except for Barry and me. We both had video cameras, which saved us from having to do it. So mental note, always carry a video camera should you get called onstage to sing.
But actually it was quite beautiful. Our team led the song “Our God” and the worship atmosphere was awesome. When it was over, they requested a second song, so Lois and Caleb led the Doxology. Great moment. Then we did my favorite kids worship song together.
Then they invited us back onstage to dance, but this time all of us danced. I tried some electric slide moves, but turns out I ended up doing the fake hustle, which is an imposter to the real hustle, which is not the electric slide at all. But no worries because Betsy led the whole thing like it was her job and calling.
If you ever need a dancing queen to reign at your party, look no further. She improvised dance moves like she was Richard Simmons. The kids and staff followed along, trying so hard to keep up. It was so much fun.
Then we slowed down and Ruth invited kids to the front if they wanted to say things to us. This was very sweet. They tried hard to speak all in English and every kid did. Then we were invited up on stage to say words, too. Timothy went up to the microphone. After that, kids gathered around each one of us and prayed for us. What a powerful time. They prayed all at once out loud, so you catch certain words or certain phrases, but not every word because the chorus of prayer is going out and up, and hovering around.
Then it was time to say goodbye. Oh, so difficult. Kids were crying all over the place. They were hugging us and holding our hands and burying their heads in us. Last year it was not like this when we left. But this year, something happened in the hearts of these kids and in us, we really became like family. It really took a long time leave, I gave great big hugs to Malachi and Timothy, and to David, my newest buddy, and to Joel. These are the guys who I really connected with.
I gave my sweaty Nike wristbands to David and Joel, and you know it’s love when they actually want them. I gave my Burmese bracelet to Malachi and to Timothy I gave no present. Instead, he have a present to me – a gift for Asia and one for Rex. I have no idea how he afforded them. And he wrote a long and beautiful letter to my family, starting with:
“It is unspeakable to express my words of thanks to you for you have known me as a member of your family. I am so very thankful that you are my family in Christ…your prayers make me strong all the time.”
I decided not to give Timothy a present, but instead to simply receive. It is common for us who have more material wealth to pity those who have less. But from Timothy and others I have learned that to have less is sometimes to have more if you are rich in spirit. And our friends in MM are, kings of the world.
For the team,
We were picked up at 7:30 and instead of going to MAO, we first went to Canaan mission field. We were greeted by about 20 children and adults. A former Buddhist monk became a Christian and then with Joseph established Canaan mission field as an outreach. There is already a preschool, but the vision is for it to become a ministry center with a chapel, buildings for teaching classes like English, math, etc.
The holdup is money, which is the case for most of their projects. The director of Canaan was sent to establish another mission field in Shan State, so now a young man, also former Buddhist monk and son of the a man you’ll meet next, is now in charge.
We got to hand out two handmade quilts here. A group of women sewed quilts to give out, and although we only had like 15, they’ll continue making them for whenever there’s a trip to MM. Joseph chose the two people to give them to, and we presented them and blessed them. At Canaan they went to a little baby boy and a man in his twenties (forget his name) that we met last time. My friend Dan B became friends with him and I think on account of that relationship, he received the quilt. It is a reminder that there are people praying for them and G—covers them with his love.
They were so excited by the blankets. We explained that the ladies who made these are praying for them and want them to know how much G—loves them. For people who have so few personal possessions, a blanket makes a huge difference.
Oh, and Lois dropped her sunglasses in the potty, but decided not to fish them out.
Next we went to Macedonia mission field, which is also led by a former Buddhist monk. His son is the one who leads Canaan now. His entire family was either monk or Buddhist nun, but all decided to follow J——s at a Bible conference led by Joseph and Dan Nold a few years ago. Now they are serving the Buddhist people and discipling them. It’s the same setup as Canaan—preschool with the hopes of becoming a ministry center, all they need is money for more land and buildings.
We passed out two more blankets and also prayed for the two men – father in charge of Macedonia and son in charge of Canaan. It was awesome to see this precious family ministering together and again I was reminded that the only thing holding them back is not lack of vision or workers, but the money to move ahead.
Next we went to Mary Home, which is an orphanage that houses eight children. Philemon graduated from the seminary last year and was then put in charge of the orphanage. He is an awesome guy, 22 years old, and is now raising up these children. He does have some help, an older couple who do not have children of their own. They have a cow who just gave birth to a baby cow the day before. It was cute.
This property is an ideal location for a ministry center because it is along a very good road that leads to downtown Yangon in just 30 minutes. Joseph would like to build a Bible training school and also an English school. He said English is a strong desire of so many people and if they can teach it, many will come. It’s a very practical and valuable way to serve the community.
Next we went to Calvary Children’s Home, which is run by Ruth and Noah. Ruth is Joseph’s youngest daughter and has been our main interpreter. There are 31 children and 6 staff members. After a delightful lunch, we went to their chapel room, where Ruth introduced each child and told us their background, why they came to Calvary. So many precious children.
We played for a bit next. Caleb and John played cane ball or seepak takraw it’s also called, which is volleyball with your feet. Then they played regular volleyball. Noah showed Oakes and me the bricks he made, which are for building the girl’s bathroom. When they direct the orphanages, there are many things they need to know how to do.
We left and returned to MAO because it was time for seminary graduation rehearsal. It is a very big deal to graduate from seminary and four of the students are graduating and two ministry leaders are being honored for their work. We rehearsed walking in, getting up for our portion, and walking out.
We passed out five blankets to children. One of the recipients was Abraham, one of the cutest kids in MM and the youngest at MAO. He was brought to MAO after Cyclone Nargis. I’ve connected with him and earlier when he saw me, he threw up his hands for me to hold him. I picked him up and he cradled his bald head into my neck. I thought of Elliott.
I have been reminded so many times of my kids Asia and Rex. They would love playing with all the kids here. We have twice been at an orphanage with Asia in the Philippines and she had a blast, especially with the boys. They would call her Asia from Malaysia because one of our connecting flights was through Malaysia. I think Rex would enjoy himself, too.
Then it was time to leave again, this time for another orphanage, Love Children’s Home. This is run by Peter, who is Joseph’s eldest son. There are many looms there, and they make wool for blankets and other goods, which they use and sell at a store. The store is a popular stop for really nice items like blankets, scarves, wallets, and jewelry. After taking a tour of the grounds and shopping at the store, we left for dinner.
We had a great pizza dinner and like usual, we ordered too many pizzas, but no problem because Joseph took them back for the kids at MAO. Whenever have leftovers, he has taken it back to the kids, which makes you want to always order too much food.
We met for a team meeting, one of our last, and planned which song we will sing on the closing night. We will stay at MAO later than usual on the last day. There will be a celebration service with singing and dancing, and when it was suggested I be the one with the microphone leading the song, I quickly stamped out that idea. We want them to still like us.
We give thanks to G—for letting us come here. Each one of us has been changed drastically by this experience and it will be cool to see what future paths it will lead us down. Already we have received word from people that they’d like to go on next trip, so the change continues.
For the team,
Instead of eating breakfast at the hotel, we ate at the breakfast place next door, called Lucky Seven. It was fun to eat Burmese bfast food instead of the eggs and toast which is the only bfast the hotel serves. No offense to eggs and toast – it is eggceptional – but having a break in this meal was good.
I got to sit with Joseph. He said one of the top lawywers for the country was at Lucky Seven, too. He said he knows Joseph and asked for Joseph’s help in re-shaping the Constitution to provide more
protection and benefits for orphans. I remember Joseph asking for prayer about this last year. Well, now due to the favor on Joseph’s life and his care for orphans, G—is giving him a platform to advise national policy. Hallelujah!
I also heard the story of his daughter Mary. A few years ago, Mary was diagnosed with cancer. Joseph was very troubled about this, so J—-s again appeared to him in a vision. He said to Joseph, “I healed you from cancer. Now I give you to power to heal.” So Joseph prayed, fasted, and lay his hands on his daughter, and her cancer was healed! Straight out of the book of Acts. G-d’s not dead, he’s very much alive, roaring like a lion.
After breakfast, we went to the market and bought some Burmese cultural items and gifts for people back home. One of the highlights of my purchases was a stone and piece of wood to make thanaka. Thanaka is rubbed on the face of women and children as a cosmetic and as sunscreen. To make the lotion, wet the stone and rub the wood against the stone. A yellow residue remains on the stone, scrape with yer finger and rub lotion on face. Repeat if necessary. This has been “How to Make Thanaka with Chris Heinz”.
Next we drove to MAO, but first we bought a box of apples and bags of oranges to give out at MAO. When we asked kids what their favorite food was, many said apple. So this would be a welcome treat for them.
We drove up to many kids greeting us. After eating lunch, it was time for kids lesson and singing, and the First Annual Agape Olympics. Who knows if there will ever be another one, and I don’t think we even called it that to them, but oh well. Suzanne, Caleb, and Ginger led them in singing and Bible teaching in the chapel while the rest of us set up for the Olympics. The NBC crew got lost, so they didn’t show up, which is fine because I hear Bob Costas is a mean man.
They put the kids in four groups and sent them to us. Thank the Lord for that. 100 kids running at us would have been something. So they lined up and it was time for the first game – a relay race with
involved spinning around a piece of bamboo. Place the bamboo straight up on the ground, the tip on yer forehead. Spin six times fast and then run to the three tires, run through them to the end, then run back and tag yer teammate. The chaos ensues until yer whole team is done. We said go and proceeded to laugh the whole time as dizzy kids fell down and tripped over the tires. I know it sounds mean to laugh, but before you judge us and unsubscribe from the updates, consider the fact the kids were laughing more than we were, and Mary, the director of MAO was laughing the most.
After that game, the winning team got a prize of candy. The next game was a wheelbarrow relay race, but I missed most of it because I was seeking medical attention. After the kids played the dizzy wizzy race, Agape Olympics rules call for the referrees to have a chance. so six of us tried it. Let me tell you, we all wiped out and it was hilarious. But it turns out I rammed the bamboo into my forehead. You’re supposed to cover the end with your hand and so only hand touches yer forehead, but in my zeal, I stuck the bamboo into my forehead. So by the end of the race, blood was streaming down my face mixed with sweat and dirt (and a little bit of Olympic glory). This was after no less than five falls, the last admittedly on purpose because I needed a big finish. So I was sent to the first aid kit and was given excellent medical care. Only the best for the Olympic athletes.
After wheel barrow race, it was a zig zag obstacle course. Then our final event was steal the bacon, which Oakes thought was called steal the baby, but instead of using bacon or a baby, we used a water bottle in the middle of a tire, in the middle of the field. Each time lined up on a different side, and the bacon/baby/bottle was in the middle. Each kid got a different number, 1 – 21, and if yer number is called, you run to get the bottle.
I was designated as the caller and though I wanted to get a pen and paper to remember which of the 21 numbers I had already called out, Lois and Oakes thought I would do fine without paper. (great idea, make the guy with the bleeding head remember 21 numbers in blazing 100 degree heat. But apparently that is allowed in the rule books).
So first the referrees demonstrated. I called out the number and Caleb and Oakes ran toward the bottle. Oakes got to it first, but Caleb rammed him like it was football. Oakes held on to it and Caleb
persisted. But Oakes got away. We didn’t really expect to have tackle, but maybe it wouldn’t go that way when the game started. Wrong. The first number was four boys and if you came in late, you’d think it was a rugby match. They wrestled with eachother like professional players, tackling in the dust. We called it off quickly and said no tackling. It was hilarious.
So the First Annual Agape Olympics was a great success and even though we might never do them again, it was a fantastic way to spend time together.
After that, we sent the kids to wash their hands, and we ran to the chapel to slice apples to give out. They lined up and received apples and oranges. They were so thankful for them. I can’t remember the last time I was grateful for a piece of fruit. It was probably for a strawberry daiquiri. But they were very happy about the fruit. A small purchase on the way to MAO made great joy for the children.
Next it was time to leave. We dined with the cooks and servers who have been serving us lunch every day. It was a fun time to bless them with a meal they don’t usually get. We returned to the hotel and had a team meeting.
We laughed so hard about the Olympics that in the middle of the prayer, there was complete silence because of deep down belly laughs, the kind of hysterical laughing that your eyes water and your chest heaves. It was very good and I’m sure G—enjoyed it as much as we did.
I went to bed not only with gratitude but with expectation that when I wake up the next morning, I would have a nephew. And guess what? I now do! Elliott Matthew Heinz was born on 2/23/12. Praise G—from whom all blessings flow!
For the team,
Great day. Oakes woke up with a bad headache, so I prayed for the power of J—-s to take it away. After ten seconds, the headache was gone. He said he felt like two hands were clamping down on him. But J—-s gave us the authority to pray for such things. It was an obvious and clear answer to prayer to start the day.
We were picked up at 7:30 and drove to MAO. On the ride, Oakes shared what happened, which created faith for us to pray for other people who weren’t feeling well.
The morning schedule was the same as the day before. I taught on praying the Bible. The people are so hungry to learn and it makes it very easy to teach. I haven’t often felt the same reception or hunger or whatever you want to call it. It’s as if the teaching is life and death to them and they so very want to grow. Psalm 66.19 was the focus verse for my two days of teaching: “Surely G—has listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to G—, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!”
Then it was lunch time. They have been feeding us so well here. During lunch, Joseph showed us a video of Cyclone Nargis, which devastated MM a few years ago. After storm, Joseph was a safe refuge for many people. Some of the children at MAO are there because their parents were killed in the cyclone. Joseph and his ministry was a safe refuge after the storm, offering not only a new family to orphans, but food and shelter to Buddhist monks in the area. He told them he wouldn’t preach to them, but only offer to meet their physical needs. And in the end, they were moved by the love of J——s and decided to follow him.
The afternoon brought games and crafts led by Suzanne, Caleb, Betsy, and Ginger. They brought supplies with them and were prepared to lead 100 kids in fun-ness. It was cool to see teenagers having so much fun with younger kids, and not being concerned about how they appear or doing silly little dances. They really are a family here.
During the games, Barry taught his last session. Unfortunately, I missed most of it, but enjoyed what I heard. After Barry’s session, Joseph publicly thanked Barry, Suzanne, and I for ministering in MM. They were many ministry leaders there, and so it was an honor to be recognized for our presence and impact. Joseph also invited me to become a visiting professor for the ministry, which is a great honor. He would issue a certificate signifying me as a visiting professor, which would simplify getting a visa from the government for future visits.
This was way cool because the day before, I had been thinking about future ministry in MM, and how this teaching time was not nearly enough time, and how to make future impact for the country. I was asking G—how to do this, and the words, “visiting professor” dropped into my spirit.
After the conference, Suzanne and I worked on more info gathering for seminary students. It has been awesome spending some one-on-one time with each student to understand why they’re at the seminary, what their life was life before, and so forth. I am so inspired by their stories and the vibrant faith they have developed. There are challenges in their background and challenges now, but their relationship with G—is getting them through, and not just getting them through, but leading them with strength and power. I wish I had more time with them.
We drove for dinner in two vehicles. This time we would eat with Joseph’s entire family at a nicer restaurant. What a privilege to gather with Joseph and his wife’s four grown children, spouses, and grandchildren. The van I was in had some rice to drop off at two orphanages which were not part of Joseph’s ministry, but he is trying to help them. Let me tell you, after seeing these two orphanages, MAO looks like the Ritz Carlton. The buildings seemed like they were barely standing. The sleeping area is just a hard wood floor with very thin mats on it. Joseph said when he first came here, there were no mats and no blankets, and they were very cold.
He went to the market and bought mats and blankets on credit, then delivered them. I wonder how long it was that they were sleeping with nothing until Joseph showed up. Visiting these places made me wonder how many orphanages are in MM like this. It was a difficult experience seeing these, but I’m glad we visited them. Joseph’s heart for the children in his country is so very great.
We went to the hotel to quickly change, then went to the Golden Duck Restaurant in downtown Yangon. We had a very big and enjoyable family style Chinese meal with the turn tables. Then we returned to the hotel for a team meeting for some laughs and reflection. These team meetings are becoming a highlight for me, although it would be easier to just go to bed. But we’re putting a demand on ourselves for reflection, and it’s very good. We’re seeing things from other perspectives and it’s good.
I also have to say I have been positively challenged by their passion for prayer. Prayer is like their food and drink, their breath and air. They have devoted themselves to a lifestyle of prayer, and I think the reason their impact and ministry is so powerful is because they are founded on prayer. They gather for corporate prayer often and press into the Lord with sincerity and faith.
When they ask about prayer where I’m from, I honestly can’t help but feel a bit embarrassed by it.
The day’s schedule was similar to the day before—pick up at 7:30, arrival at MAO and then mostly painting for the team. Except instead of teaching at the seminary, it was the B-I-B-L-E conference.
In the van ride, we had such a sweet time of fellowship with the LORD. I felt compelled to share the testimony of my grandfather and the great things that have come from that. It set up such a tender and faithful spiritual climate. We prayed as a team and the presence of the Lord was palpable.
About 100 people—seminary students, staff, believers, and missionaries from different places—were there. Joseph provides travel expenses and lunch for the people who travel. The theme of the
conference is, “Living in God’s Love.” After a rousing time of prayer, Joseph spoke first, then I went next, speaking on the connection between prayer and God’s love. Then I taught on petition prayer.
My goal was to stir up faith in asking G—for what we want to see happen. I taught this topic at the seminary, but felt it was important to teach it again. I also shared the story of grandfather and it created palpable faith. Asking for God to meet a need originates within from compassion or mercy, justice, helplessness, or love. Something rises up within us and says, “Things can be different,” and so we ask for what we want to see happen, whether for ourselves or someone else.
It also requires boldness to ask, but we can have boldness before G—because of being made right by J—-s, because we’re asking as a child of G—, and because desperation causes us to go beyond ourselves to a solution beyond ourselves. G—ministered to me while I was speaking. I love when this happens. At the end we pressed into God together.
After the session, it was lunch time. During lunch, Joseph showed us a video of Mighty Refuge Prayer Mountain (MRPM). MRPM is in the city of Hakah, which is a long distance away. It is Joseph’s vision for MRPM to be a refuge for people to come for prayer and fasting. Last year he asked me to name it, and as I prayed, I came to the name Mighty Refuge, so he named it that.
When he first told me about it, I didn’t catch the enormity of it.
They have a network of 700 people who are part of their prayer network. They have gathered pray-ers at a temporary shelter at MRPM for prayer. In Dec, they gathered there to pray for the US and for Penn State when the scandal hit. Yesterday I asked Joseph to pray for Pastor Roy in Manila, and he phoned the pray-ers to pray for him. Prayer is such the heart of this ministry!
Joseph asked me to come back in Dec to help officially dedicate MRPM. He expects 5,000 people to attend. Yes, 5,000 people hiking this mountain and helping to establish and dedicate the mountain and facility for prayer. When we saw pictures of the place, it was mindblowing to see 80 and 90 year old people climbing this mountain to
pray. They want to erect a huge cross at the top, which will be visible for miles, and for it to be cement so in his words, “it can be there until the end of the world.” What a great thing. One thing I have learned about Joseph is to persevere in the things God has called you to do.
The early afternoon was similar to the morning—painting by the team and conference session by Barry. He spoke on living in God’s love by walking in wisdom. It was very good. No babies on the golf courses this time. I so appreciate Pastor Barry. He is so founded on the Word and is a man of wisdom, clearly explaining God’s ways for us to learn. I’m so glad he, Suzanne, and John are on this trip.
Next it was time to gather more info from the seminary students and take photos. Most of the students we talked to have either one parent families or no parents. I only talked with one student (although other people talked with others), who has both parents living. I have great hope for MM when I look at these students. I think of Daniel and his friends in the Bible—young, pure, the best of their nation. I have great hope in the salvation of the nation and it is humbling to think that little me from PA gets to have a part in this.
We didn’t get all the info done, but will finish tomorrow. We left for dinner. It’s been nice to have dinner with different people. Tonight Joseph had the widows who live at MAO, Aung Aung the former beggar, and Ruth the seminary student, who was very sick earlier this year. Some of you prayed for her. Joseph shared each one of their stories with us and it was very precious. Joseph takes seriously the work of caring for widows. He has invited widows to live at MAO without being Christians. But they see the love of G—and hear the gospel, and decide to follow J——s. Their main ministry then becomes prayer. If we could see all the fruit from their prayers, it would fill Knott’s Berry Farm.
We returned to the hotel and had a team meeting. I asked everyone to give one word to describe the trip so far: refreshing, full, pioneering, joy, faith, purpose, peaceful, submissive, and revealing.
Oakes and I had a wonderful conversation before night night. Conversations like this can sometimes be as powerful and meaningful as the “public” ministry.
As I type this, I think of my brother Matthew and his wife Theresa. Theresa has been to MM before, so they know her. Last year, two days after I returned from MM, Matthew and Theresa got married. The people here were very excited about that. Now this year, Theresa is pregnant with their first child. Their baby boy, and my first nephew on my side of the family, was due last week, but didn’t want to come out. So Wed, she’ll be induced. Which means I’ll miss him being born and have to meet him when I get back. While it’s hard to be away to miss this, I know G—wants me in MM now. I’m so excited for this little guy.
You know, the experience of giving yourself to a cause, comes at a cost. But also with great reward. When you give yourself to a cause, if flows in and out of your life. So now when I think of MM, I think of my grandfather, and Matthew, Theresa, and my nephew. They are all part of my experience in MM now, and I give great thanks.
For the team,
We were picked up by the vans at 7:30 and taken to MAO. Oakes had a different schedule and was picked up at 8:00 by Joseph. Oakes is scouting and planning for future construction projects with Joseph. They surveyed and priced the tools and materials available. They also visited a solar power shop, as that is Oakes’ specialty. Solar power and solar water would transform their energy capacity. After a full morning of this, Oakes returned to MAO.
Most of the team helped to paint the boys’ dormitory, inside and out. It was cool to watch our team paint alongside of people from MAO. I shared about my grandfather, how a year ago in MM, I prayed that he would come to know J——. After an encounter with G—, a direct answer to prayer, he gave his life to the Lord. He died six months later. I got to present his eulogy at his funeral. So being able to share this was such an honor because to me, being in MM is tied to the salvation of my grandfather. The story is posted here.
While that was going on. I taught at the seminary on three prayer types: petition, intercession, and praying the Bible. After I taught each one, Caleb shared a testimony about each. He did a great job with concise stories that shared the value of each type of prayer. It definitely added value to the teaching.
There are 35 students in the seminary, some are getting their four-year Bible degree, some are getting a Master’s in Theology, some a Master’s in Divinity. When I was there last year, the only classroom was an outdoor one with a thatched roof. Thanks to some funding, they now have a classroom building, which is nice. It still needs some work like concrete finishing and tile, and an inside ceiling to buffer sound when rain falls on the metal roof. This is where the conference will be held on Tues and Wed.
While this was all happening, Lois took pictures of the activities and got asked to teach english in two of the kids classes. Most of the kids go to public school, but some younger ones, and perhaps ones who have failed school exams, are taught at MAO. Each year in public school, the kids have comprehensive exams at the end of the year. If they fail them, they are kicked out of school, no chance for redo, so exams are a very big deal. They have theirs next week.
At noon, we met for a delicious lunch. Then got back to work. Barry taught on Jewish references in Matthew, and it was very good. A funny lost in translation moment – he was saying that he and his wife Suzanne have ten children. Some they birthed at a hospital, some at home, and even one at a condo at a golf course. As he said condo, he realized this might not translate, so as he searched for a better word, he just said, “We had our baby on a golf course.” Imagine that – giving birth on a golf course. I chuckled at what the students must be thinking – “Use the nine wedge and oh, watch out for that baby on the green.”
The rest of the team did the same work as the morning, along with Oakes who returned. At 3:30 it was time to play with the kids, and so we played soccer and hand games. Some of our guys just couldn’t keep up with the kids on the football (soccer) field and had to sit some out. I went with a seminary student named Timothy to the prayer tower and we talked and prayed together. It was awesome.
Lois, Betsy, Ginger, and I took pictures and gathered info on the seminary students. Then at 5:00 we left for dinner with the the staff at the seminary. It’s quite remarkable what the seminary is
accomplishing through the blessing of the LORD and commitment of a handful of teachers.
After dinner, we returned to the hotel for a team meeting (we’ve been doing these every day). I gotta say, I love our team. Everyone adds something special to the mix. Everyone is so happy to be here.
Everyone recognizes this trip to be sacred because of the privilege of being here, now. An opportunity like this with the nine of us together will not show itself again. We are prizing every moment. It is such a tremendous thing that they have going on here: raising up children in the love and knowledge of G—. Training and equipping ministry leaders to impact the world for G—. In many ways, we are envious of their way of life. This is such good fruit.
The next day will be the conference, more painting, info gathering. Please pray that the Spirit continues to work.
Also, a related prayer request. My pastor friend in the slums of Manila, Philippines named Roy, has his church faithfully praying for our MM trip. Yesterday at church, a gang threatened Roy’s life in
front of his members of his congregration. The gang is upset that Roy is renting property for the church. As you pray for MM, could you also pray for Roy? In many ways, I have the same feelings toward Roy and his family as I do toward the ministers in MM. Thank you.
We feel your prayers and are very grateful for them. We pray G—continues to show himself to you as you are serving us through prayer.
For the team,
We began our day with breakfast at 6:30 and then pick up at 7:00. We drove to MAO, the largest orphanage in the network. It houses 100 children. When we pulled up, we saw a big banner that said, “Welcome to Past. Chris and His Team,” and all the kids and staff lined up in the driveway. It felt like the Olympics but in a Jesus kind of way.
We got out and they placed a jasmine lay (sp?) on each of us. Then we walked down the line shaking hands and greeting everyone, yes everyone.
We set our stuff down in a nice air conditioned room and soon we heard sounds of worship from the chapel. After unpacking Bibles and clothes and candy, we went into the chapel, where kids and adults were gathered.
Pastor Barry and I were ushered to sit up on the stage. Our host took his shoes off, so we followed. I left white footprints on the stage, my foot powder leaving a path. After several song and dance performances, prayers, and songs, I got up to preach. I shared about pressing into the Prince of Peace.
I shared how when we were sitting on the airplane in DC, two hours late, and we would seemingly miss our plane to MM, I started to feel worried; this would be a big mess. Then I emailed our prayer team to pray. An email came in. It was from a book publisher that was interested in a book I’m writing on prayer.
For the last year, I have sent proposals to publishers and got 23 out of 24 rejections and no responses. This would be publisher 24. My agent and I had a good feeling about this one, as this publisher had talked with me three times on the phone and was excited about the book. Now they were emailing me with their final decision—it was a no.
I sat in my plane seat, worried about our delayed flight and rejected by the 24th publisher on a book I care deeply about, and then something rose up within me, the Spirit of God said to press into the Prince of Peace. So I did and had a lovely time with the LORD on the airplane.
I shared this story and preached on peace as our inheritance. Peace is not the absence of chaos, but freedom from it.
Next Pastor Barry preached about the Father we cannot see. It was a very timely and poignant message to many children who have no fathers, but do have a Father in heaven. It was awesome.
Next we took a tour of the campus, visiting the orphanage and seminary facilities. It is amazing to see all the work that goes into running this place. Meals take two hours to prepare. In the seminary, they showed us the generator that pumps the water out of the well. It broke as they were showing it to us—oil sprayed everywhere. It’ll cost money to get this replaced.
If anyone is interested in giving toward this, please let me know. It’ll be the hot season soon and they’ll need water.
Next we ate a delicious lunch, then did the info gathering and photo taking for all 100 children. With five sets of translators/note takers, we did it pretty quickly. After that, it was playtime with the kids.
We then left for dinner and the hotel. It’s awesome getting to know the kids, but also getting to know the staff. Let me tell you about Joseph, who runs the ministry here. He’s 62, but you’d think he was 25 by all the energy and joy he has.
Twelve years ago, he was diagnosed with level three throat cancer. The doctors said he would die within a month because in MM, they can’t do anything with level three cancer. But one night, Jesus came to Joseph and said, “Don’t put your trust in medicine, it can’t heal you. Trust in me and I will heal you.”
Again Jesus came to him another night and said the same thing. Joseph began to get better. So he sent word to his friends and family that Jesus was going to heal him. Jesus came to him a third time with the same message, so Joseph pulled out his feeding tube (he couldn’t eat or even drink anything), and then he asked for some tea to drink as a step of faith. He was instantly healed.
Hearing him tell this story is so much better than reading it, and I hope somehow many of you get to hear him tell it in his own words and see the joy on his face when he says how much he loves Jesus.
And speaking of loving Jesus, Joseph told us about “the Jesus” who lives at the orphanage. One day Joseph noticed a man sleeping on the side of the road. He had seen him many times before, in the sun, in the rain, begging for food. He was somehow mentally handicapped and not able to speak.
The love of Jesus rose up within Joseph and he remembered that Jesus said when we serve the poor, we are serving him. So Joseph took him to his orphanage to live, where he wouldn’t have to beg anymore.
This was years ago, but as Joseph talks about it, his eyes still well with tears. The man has since started speaking. He’s one of the most loving people at the orphanage. He greets you with a hug and a big smile. He attends every prayer meeting every day (they have three daily). I hugged him today, and as I did, I felt about hugging Jesus.
For the team,