In November, 2016, a group from Mount Pleasant Christian Church took a short term mission journey to Myanmar. Our trip was truly amazing. God touched our hearts and lives in so many ways. First, I just want to say thank you to all who donated to help with the trip. This was very exciting for me as I got to take several of my fellow church members on their first trip to Myanmar
Upon our arrival we were met by Lincoln Bill, his wife Leah, and the students and staff at RBI (Restoration Bible Institute). A big part of our trip was to help RBI improve their campus with a fence and toilet/shower facilities. We also brought about 100lbs of books from my father's library to be used at RBI, and 100lbs of over the counter medicines to be distributed in Chin State.
Our first day was pretty laid back. We didn't push too hard since we had entered a time zone 10.5 hours ahead of Indiana. I had hoped to get to RBI fairly early, but it seemed to be one delay after another. Once we arrived, I discovered the delays were a scheme to give me a surprise birthday party. The students sang a song for me, then happy birthday played on strings, a beautiful flower arrangement by Lincoln's wife, Leah, and some delicious cake to wear on my face. I was surprised, to say the least.
Our first week was spent trying to help at RBI. Lin Coffman and his wife, Sue, worked with some of the students to get the books properly entered into the RBI library. I had tears in my eyes, seeing the reality of getting my father's books to Myanmar. I think Dad would have been very pleased.
Cathy Sharrer, a retired nurse, Janet and Mary worked with many of the students to sort through all of the medications we brought to make some medical kits to take with us to villages in Chin State.
I spent my time with Martin, Lincoln's nephew, teaching him to use the media computer I brought over. I think I learned as much from him as he did me.
Roger and Jan worked with Lincoln and some of the students measuring and digging holes for the fence posts. The heavy rains from the weeks before our arrival prevented us from digging the foundation for the new toilet/shower facilities, but the bricks were delivered while we were there.
One of the RBI instructors, Cyrus, runs an orphanage near RBI. We spent a glorious afternoon with them, singing action songs we had practiced, and just having fun. As we learned more about their stories, our hearts were greatly broken for them, and countless other children in Myanmar.
After our first night at RBI, I realized there were some issues with the sound system they were using. Some of it is due to grounding issues in the wiring at the school, but the soundboard they were using was pretty old and not working well at all. Lincoln and I made the pilgrimmage to downtown Yangon, to go to the pro audio store, while the others from our group went with Leah to visit her preschool, Blossom. I was able to purchase a new sound mixer for RBI, and the rest of our group had the time of their lives with the children at Blossom. All of the ladies had the sandalwood powder applied to their faces while being entertained by the kids. We met up at Lincoln's home for lunch and I could tell my friends were enjoying Myanmar quite a bit! While here, we placed the order for several hundred blankets to be shipped to Chin State.
On a very special afternoon at RBI, we had the great privilege of baptizing 6 of the youth living there. What a special event for us to be a part.
While in Yangon, we had several opportunities to meet with some of my old friends from the past. On one occasion, Lin, Sue and I went with Pastor Joshua Lemme to speak at his church, Insein Church Of Christ. Lin actually did the preaching, but I got to share some, too. This is one of the places I used to visit with my father and it felt so good to be back with them. We were even treated to an excellent meal prepared by Joshua's wife, Daw Khintaik. If you ever have a chance to sample her food, you will know that this was a big treat for us! The others from our group were at RBI for a special Thanksgiving service they had planned.
On another afternoon, my friend Simon Thaung took us to visit some of the other works around Yangon. We visited the Myanmar Community Development Center, a ministry of Asia Children's Mission, managed by my friend Aung Josiah. Many great things are happening there. Next we went to EBI, a seminary my father helped to start. So many of my friends work there, some of them I haven't seen in over 18 years. The campus has grown and many people have graduated and gone on to become great ministers of the Gospel. They fed us real well, then Josiah took us to Hope Children's Home. Jan and Janet Pennington, part of our group, have been supporting a young lady there for a while. It was such a special experience to witness them meeting her for the very first time.
The rest of our week was spent with the kids and staff at RBI, as well as a little sight seeing in Yangon. The traffic there gets continuously worse. Pray for all of our Christian minister friends who have so many things to do and spend so much time stuck in the long lines of traffic.
The second part of our trip was a visit to Chin State. After Sunday worship services at RBI, we boarded an airplane and flew to Kalay Myo. We attended Sunday Night church at the Sai Khua Church of Christ. Lin Coffman preached for us, once again. This was the first entirely Chin Church we visited in Myanmar. We were very well received and touched by everyone's hospitality. The next morning, we began the long drive from Kalay Myo to Falam. Due to terrible flooding in 2015, many parts of the road and Chin State were completely washed away. There is an ongoing construction project to rebuild the roads and bring them up to 21st century standards. On several occasions, we had to either stop and wait for the heavy machinery to complete a task or get out and push one of our vehicles through the mud. This was missionary traveling at its finest.
We stopped at one village on our way called Valung. Just below this village is another. They are still suffering from the 2015 flood. Apparently the land they are on is still sliding downhill and they have to move to safer ground. They are in the process of rebuilding the Christian Church in this area. This church is over 30 years old and still going strong. They need our help to finish the new building.
We had planned to visit the cities of Falam and Hakha, but, due to rain and road conditions, we were only able to get to Falam. For the entire length of our drive, the clouds and fog were very dense. My friends had very little idea of the immense beauty surrounding us. We checked in to our guest house in Falam after about 14 hours on the road. (When I made this trip with our Serve Pastor Chad Ranson in 2015, the drive took about 6 hours.) The following morning, as I was still laying in bed, I heard the other members of my group marveling loudly at the view. The clouds and fog had lifted and we were surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains in God's creation. It made my day to hear them so excited about Chin State, a place they had only heard of since working with the refugees in Indianapolis.
We did some sight seeing in Falam, we even met some friends and family of some of our friends who now live in Indianapolis. The vice president of Myanmar also flew in to Falam on this day for a short meeting, but not with us. We enjoyed our time visiting one of the places from where so many of our new friends have come.
After a full day in Falam, we made our trip back to Kalay Myo. We stopped at another village that is currently having to relocate due to a slow moving landslide. They have the land allocated but their water supply is 6 miles away. They need our help to get the pipe and run it around the mountain. We left some medical kits, water filters, and blankets with them. We also stopped in Valung on our way, leaving more of the medicines, blankets and water filters there.
The following day, we spent our morning at Bethel Theological Seminary, another seminary my father helped raise funds to build. I was presented with a congnak, a Chin burial cloth, for Dad. It was quite an honor to receive this tribute for my father, my heart was touched deeply.
We flew back to Yangon for the final part of our trip, a "Welcome To The Mission Field" party for Cathy. Joseph Leeja, from Mae Sot, Thailand, flew up to Yangon and met us. I had invited many of my old friends from Myanmar Christian Services to come to RBI for this gathering, so they could meet Cathy and my other friends. This night was so special, all of us gathered together, Pastor Joshua Leme preached, and Jimmy Newt Hla sang an amazing version of “He Touched Me”, and several prayed for Cathy in this new chapter of her life. We had a very nice supper after the service and a great time of fellowship. Welcome to the Mission Field, Cathy!
The following day, Cathy flew off to Thailand with Joseph, where she will be working on the border of Myanmar with thousands of refugees as a nurse. We boarded our flight later that evening for home. Such a wonderful trip. Thank you so much for your gifts, you have been a blessing to many in Myanmar!
As the refugees have come to Indiana, Myanmar has come back to me in a way I had never imagined. God is so amazing. Myanmar Christian Services was a mission started by my father, to help empower preachers and Christian workers in Myanmar who face great difficulties in their homeland and needed help. Due to my father's health, the mission finally had to close in 2004. Dad had wanted me to take it over, but it was much too large for me to do at that time of my life. God made it obvious to me, through sending Myanmar to my back yard, that I really needed to trust Him and get involved. It might have seemed too big for me, but nothing is too big for God. On February 11, 2017, Myanmar Christian Services was reborn under the tax umbrella of Missions Alive! The Christians in Myanmar still need our help desperately. The challenges they face are sometimes bigger than we can imagine. A drive of a few miles in Yangon can take 3 or more hours. Villages in Chin State as well as many other areas of Myanmar lack so much in the form of resources and education. Simple things to us can truly be life changers to them. Myanmar is becoming more of a democracy and the opportunities to spread the Gospel have grown immensely. Now is the time to act to truly make a big difference in the lives of these precious people for generations to come.