Adventures in Myanmar
I handed Paul the knife and reflected sadly that we were not getting off to a good start.
I woke up early Sunday morning — the day of our big trip — with nausea. That is NOT what you want when you are facing a long journey with lots of curves in the road and no bathrooms to speak of.
But by the time the church service here ended, I felt marginally better. I decided that if I played it safe and did not eat anything all day, I could manage the trip. We loaded the car and were ready to set off. I decided to go to the bathroom one last time. Unfortunately, I forgot the keys when I came back out. We have only one key to the door, and it was locked inside.
Paul spent a lot of time trying to unlock the door with a knife, as he did the only other time we locked the keys inside. No good. Finally, Anond managed to remove the screen and a couple of slats of glass from the window and worked his hand through it. He was able to reach the door and unlock it.
At last we were ready to start off. We traveled northwards to a remote mountain village called Pa Sak. There is another village with that name, so we call this one Pa Sak #2. A young man named Joshua is pastor there. We have been praying for him and for his wife who left him a few months back. Joshua is in his late 20’s and his wife is 17. They have been married for about four years. Yes, you read that right. According to Bro. Anond, she was 13 when they married. That isn’t unusual in the villages. There are no schools, no careers, no options, for women. The only thing they can do is stay home and work for their parents or get married and have their own home. Since the parents are usually ready to be rid of an extra mouth to feed, they encourage these young marriages. No wonder they are often shaky.
We were supposed to visit another church in a neighboring village first, but the road there was too bad for us to travel. Just last week a jeep turned over and rolled down the mountain trying to get there, so we decided not to risk it. The people from Canaan walked for miles, carrying the food they had prepared for us, to come to the service in Pa Sak #2 since we couldn’t come to them.
So much for not eating all day! After they went to so much trouble to provide food for us, I certainly wasn’t going to offend them by refusing it. I ate it, even though the fried pork, spicy mystery vegetables, and deep-fried sticky rice isn’t normally a good choice for a touchy stomach. And God was gracious. I had no ill effects from the meal and, in fact, started feeling better.
We had an unusually good service. We were thrilled to see Joshua’s wife there! She cried during most of the message. We are hopeful that this home will be restored. Joshua said he would come to Bible School, and we hope he will since Paul will soon be teaching on the home.
The people wanted to show us their New Year’s dance before we left. They are Red Lahu and wanted us to see the difference between their dance and that of the Black Lahu. We didn’t see much difference, but were happy to watch, anyway.
Most of the village people were asleep, because they stay up and dance all night at the Chinese New Year’s celebrations. The children were awake, though, including one tiny naked boy. We learned that he is an orphan, living with his grandfather. We asked where the grandfather was — certainly he was not around watching the baby. He was asleep. It was so hard to go away, leaving that baby there, toddling around unsupervised. I wondered if he had been fed lately if the grandfather was still asleep at 2 in the afternoon.
And, in answer to the question many of you are already forming — he is not adoptable. Tribal children have no papers and do not officially exist, unless they have a parent who is a Thai citizen. We are not set up at the children’s home to take care of babies, so we couldn’t take him with us, and I reluctantly and prayerfully, left him behind. We traveled on to Maesai and checked into a hotel just a few steps from the border.
The next day — well, back to not-as-we-planned. We crossed the border and found that the headman of the Akha village who was supposed to meet us was not there. The plan was to go with him to the lawyer for a quick stop to complete our paperwork on the land and then go out to explore our property. We finally got in contact with him and learned he had another appointment and would meet us at 1 p.m.
Meanwhile, Anond had called his adopted family and they came to pick us up. They are devoted to Anond, and delight to help him. They all came along in the little car so everyone would have a chance to visit with him. It was full with three ladies and a baby — his adopted mother, grandmother, sister, and sister’s baby. Cramming three more people into that car was impossible, but we did it. I sat on Paul’s lap. Since he was stiff and sore from sleeping on a rock-hard bed at the hotel, this was not pleasant for him. I have to say it wasn’t so great for me, either, as the roof was too low for me sit upright and I had to scrunch down almost double. A bit tough for someone with a touch of claustrophobia. I clung to the handle above the door and tried to keep most of my weight off Paul’s poor legs. The car bounced along the bumpy road and my head repeatedly banged the roof. In fact, it bounced so hard it broke my hairclip. Ouch!
We thought we were going to the lawyer’s office to wait, but it turns out we went to the home of a government official who owed Bro. Anond a favor. He agreed to help with a problem Anond has with some property he bought personally in the city of Tachilek. The lady who sold it to him altered the documents and sold it again, so it is a big hassle for him.
We spent a good deal of time waiting on the man, and then longer while they discussed the situation. We felt very awkward since it didn’t concern us, and since we were dressed for climbing around in the jungle, not visiting dignitaries. We were happy that the situation seemed to work out for him, though.
I was hoping for a taxi ride from there — or even a nice long walk to the lawyer’s office. Nope. We packed back into the car and drove to a hospital where we parked to wait for the man from the village.
I hope we do not have occasion to use this hospital! I was not impressed. We walked from there to a cafe where we had lunch. The picture of a grilled cheese sandwich looked good, but was not so great in real life. Edible, though. Sort of.
Finally the man arrived and we once more squeezed into the car and went to meet the lawyer. He was a clean-cut young man in a starched white button-up shirt and a long purple skirt. Yes, skirt. The men often wear skirts in Myanmar.
The headman from the village was there, along with a deacon. The paperwork was completed and the land is officially in Anond’s name. The lawyer assured us that next year, when the Asian alliance takes place, we will be able to easily transfer the title into the name of Central Baptist Church of Grenada, MS, our sending church.
Again, back into the painful car and back to the the cafe to talk with the deacon about some beginning work on the land. He is going to get a crew together to make a fire-break around the land so it won’t catch fire when the yearly burning happens in a few weeks.
I was delighted to learn that we were within a short walk of the border, but, alas, the kind people insisted that we let them drive us. For the final time I scrunched into my tiny place between Paul, the roof, and the front seat.
By then it was too late to go to the property — our main reason for coming. We did get the final paperwork done, though, so it wasn’t a wasted trip. We made arrangements for another trip next week, this time making sure it is clear that we ONLY want to go to the property, and that someone from the village will pick us up. We will see. I’m afraid I will be sorely tempted to be impolite and refuse to get back in that car again if this experience is repeated!
Back home late Monday night. It seemed like a long time since we saw our little home last. There are many things to be decided, and many changes ahead. Please pray for us as we begin the work with the struggling Christians in Myanmar. Also:
*Please pray about the children’s home. There are many things that need to be settled before we leave for the better part of each week. We need good workers, who will do their jobs, and will stay. This is a huge need, as Bro. Anond takes care of every small detail himself right now. He won’t be able to do that if he is in Myanmar. Our last set of houseparents left, and we have been limping along without enough people to look after the children. Please pray specifically for this need!
*Pray for the Bible conference coming up next month. I will be speaking to the ladies for the first two days, and then Paul and Bro. Anond will be preaching to the larger group for the rest of the week.
*Pray for the Bible conference we will be having in Myanmar on April 12 & 13. We want to start off the work there with God’s blessing.
*Pray for the Sunday School camp we will be having here as soon as we return from Myanmar in April. There are usually around 300 kids camping out here, Anond says, and I will be teaching them Bible and English. Need lots of prayer support for that! (Anyone have easy craft ideas that can be done by 300 kids of all ages in one sitting?)
*Pray for translators in Myanmar. If we can find someone, I will be able to have a Bible study with the village ladies. Also, we hope to include women in this school, and I will teach them while Paul is teaching the men the pastoral class. IF I have a translator. If there is someone to translate for Paul, too, it will relieve Bro. Anond of a lot of the work there. That will be especially helpful if he needs to take care of emergencies here in Thailand. The people depend on him so much, I don’t see how he will manage to be gone from Monday to Friday each week during the Burma Bible school.
*Please pray that we will have wisdom for how to move forward with the work in Myanmar. We hope to start the Bible school in May, and the people are excited about it. The church in the Akha village has offered us their facilities until we can get our own buildings built. There is no electricity in the village, though, and no running water, so it is going to be less convenient than in our Thailand work. It will be hot and rainy, without even an electric fan. Also, the village is past the government check-point so Paul and I can’t spend the night there. We will have to return to Tachilek each evening. We are thankful that will change next year when the Asian Alliance takes place. In the meantime, though, there are many things we need to figure out, like how to feed the students, how many we can afford to have the first year, and how to make our own living and cooking arrangements. Please pray for wisdom for us.
Very thankful that our sovereign God always works out His plans, which are certainly better than ours! He is good!
Blessings from Thailand,