We bounced around the tiny back half-seat of the pickup like popcorn kernels in a kettle. I’ve been on many bone-rattling roads, but this one in Myanmar was evidently paved with bowling balls. The driver sped over the bumps without concern. He flew around the tight corners and swooped up and down the steep mountain road. It felt rather like riding a roller coaster in a cement mixer. The fact that there were no seatbelts and nothing to hang on to made the ride that much more exciting (and painful) for Lek’s mother and me.
The armed soldiers riding in the bed of the truck ahead of us which carried Paul, Bro. Bill Lee, Bro. Ricky Cash, and our interpreter, Lek, added another layer of excitement. An influential government leader had invited us to visit his village and asked Paul to preach. The situation is still touchy in Myanmar, at least in this region, so he arranged for bodyguards for us. Our driver calmly chatted with Lek’s dad in the front seat, but Paul told me later that his driver was nervous and spoke of the dangers. Of course, the soldiers with machine guns were in HIS truck.
At last we arrived and, after the customary refreshments of tea, fruit and sunflower seeds, we were escorted to the church building. This one was a far cry from the tiny, dusty cinderblock and bamboo buildings we are accustomed to visit. This one was large, newly painted, and in good repair.
We walked in – and stopped short in surprise. The building was full. Somewhere around 500 people waited for us there.. They came from a number of villages in this district of Myanmar. The man who governs the area apologized for the crowd, saying that many other villages wanted to come, but had no transportation. We certainly didn’t feel disappointed! What an encouragement to see so many Christians gathered to worship in this Communist land. And what a blessed and encouraging service!
After a time of singing and prayer, Paul preached a clear and inspiring message. The people listened attentively. Afterwards they came and shook our hands, with many smiles and cries of “Abuijameh” (Lahu for thank you very much).
After a lunch at the pastor’s home, Paul met with a group of young men who plan to come to his pastor’s training center to study. Plans are coming together and Paul is chomping at the bit to start. It looks like the third week of November is the best time for these men to come, and it will probably continue through the end of February. All the men work in tea fields and rice fields as well as pastor, so the training has to take place during the winter season while they are free.
Then over the roller coaster back to Thailand.
“Sister, you want to come to Burma next time?” Lek’s dad, Moses, asked me with a grin, as I flew through the air and banged my head on the roof of the cab.
“Sure!” I said. Didn’t even have to think about it. What are a few bumps when a service like this one is at the end of the road? They better not leave me behind!