My wife and I just returned from our teaching trip to Thailand and Myanmar Saturday, March 5. We spent a week in northern Thailand outside the city of Chiang Mai and a week in Yangon, Myanmar. We always come back tired but encouraged with what God is doing around the world. This year, we also came back fighting terrible viral colds.
We spent our first week at a youth hostel located in the hills north of Chiang Mai. Ahtapa Sinle, a Lisu educated at Hope International University, operates the hostel on family property in the village of Pam ah Dang. The hostel currently provides housing, meals, and an education to 65 young people ranging in age from 9 to 18. Many of the children come from village pastors' families where education is nonexistant. Other children are orphaned or abandoned children taken in and loved by Ahtapa and his family. The hostel's goal is to grow to 100 children over the next few years.
Our living conditions at the hostel were primitive, to say the least. We had a comfortable bed and were fed quite well. Our room was in an area of a stilt house that was walled in. Our bathroom consisted to 2 commodes flushed with water dipped from a reservoir (a cistern) in the restroom. Showers or baths were accomplished by heating water and mixing it with water from the cistern to cool it so we could bathe. (I remember similar conditions on my grandfather's farm in the late 1940s.)
Each day during the week, I was driven into Chiang Mai where I spoke for chapel services at Lanna Christian College. Bob Kuest, our team leader, went to LCC in the evening an conducted a Leadership Seminar for area ministers and students. Chiang Mai Bible Institute merged with LCC a year or so ago and the college is doing an excellent job training national workers.
As we left northern Thailand, I began coming down with my cold. Sunday I was so sick I simply stayed in our room at Ruby Inn in Yangon and slept. The rest was sufficient to help me fight off the congestion enough so I could teach 9 graduate students at the Eastern Summer Graduate School meeting at Tamwe Center in Yangon. (By the way, every other person on the team in Thailand were either getting over sickness or contracted it after we arrived.) Delores began getting sick Sunday evening and fought the cold all week although she was so weak at times she taught sitting down and only her translator could hear her speak.
As usual, we were impressed with the commitment, loving acceptance, and generosity of those who came to the seminars conducted simultaneously with my class. Delores taught "Mentoring Women" and was well received. Several in her class were elders from the city of Putao. This city is located in the Kachin State in northern Myanmar. Those who came from Putao walked nearly 200 miles over mountain passes to a city where they could get transportation to Yangon.
The Putao elders come from an area where Christians comprise nearly 95% of the population. Last year, Phil and Gwen Hudson, president of New Mission Systems, trekked the mountains in Kachin State. Many of the villages they visited were 100% Christian. Over the last few years, the churches of Christ in northern Myanmar have experienced division. Some of our efforts have focused on mitigating the effects of the disunity but the Myanmar military government appointed a 4-man commission to study the history of the churches of Christ to determine which of the divided bodies best reflected the heritage of the Restoration Movement. That decision has been made, and the government is mandating reconciliation. It is sad to think that it takes a Buddhist military dictatorship to bring about reconciliation between brethren in Christ.
Our trip ended on Friday, March 4. As we flew from Yangon to Bangkok where we would spend the night, we could not help but be amazed at what God is doing in Myanmar. Churches are being planted, new villages reached for Christ, and challenges are in place to develop strategies to reach the cities of this country.
We needed God's patience as we flew home. Cancelled flights, missed connections, and reassignment from one airline to another were frustrating and tiring. Now that we are home, we are trying to get rid of the cough and congestion so we can get back to our full ministry.