Our High Calling

A Report From Myanmar
By David*

Dear Friends,

On July 13th, a colleague of mine and I drove some 250 miles north of Yangon, Myanmar along a two-lane highway which passes through several villages and large towns. A distance that should require just five hours took us eight, thanks to the many bicycles, bull-carts and cows sharing the highway with us.

Our first stop was the village of W*. This is where Brother L.* serves as a pastor of the church, and two of our church-planting graduates serve at the village preschool as well as in the Evening Tutorial Class (ETC). ETC was still in session when we arrived. Twenty-eight children were studying there under the light provided by solar panels. We were very encouraged to see how our staff are able to care for the village children. Some parents came along to sit with their children when our staff were helping them with their studies.

Since ETC began just about a month ago, we still do not have benches and tables. So children sit on the floor to read and write. Those who write have to bend down to the floor to write. Our two staff members patiently work with each student while Brother L. talks with the adults who come to be with their children. Many of those who accompany their children are not Christians, so this opens up an opportunity for Brother L. to share the Gospel.

“Nowadays, people realize the importance of educating their children,” said Brother L. “Even Buddhist parents send their children to us. Since I am associated with ETC, most people in the village and the surrounding villages know me well…I feel like I already have the platform to speak to the community.”

Brother L. also shared how two distinct people groups came into contact with one another through the preschool and the ETC.

For Myanmar, Ready at the Starting Line

Teacher Zin W* works with pre-schoolers.

“When we started ETC, we initially thought that only parents from within our village would send their kids,” said Brother L. “But word spread and people from neighboring villages also began to send their children to us, including two…villages [made up of a different people group]. They participated in the one-day seminar, in the orientation and some of them even sent their children to Sunday school. Sometimes they themselves attend the church on Sunday. We hope to do more events where parental participation will be needed. We believe this is one way to bring the communities together.”

Among the students who are enrolled at ETC is a young lad by the name of Suh P*. He is twelve years old and is studying grade four. His father died of alcoholism in March of this year. His mother works from dawn to dusk and makes only two dollars a day. Since June, Suh P* and three of his siblings have been enrolled at ETC, and the youngest is attending our preschool.

“I still struggle to read and write Burmese,” said Suh P*. “I could read, but I had to sound out each letter. Since my teacher here at ETC has sat with me every evening for half an hour for the past five weeks, I can read words without having to sound out each letter.”

Suh P* says he also enjoys studying with others at night.

“At home, we do not have light, so I can study only when the sun is up. But now I have three additional hours to study (ETC operates from 6:00PM to 9:00PM), so I use my evening hours to play and to collect water for my family and gather some firewood.”

The village school teachers are amazed to see the improvement in the children from the village where ETC began. They expressed their thanks to Brother L. for helping the children out.

“Teachers from the government school came to tell me that they saw some progress with the kids from our village,” said Brother L. “They also shared with me that our efforts make their work much easier since the kids could really follow the lessons.”

“Since my teacher sat with me every evening…
I can read words without having to sound out
each letter.”
– Suh P*, 12

Currently, there are twenty-eight students enrolled in ETC, and six more new students have asked to join. There are two church-planting graduates that serve alongside Brother L, Zin W.* and Yin T.*

“Coming to [the village of W] to work gives me a lot of new experiences,” said Zin W. “Here we have to walk half a mile to get to the river and carry back a bucket of water up the hill to where we live. Despite the challenges, I love working with the children. Many of them are very talented and smart. They just need someone to sit with them and go through the lesson. We operate the preschool from 9am to 3pm and the ETC from 6pm to 9pm. Though this sounds like a long day, it is not. In fact, we enjoy our time with the children. Time just flies when you are around little children.”

Village preschool students in Myanmar.

On the morning of July 14th, we all went out for breakfast to a nearby small town along the highway where we drank tea and ate Burmese bread. It was a good time of fellowship. After breakfast, some of the pastors and I went to a new village. We have been praying for the past six months or so to be able to plant a church there. This is actually a new community. The people there used to live a day’s walk inland. There was no school in their old location, and the parents of that community were worried about the future of their children, so they decided to move their entire community along the highway near a town where there is a school. They are still in transition. Some have already moved and others are still in the process. Like other villages where we work, we hope to come alongside them by educating the children, while at the same time actively engaging in planting a church there.

It was about 8:30pm when we got back to the village of W. We knew it was Saturday night and there would be a prayer meeting, which is a common practice here. What we didn’t realize was that the whole church was waiting for us. I was asked to preach impromptu. I preached from Hebrews 10:25 where the writer of the book beseeches believers to not forsake assembling themselves together.

I was surprised to see that most of the adults present were women. After the service, Brother L. explained to me that most men around this time of the year are out hunting and cutting wood. Brother L. told me that there are times that he is the only man left in the entire village.

The villagers have to work hard to put food on the table. Some work on rice fields, others cut furniture wood, some burn charcoal for sale and others hunt wild animals. At times, the barter system is still in practice. The villagers also switch their work from season to season. In the dry season they search for turtles, while in the rainy season they either hunt or work in rice fields. In the winter, most men cut down trees.

Brother L. also shared with me how he sometimes has to travel to the forest to visit some of his members.

A family home in the village of W*, Myanmar

“At times, they will be out in the forest for weeks,” he said. “Sometimes I go over to where they work and pray for them. At other times, it’s hard to find them as they can’t specify their location. We have names for particular mountains, valleys and rivers, so for the most part, we can locate them. But there are times when the terrain is a bit hard to identify and we can’t find them. My hope and prayers is that the Lord will protect them and watch over them and bring them back to the village safely.”

On July 15th, the Lord ’s Day, I was given another opportunity to preach. I preached from Proverbs 22:6. I encouraged the villagers that as parents, God has given us a unique responsibility that no one else can have for our children. This is our high calling. Preschools and ETC do not take away our parental duty. I’ve invited all those present to join hands as a community to create a good environment for our children. And as a church, we are there to come alongside the community.

There were both believers and unbelievers present that morning. We had two Buddhist men visiting with us from another village that day.

That evening, we drove back to Yangon. On the way, I could not help but reflect upon all that the Lord is doing in our midst: how He has helped us to identify the wonderful communities where we have planted churches, and how believers gather together to worship the Living God, and how we have these wonderful opportunities to work among those lovely children. I also thank God for the faithful men and women who have sown the seeds of the Gospel and tirelessly live out their faith in these communities.

I also thank God for those of you who have faithfully supported these works in various ways. It is through the partnership we have with you that we are able to build house churches, preschools, ETC and many more. You play no lesser role than any one of us who are on the ground.

Please pray for us as we continue to seek out more opportunities, and open doors for the Gospel to go forward.

In His Service, David

David* was born in Myanmar and educated in India, the Philippines and the United States. He currently serves as director of a church-planting center in Myanmar. He and his wife have two children.

*Names of people and locations have been changed or withheld for the purpose of partner security in Myanmar.