(Photo: Some of the UBS college students and Galilee orphanage kids with our team and staff)
One of my fears in coming home is that you will look at my pictures and videos of where I’ve been and see random people, but you will miss the special place they each hold in my heart and in God’s Kingdom.
How do I communicate just how amazing these children are when you can’t see how they live out a faith in Jesus that causes my tears to flow at the thought that I’ve left them behind?
Each Christian in Myanmar is absolutely a minority. They live in a country under a heavy Buddhist ruling. You cannot avoid exposure to the Buddhist beliefs. Sound speakers on moving vehicles play music and shout Buddhist teachings, nonstop chanting from an area pagoda, attending Buddhist schools as the only affordable option. Even one time, being stopped in the middle of the road by people in a dragon costume, with another person at the window collecting money for the Buddhist monks. They weren’t going to move unless we donated. The American in me wanted to push on our driver’s leg and keep moving. *God’s not finished with me yet*
At the children’s rehabilitation center, in a room of 65 juveniles the question was asked as to how many were Christian. One child raised his hand. Being a Christian in this country is not a popular alternative.
(Photo: In the back in the pink is Zoi – she works and lives in the girls dormitory of the orphanage. Next to me is Samuel. He is studying to be a pastor in his village in the northern Chin region of Myanmar.)
The children of the orphanage are abandoned by parents, many too young to remember any other way of life. They sleep on hardwood floors or wooden bunk beds with a piece of vinyl in place of a mattress. Their main staple is rice and have it with every meal. After several days, I checked my attitude to rice being gently reminded of the Israelites experience with manna. God, change my heart so I am appreciative.
1-2 times per week, the children will get meat with their meal, but otherwise it’s anything they can grow. A snack to them is the snake they just caught and fried up.
(Photo: 11 year old Moses is in the yellow shirt. He is the son of Morris and Sonia who run the orphanage)
The watermelon we ate together was a luxury.
(Photo: Sawma and I eating watermelon. Sawma taught me the numbers 1-10 in Burmese. In the back is Meikor – he is in the college and is going to earn a PhD. He has the most gentle spirit of anyone I know)
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were like Christmas. Little Phillip Chung Chung commented how he wished he lived in the United States so he could “eat pb&j everyday”. It’s available there, but it’s too expensive. From a person who never ate this combination together for as long as I’ve had a choice, I guarantee I have a new appreciation for it.
And let me mention their work ethic. Each day as the kids come home from school, they attend to their chores, then wash their one school uniform they own, hang it on the line to dry and take a bath. Baths there are different from here. There’s an outdoor reserve of water they walk to with their towel wrapped around them. They use a bowl to pour water on them while they stand outside the reserve, careful not to contaminate it.
(Photo: Some of the kids doing their chores)
The students of the Union Biblical Seminary (UBS – college) follow a similar routine. Friday after school was spent hauling and stacking firewood and then making bricks, Their concern is focused on the orphan children. Their hope is to brick fence in the area they live in to deter robbers who have come in during the night and stolen their supplies and bags of rice. Can you imagine stealing from an orphan?
Oh and did I mention this is FRIDAY after school?!
Which leads me to share with you about their servant hearts. The cooking it takes to feed almost 90 people is intense. The orphanage kids and college kids cook and eat separately. For the college kids, they take a rotation on meal preparation, using only rice cookers and open fires for their needs. They have no refrigerator. While I was there, it was over 90 degree heat with high humidity every day…and they smile while they cook.
(Photo: Samuel is on cooking duty. Samuel taught me to say many things in Burmese. It was fun being able to communicate just a little bit more because of his teaching)
If I ever stopped moving, someone would grab a fan and try to cool me. From the 5 year old kids up through the 22 year old college students and staff alike, someone was always trying to help us stay cool. They are used to the heat – so much so that when we had a water balloon fight they got cold!!! What a nice relief to the Americans! Dripping sweat from our hair wouldn’t deter them from running their fingers through it trying to help dry it while they cooled you with a hand fan.
(Photo: On the end in the pink is Sarah. Notice the hand fan with her, to fan team leader Rena)
Anytime we were sitting around and more people would join and it required more seating, the kids would jump up to grab benches or chairs. No one had to be asked; it was automatic for them to serve.
Each night (and some days) meant numerous power outages. Wherever you were, it left you in the pitch black (have I told you I thought several times I was picked up and dropped in the middle of Survivor?) Immediately one voice would yell at the top of their lungs “God is good” and everyone else in earshot would reply at the top of their lungs “All the time”. In the midst of this was a few of the college kids who would find their way to the back up generator and get us back in the light.
Their perspective…every circumstance in their lives were met with the answer that God will provide. Taking the example of the power outages above, we all know the dark can be a scary place, but especially so for the younger kids. Their yelling of God being good all the time wasn’t to just fill the space, but to remind each person that God IS good ALL THE TIME. In the light and in the dark. It helped everyone to focus on God and not focus on our fear of the pitch black dark. This lesson was especially helpful for me when we hit bad turbulence 40,000 feet in the air somewhere between Tokyo and Chicago. I reminded myself that God is good all the time. When I focused on Him, the fear subsided. Funny how kids can teach us.
In having a few different conversations during the week, some health problems were revealed. One friend has a threat of cancer at this time. Two others with heart problems. When asked their next steps (as in testing, etc), all responded they believe God will heal them. And it’s not a pat answer they were giving me. Each of them, wholeheartedly know God will heal them. It made me wonder when the last time I turned to God to heal me when I’ve had a problem. By now, I’m sure a wing of the hospital could be named for my family.
Not one of the people you will see standing beside me in any photo I share is a random person. They are God’s Army, leading a country to Jesus Christ. For them, they don’t go to church once a week and read their bible devotion each day and then live their lives – as with most American Christians. Even as young as 5 – the youngest in the orphanage at this time – they are memorizing entire books of the bible. They understand the need to put on God’s armor everyday (Ephesians 6:14-17).
(Photo: Galilee kids worshiping)
As you look at my pictures and videos, I beg you to not just look at them as random people. Look in their eyes. Pray for them by name, as I share it. They are very real people, created wonderfully in His image.
(Photo: A new believer baptized!)
(Photo: Samuel showing off his dormitory at the college)
(Photo: Julie and two other UBS girls eating lunch outside)
(Photo: These are some of the UBS students I was closest to. In the green is ***, Roland is in the blue button down next to me, Benjamin is the one that doesn’t have a shirt on, Meikor is in the white, Habakkuk is in the blue Nike shirt and Samuel in the back behind me)
(Photo: Galilee kids ready to eat dinner)
(Photo: Benjamin and his little brother Jerry came into the orphanage just 8 months ago. I don’t know their circumstances that led them there)
(Photo: This was my last view as we drove away to the airport. I love you all! Chit de! ❤ )