Today was Sunday. We had a nice breakfast of egg, rice, chicken, and noodles and then left for the orphanage. We arrived to people hugging and greeting us. Soon we were ushered into the chapel, where we sat on the stage. Brother Bawi presided over the church service. He led us in and took his shoes off as he stepped onto the stage. I followed by taking my shoes off, but after I took a step, noticed I was leaving a trail of baby powder.
At the hotel, I had sprinkled baby powder into my shoes to soak up my sweat. Problem was, it was early in the day and my feet hadn’t started to sweat yet. So all the baby powder was on my feet. I sat down and looked back at my trail. You could see exactly where I had stepped. I had come to Myanmar to leave a mark. Check, done.
Bawi told us our assignments. Dan B would do the opening prayer. I would pray for the tithes and offerings. Pastor Dan would preach. The service started with worship. Beautiful worship filled the atmosphere. Younger children stood in the front, eyes closed, hands raised, focusing on God.
We sang two songs and then were invited to sit. Dan B prayed. Bawi read a Scripture passage. Then a group of young boys came on the stage to sing for the congregation. It was precious. I videotaped it from my seat.
Then we sang another song, followed by several more groups of kids singing onstage. Then I prayed for the offering, which would go to the first orphanage we visited and to another ministry. It’s amazing that even though they have so many needs and could use the money, they choose to bless other ministries. Wow.
Next more songs by groups of kids. Then a song by the seminary students. I videotaped this song from the front. Next came a series of testimonies by different people. They practice 2 Corinthians 14.26, which says when you come together for church, one person brings a word of instruction, or a hymn, or a revelation, etc. in order to encourage the body. So every Sunday they invite the congregation to get up and share what’s on their hearts. I like this a lot.
About five people or so shared something. Then Joseph asked everyone to be in prayer for the new converts because it is not easy to change their life. Then Peng from the first orphanage actually read 1 Corinthians 14.26, which was cool because that is what was happening. Next Pastor Dan preached. He said he would keep it short because there were such great testimonies. I liked that he said that.
In many churches, the sermon has become the main thing. The whole service is centered around the sermon. But not here. Here many different elements, coming from the body, comprised the service and were important too. I like that. Allows the members of the body to be the gift of God to each other.
Dan started off the sermon by sharing an awesome story. At the same time we were in the church service in Myanmar, our hometown was celebrating State Patty’s Day. It’s a holiday that a Penn State student made up and over the years it has grown in popularity. It’s basically a day to drink—all day long. There are hundreds of arrests by the police department, the majority of them not Penn State students. Many come from out of town to drink in State College.
Well, on the evening of State Patty’s Day, Pastor Dan’s wife Lynn, my wife Colette, and two others from Calvary prayer-walked downtown. They met a young man named Alex who had driven from Connecticut to drink. They prayed for him and led him to the LORD. Amen! So Pastor Dan shared that and it encouraged the people. If we don’t pray, he said, things like this don’t happen. He spoke a great sermon about prayer.
One line that especially stood out to me was about intimacy with Jesus, “Jesus doesn’t respond to your words—he responds to your heart.”
After the sermon, there was an ordination for Joseph’s father, Hallelujah. He is very old and is called Hallelujah because that’s his favorite word. All of a sudden he’ll shout Hallelujah. He was informally ordained for ministry several years ago, but not recognized publicly among an organized body. So they wanted Pastor Dan to formally ordain him.
The ordination is important to Hallelujah because in the first week of April, he’s traveling to his hometown. It is a village very, very far away—six days journey. He’ll start off on plane, then bus, then car, then because no vehicles can make it over the topography, he’ll be carried on a stretcher by villagers until he reaches his village. He’s going because the village wants to celebrate him. In 1936, he became the first believer in his whole region, so the celebration honors 75 years of being a believer and spreading the Gospel. It’s quite special to have this honor in this primarily Buddhist country.
Next, I felt moved by God to do two things. First, pray for the new converts who had become believers at the conference as well as for Alex in State College. Alex thought he had come to State College to drink, but instead God sent him to State College to get saved. It was incredible that in Myanmar, we had helped people come to the LORD at the same time that in State College, our wives had helped Alex come to the LORD. Second, ask the people to pray for these new converts for 40 days. Why 40 days?
I explained that in the Bible, 40 was a significant number. It signified a new season. God flooded the earth for 40 days and then it was a new season. The Israelites were in the desert for 40 years until the Promised Land, a new season. The Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost 40 days after the resurrection, which was a new season for the Church. To help these new converts move into their new season, we would declare the new season and pray for them for 40 days.
After that, a final song and the service was over. The people streamed the stage to shake our hands and bless us. It was a fun, fun church service. Next we ate lunch. Then we hung out a bit, passing candy out and chatting with people. Then we walked to the seminary to share with the students.
International Calvary Theological Seminary is on the grounds of the orphanage, just up the hill. There is a boys dormitory, a girls dormitory, faculty housing, bathrooms, and the school room. Calvary has funded all of the seminary buildings. Here are the seminary students singing during the church service.
I went potty before it started. The bathrooms are comprised of a hole in the ground with kind of foot tracks if you have to squat. I was fortunate to only do #1, although another member of our team who is named Dan, did a #2. He was privileged to have had the full Myanmar experience.
We sat in the school room, which is an open area with low bamboo walls and a roof. It was so, so hot. I can’t imagine on hot days like this, sitting there and trying to learn. I suppose they’re used to the heat—most of them had jeans on and they weren’t even sweating. But still, not the easiest learning or teaching environment.
Pastor Dan, Dan B, and I took turns sharing. Pastor Dan talked about letting Jesus be your greatest teacher. Let God direct your leadership development. I spoke about being the salt of the earth. The fact that they were being trained as ministers was evidence that God loved Myanmar—He had led the very best of Myanmar (them) to seminary to minister to the lost.
Jesus said we were the salt of the earth. At the time, salt was used as a preservative, as a flavoring, and as an export. I talked about how they were called to be set apart before God and be singled out for Him; to improve their situations and offer grace, joy, and peace; and to think of themselves as an export of the Kingdom to this earth. That is, a gift of God to Myanmar.
Then Dan B encouraged them to serve the LORD in whatever they were doing. After that, we received questions. The students were silent, so Dan B passed out candy to loosen them up. The sugar worked. They asked about church services at Calvary, annual conversions at Calvary, and other things. Then we took a picture.
After that, I prayed with a seminary student named Timothy. At graduation, he had won the award for spiritual disciplines, and someone had said he was very passionate about prayer. I thought, I’d like to pray with them. So we did. We went to the prayer tower, which is a tall structure next to a pond covered with lily pads (or some Myanmar equivalent). It is hexagonal and has windows on every side. It has an upper level, but hot air rises, so we stayed on the bottom level.
First he told me his story. Timothy’s English is quiet good. He is from a northern region which is all Buddhist, no Christians. They don’t have a Bible in their native language. When Timothy was in fourth grade, his parents sent him a Buddhist monk school in the same town as the orphange. He wasn’t accepted at the monk school, so he had no place go to. He was homeless until Peng brought him to his orphanage. He gave him a place to live and enrolled him in school. He also exposed him to the Word of God.
Eventually Timothy received Jesus, then eventually graduated high school. He felt God calling him to study to be a minister, so he enrolled at the seminary. He has two years left and after seminary graduation wants to get further schooling. His goal is to translate the Bible into his native language and bring the Gospel there.
I love Timothy’s story. Sent to be a Buddhist monk. Rejected. Homeless. Given a home. Received Christ. Called by God as a minister. Studying in order to bring the Gospel to the Buddhists, the very ones who sent him to be a Buddhist monk. That plan backfired. Awesome.
After sharing his story, I shared a bit of mine. Then we prayed for each other. How precious to lay one another at God’s feet. We said we’d continue to pray for each other and traded email addresses. This was probably the highlight of my day.
Next I talked with a couple teenagers from the orphanage, then went back to the break room. An elderly man who was a former Buddhist and was baptized during the conference, asked Pastor Dan and I to pray for him. His daughter had also become a Christian but had not been able to be baptized. He was a former soldier in the military. Joseph prayed for him, too. He wept and wept. Then after the prayer, he shook our hands twice. He was very dear.
Then I prayed for David and Esther. David directs the seminary. Esther is an awesome prayer warrior who gathers women to pray all day in the prayer tower. She had asked me to pray for her and that really humbled me because she has such a heart for prayer herself.
Our daughter Asia had set aside clothes for me to bring to Myanmar, and so I gave them to Esther for her daughters Hope and Joanna. They had some of the clothes on and I took pictures for Asia to see.
David and Esther knelt on the ground while I prayed for them. I was struck by the privilege of praying for them, who are doing so much for this country. I felt like they should be the ones to pray for me. By the time we were done, sweat was pouring down my face and chest. My shirt was soaked. My desire going into this trip was to pour myself out for God’s purposes. I didn’t know that had multiple meanings!
Next we left and drove to a restaurant. I had baked pasta and salad, which was a welcome change. I’m glad I didn’t have to eat this:
Actually, I have really enjoyed the food here. I also ordered a special drink called a spider, which is a Sprite-like drink with strawberry syrup in the bottom, and strawberry ice cream and whipped cream on the top. It’s very pretty and very tasty.
Then we got back to the hotel. The first thing we do in our room is try to connect to the internet. It’s been 12 hours now and no internet. It might be this way for the rest of our stay. As I’ve prayed for an internet connection, God has spoken to my heart and said, “This is a way to identify with Myanmar so you can pray for them.”
One of the principles I taught on intercession is that intercession is effective when we can identify with those for whom we pray. As an American, I come here and expect the internet to be up all the time. When it goes down, I expect God to bring it back up when I ask. But that’s not the case in Myanmar. Internet is very sketchy. And so through the unreliable internet, we are learning to identify with the Burmese, which will help us to pray for them.
Imagine driving 30 minutes to an internet cafe. It costs $1,200 to install internet in your home, and because $1,200 is your annual salary (although most don’t earn that much), you’d rather not spend your entire year’s salary on internet because you have other expenses like food. So you drive 30 minutes to an internet cafe, but the internet is down. Maybe it’ll go back you, you don’t know, so you wait an hour. But after an hour it’s still down, so you drive 30 minutes back home. That’s two hours wasted. Yes, we’re learning to identify with them.