We left the hotel at about 8:00 and arrived at MAO with many other people. It was the seminary graduation ceremony, where four graduates and two ministry leaders were being recognized. The people packed out the chapel. After a few pictures with the graduates and faculty it was time to line up for the procession.
Barry, Suzanne, and I were in the line of faculty. The music started, so we started the procession, down the center aisle and up on the stage. Barry went to the right and I went to the left as we rehearsed. I felt the deep honor of being part of this ceremony, celebrating the graduation of these precious young men: Aaron, Nehemiah, John, and Hosea.
The service started with a welcome and a reading of the history. Then Suzanne prayed for the seminary. I won’t list out every part of the service, but it was deeply meaningful. There were to solos, which were lovely and gave praise to God. Oakes got to hand out awards to best students in four categories: academics, spiritual life, hardest worker, and leadership.
Mary, who was with another group, but is from State College, has invested so much into MM. She has relationships with so many children they call her Mama Mary. She came to the service and handed out awards, too. Very precious. Barry prayed for the graduates and commissioned them. I got the honor of delivering the message to the graduates, which I am so humbled to have been asked to do.
I called them to be the salt of the earth, per the words of J——s (love that guy). In J——‘s day, salt had four purposes: as a seasoning, a preservative, an offering, and an export. I called for them to be salt by doing these things. I think they were encouraged and challenged.
Joseph also took time to honor the new visiting professors: me, Barry, and Suzanne, and gave us a nice framed order of our appointment. Again, humbled to be here. There were other parts of the service, and when it was over, we walked out and formed a receiving line and then greeted every person. After that was done, it was picture time in the chapel. Keep in mind we were wearing traditional Chin sports coats and ties, and my handkerchief was soaked about ten minutes into the service.
But if they want pictures, we give them pictures. After oh, an hour more, it was time for lunch. We changed and ate a delicious meal. Someone who came in for the service had just roasted a pig, so we ate some of it. It was very good. After lunch it was play time. I walked around with some kids. The kids are physical, so they hug you and wrap their arms around you, and some hold your hand. Not just girls. Boys too.
We ended up at the seminary, where one of the professors, Bawi, offered us a desert. I was thinking maybe apple pie or whoopee pie (ok not really) but instead he offered a refresher. It is a slice of lemon dipped in salt and chili powder. They call it a refresher because that’s what it does – it really wakes you up. After the first one I thought my throat was going to explode but when it didn’t I decided to have another one. My eyes filled with tears at the burning heat, but hey, I’ve had two, so why not three? After my third I knew I was done when my stomach started smoking inside.
After being refreshed, I heard commotion at the fish pond, and wouldn’t you know it, it was time to catch fish. There is a wedding the next day at the chapel, a whole community celebration, so they are preparing much food for the feast. The fish are caught by dragging a net across the pond and catching the fish in the net. A group of boys waded through the pond, dragging it to the other side. Suddenly there was much flapping and flipping of the fins.
The boys pulled the net to the shore, then on shore, and the boys beat the fish with sticks and then threw the fish into big metal bowls. It was so fun to watch. They were having so much fun. They brought the fish to the outdoor kitchen and scaled them and cleaned them. I noticed a big boiling pot of water and I asked what it was for. They said for slaughtering the pig.
I noticed a big fat pig laying beneath a tree. I asked for clarification. They confirmed it. They were going to kill the pig when the water began to boil. So I ran and got Oakes and we ran back together. They brought out a hammer to knock its head and asked if I wanted to do it. I politely declined. But Oakes was all in. He pulled the hammer back and swung it against the pig’s head.
The pig squeeled and tried to get away. That didn’t do it. So then Noah, the same guy who makes bricks and runs an orphanage, delivered the winning blow right square in the right spot. The pig went limp. We carried it over to a concrete area (when I say we, I mean yes, I helped with this part) where they poured the boiling water on the pig.
Then I’m so proud to say that Timothy one of the seminary students we sponsor, skinned the pig. The water makes it much easier; the hair came off much quicker. Then they began cutting it, but being careful to ruin the blood because they use it for food, too. They pulled out organs and placed them in a bowl. I held the pig’s heart in my hand, still warm. At customs, they ask if you’ve been around livestock. I guess this qualifies.
Malachi, another boy we sponsor, stood with us. I felt blessed to be sharing in this primal experience with the two guys we sponsor. By this time, there were no women around. It was a good time of community as each person did his part. I thought of what other guys might do together – watch a football game or something like that. But this was way cool.
After the desirable organs were removed, they began cutting the pig apart. I saw bacon, ready to be fried. It made me miss Colette, who loves bacon. Remember the time I said that cutting up a pig reminded me of my wife?
They threw the parts on the grill for a few minutes and then it was time for roasting them. I went around the corner and what did I see? Kids plucking feathers off chickens. Of course there are kids plucking feathers off chickens. They already beat the fish with sticks and slaughtered the pig, why shouldn’t they pluck the chickens.
Then I saw a kid kicking a soccer ball, but it wasn’t a soccer ball, it was the bladder of the pig blown up like a soccer ball. It worked great.
What struck me about this day was how so many people came together and did their part for the community. It was so cool how the community was worth everyone’s time. Granted not everyone helped in these tasks, some did crafts with our team and played cane ball and hung out, but many were involved in preparing the big feast. Like family would do.
Next Joseph wanted to meet with me, so we met for a while about future ministry stuff and let me just say I’m excited for a new level of ministry. I won’t say too much right now, but I will say new level, new authority, new anointing. Stay tuned.
We ate dinner and then it was time for the evening program. We entered the chapel, where all the kids from MAO and Blessing and perhaps other orphanages were there, singing worship songs and praising God. One of my very favorite parts of visiting MM is worshiping and praying with the kids. They really know how to press into the LORD.
I have to say, this trip has been so much more than serving. It has been personally reviving to everyone on this team, which is nothing that any of us expected. It’s hard to describe if you don’t experience it yourself, but faith is stirred up and passion for God invigorated and love for God’s family is strengthened and prayer is deepened.
I’ve had some great conversations with our team members about how much they have been touched by this experience. When we get to Bangkok and have a day to rest, we’ll debrief and hear more, but this trip has been so much more than a mission trip to serve. It has been a revival trip.
I believe a great revival is coming to MM, birthed by desperation, whose hallmark is prayer, worship, service, evangelism, and equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. Suddenly the poor won’t seem poor anymore; they’ll seem rich, and the rich will realize how poor they are. Blessed are the poor in spirit will become a reality that drives people to G—. I tell you I see it coming. As things are improving there in the natural realm, there will be a firming up in the spiritual. And more workers will be released in the harvest field in MM.
After some songs and performances on stage, our team was asked up. Actually, at first it was only Caleb. “Caleb, please Caleb, will you sing us a song?” is what was asked. He stood there by himself for a few minutes trying to think of something to sing. I wished he pulled out Napoleon Dynamite’s dance, but I suppose we were inadequately prepared for such a moment, which I suppose falls on the team leader. But Oakes saved him but jumping up and bringing John and soon all of our team was onstage except for Barry and me. We both had video cameras, which saved us from having to do it. So mental note, always carry a video camera should you get called onstage to sing.
But actually it was quite beautiful. Our team led the song “Our God” and the worship atmosphere was awesome. When it was over, they requested a second song, so Lois and Caleb led the Doxology. Great moment. Then we did my favorite kids worship song together.
Then they invited us back onstage to dance, but this time all of us danced. I tried some electric slide moves, but turns out I ended up doing the fake hustle, which is an imposter to the real hustle, which is not the electric slide at all. But no worries because Betsy led the whole thing like it was her job and calling.
If you ever need a dancing queen to reign at your party, look no further. She improvised dance moves like she was Richard Simmons. The kids and staff followed along, trying so hard to keep up. It was so much fun.
Then we slowed down and Ruth invited kids to the front if they wanted to say things to us. This was very sweet. They tried hard to speak all in English and every kid did. Then we were invited up on stage to say words, too. Timothy went up to the microphone. After that, kids gathered around each one of us and prayed for us. What a powerful time. They prayed all at once out loud, so you catch certain words or certain phrases, but not every word because the chorus of prayer is going out and up, and hovering around.
Then it was time to say goodbye. Oh, so difficult. Kids were crying all over the place. They were hugging us and holding our hands and burying their heads in us. Last year it was not like this when we left. But this year, something happened in the hearts of these kids and in us, we really became like family. It really took a long time leave, I gave great big hugs to Malachi and Timothy, and to David, my newest buddy, and to Joel. These are the guys who I really connected with.
I gave my sweaty Nike wristbands to David and Joel, and you know it’s love when they actually want them. I gave my Burmese bracelet to Malachi and to Timothy I gave no present. Instead, he have a present to me – a gift for Asia and one for Rex. I have no idea how he afforded them. And he wrote a long and beautiful letter to my family, starting with:
“It is unspeakable to express my words of thanks to you for you have known me as a member of your family. I am so very thankful that you are my family in Christ…your prayers make me strong all the time.”
I decided not to give Timothy a present, but instead to simply receive. It is common for us who have more material wealth to pity those who have less. But from Timothy and others I have learned that to have less is sometimes to have more if you are rich in spirit. And our friends in MM are, kings of the world.
For the team,