“Dad, when I grow up, I want to be a missionary,” Daniel Lo tells his father. Daniel is only eleven years old and is the youngest member of this year’s mission team from Taiwan. We are in Yangon, Myanmar for ten days to visit Free Methodist work in the country, helping in different children’s ministries and painting the walls of a Bible College (school). There are 20 of us from Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Twelve members are from a seminary where I teach, and eight are from one local church in the Kaohsiung area. Daniel and his father are members of this local church. “Dad, when there is another mission trip to Myanmar,” Daniel continues. “Can I go again?”
My name is David Clemente, a professor at Holy Light Theological Seminary (HLTS) here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I am a missionary with the Free Methodist World Mission (FMWM), USA, sent to Taiwan to teach missions and theology courses at this seminary. Every year, I organize mission trips among our students and their friends to visit and connect with different areas of Free Methodist work in Asia. This past February, we went to Yangon, Myanmar. We visited Chin, Burmese, and Chinese people residing in the city of Yangon.
“Their smiles are melting my heart,” members of this team remark about the children in Yangon. We visit a Burmese Childcare Center of 30 or so children ages 5-7 years old. The children are happily participating in hand craft activities, coloring pictures and constructing bright red Chinese characters with their nimble fingers. “I do not know what they are saying,” the Taiwan team members share to each other. “But their smiles and enthusiasm speak of God’s love.” It is obvious that the Taiwanese visitors are having a wonderful experience with God’s work in Myanmar.
We also visited Free Methodist work among the Chinese community in the city of Yangon. We crossed the Yangon River riding on a ferry boat. We traveled across the countryside on a three-wheeled bicycle ride. We ministered to twenty or so children from a poor neighborhood and crammed ourselves together with them in a small 20x10 square foot room for a time of singing, drama, and Bible stories. We encountered God through the people we met in these small congregations here in Myanmar.
The Free Methodist Church (FMC) is a world church. It is in 85 countries across six continents. This denomination started in 1860 in New York, USA, but has its roots in the Methodist revival movement from England. Now we have about 80,000 members here in the USA and more than 900,000 around the globe. FMC is evangelical in its persuasion. Moreover, it is a tradition that is serious about its missionary calling to “bring wholeness to the world” through its many ministries. It sends cross cultural workers and missionaries through its sending agency, the Free Methodist World Mission (FMWM), and sponsors children around the world through its ICCM (International Child Care Ministries) organization. It partners with other churches and missions agencies through its Set Free Movement (SFM) group, with the aim of rescuing slaves and victims of human trafficking and restoring these people to full humanity. Free Methodist congregations and their members around the world are connected to each other because of their love for God and commitment to make disciples of all nations.
“Now I know how to pray for the Free Methodist work in Asia,” one of the Taiwan members tells me. “Pastor David, now I know what you were talking about in the classroom,” another member shares to me. “Because, here in Yangon, I have talked to a Burmese pastor, I have cuddled a small child, and I have seen God’s work with my own eyes.” God’s connection is right before us.
In so many ways, our experience in Myanmar is a microcosm of the Free Methodist missionary work around the world. We are in Myanmar not only because we want to offer our help to others or to receive spiritual blessings from our fellowship with the local people, but also because we want to see for ourselves what God is already doing in the country. God is at work in the world. God is using many Free Methodists around the globe for the building of His kingdom.
Currently, Free Methodist missionaries are going from Brazil to a few Asian countries. Filipino Free Methodists are being sent as Christian cross cultural workers to Hong Kong, Cambodia, Pakistan, and other restricted countries. Taiwanese FMC members are sponsoring children from Haiti through ICCM. Free Methodists from India are rescuing children in Nepal through its SFM local group. These are just a few examples of the many ways God is using Free Methodist people in the world.
In the same manner, FMC of Myanmar is participating in world missions for the Lord’s work. From its small Bible College in Yangon, FM leaders are sending their students to India for summer missions work across the border to Mizoram. One of its orphanages is strategically located in the borders of Thailand to help victims of human trafficking. Free Methodist childcare centers are present in major cities to minister to needy children and suffering families. God is working in Myanmar, just as He is working in other countries, bringing many Free Methodists to join in His harvest in the world.
My prayer is that many more Free Methodist Asians will answer God’s call for more workers in His harvest field. When Jesus said not to hinder the children from coming to him, he is talking about more than just their innocence and qualifications to enter God’s kingdom (Matthew 19:14). I think Jesus was also referring to the children’s ability to grasp the calling for missions work; God’s work of bringing wholeness to the world. Many Asian children are ready to say to our Lord: “Jesus, when I grow up, I want to be your missionary.”