Singing in beautiful harmony. Solo bass in descant. Clear soaring sopranos resonating in this church building. This is a song not from a 50-member tabernacle choir. This comes from three Lahu people singing in a Chinese (GuGan Tribe) church here in the mountains of the Shan State of Myanmar. I stand transfixed with my video camera glorifying God for this short moment of seeing my creator Savior through the lives of these tribal people, a minority group here in ThaLwin Village of 40,000 people.
This morning, my devotions is on Psalm 99. “God is exalted over all the peoples” (Ps. 99:2). I pray to see God’s exaltation in the lives of the people I will meet today. Our creator Savior is using these three Lahu persons to shine His light of glory into my heart. He is answering my prayer.
Lahu tribal people are a minority group here in the Shan State of Myanmar. Here, we have the Chinese, the Burmese, the Liso tribal people, and many other cultural communities who are located in the mountainous regions of this part of Myanmar. Our missions team from Taiwan is ministering to people, members of a Chinese church belonging to the GuGan group, a sub-tribe of the Han Chinese from Mainland China. GuGan people are a dominant people group residing in the Shan State. They trace their heritage to the Yunan Chinese of China.
“I care for this tribal group,” I hear God speaking to me. He chooses the least from among the people groups of this locality. He shows me His glory for all the nations through this Lahu song. I do not speak the Lahu language. And I am very sure they do not understand my Chinese. God is declaring His presence right now in the Lahu tongue. I wish I knew Burmese so I can ask them for a translation of their song. But I also do not know Burmese. And yet, I hear God say: “From among the weak and the helpless, I will declare my glory for Asia.” Holy is the Lord!
Six people from Taiwan are here in Yangon, Myanmar. They come to represent the Holy Light Theological Seminary (HLTS) and is led by Dr. David Clemente, a missions professor from this seminary. They are going to visit the Glorious Light Church (Rong Guang Tang), a Free Methodist congregation located in Yangon. Rev. Esther Huang, the GLC pastor, have invited the Taiwan Team to visit GLC and its various ministries around the city. The Team will visit the Hope Student Center, and speak to its group of youth. Rev. Huang have also organized a Couples Retreat and is inviting Dr. Clemente to speak. Later, the team will visit the Dala congregation, the PingAn Church, the Grace church in NayPhiDaw. Michael, Hannah, and Jane are preparing to speak, taking turns in leading songs, sermons, and testimonies. The other members, Steven and Tzuan are also assisting in various roles.
Newsflash! The Taiwan Team will also go up north and ride the bus for a 16-hour trip to the Shan State. Rev. Huang have arranged a meeting with a congregation in ThaLwin Village, namely, the Nu Jiang Church. The Team will speak at its children’s meeting, youth group, and Sunday sermon. There are no hotels in this rustic village of 40,000 people. The team will reside in the homes of the leaders of NuJiang Church. This report comes to you with a prayer for a successful missions trip experience and an inspiring partnership with this local GuGang community here in the Shan State.
I come to Yangon to teach at a Bible college. There are thirteen students (13), most are in their first year. They say, "Thank you," but I do not know how much they are receiving from my teaching. Pastor Solomon, one of the professors of this college, is doing a great job of translating for me. I am sure a lot of the materials is lost in translation. Most of these Myanmar students are taking a missions course for the first time. Is it enough to introduce missions concepts to these students? I think not, but we have to start somewhere.
I come to Hakha, the capital city of the Chin State, to lead a Bible seminar on missions. There are about twenty (20) pastors participating. After three days of sharing, I still am not sure how these pastors understand the implications of missions practice in their local churches. Pastor Pakep, the Superintendent translates for me. He is doing a great job of taking my words and making them more interesting. "This is our first time to have a pastor's seminar on missions," Pakep tells me. I am honored by these pastors' enthusiasm. I wonder if they really know what a local church looks life if it is engaged in world missions and sending its own missionaries. Is this three-day seminar enough to help them become a missional church? I do not know. However, I have to try sometime.
I come to Myanmar, to Hakha, Kalay, Falam, and other cities of the Chin State with Paul Lo, a graduate of Holy Light Theological Seminary (HLTS) where I am teaching. The Chin pastors of the Free Methodist (FM) churches of Myanmar have invited us to come and lead a seminar in missions, as well as visit their churches, orphanages, and childcare centers. Paul is here with me with the blessing of his home church in Pingtung, Taiwan. I am encouraged at the many ways this Pingtung church is connected with the FM work here in Myanmar. This church is sending Paul, one of its lay pastors (ChuanDao). A year ago, a few of its young people participated in a missions trip to Yangon. I am grateful for their help. However, is this enough to bring a missional movement of local churches praying for each other and sharing resources across cultures and bridging different traditions? I do not think we can even call this a movement. Nonetheless, people are praying, churches are sending, and individuals are answering God's call to go. Is it enough? I do not know. Maybe.
When the day comes when Chin pastors from Myanmar go as cross-cultural missionaries to different regions of Asia bringing the gospel with them, then we can all look back and say, "God's grace is sufficient." The small things we do are enough in the eyes of God.
"I want to talk to you and ask you many questions," one of the lady pastors speaks to me through an interpreter. The other pastors, mostly men, nod their heads in agreement. "But I do not speak English." I motion with my hand coming from my heart moving towards her and say, "That is okay. Our hearts meet together even without our words." The group are smiling and affirming my motions and explanation.
I am in a mountain, 2000 plus meter above sea level. This is the city of Hakha, the capital of the Chin State in Myanmar. We are taking a break from one of my lectures on missions, a three day seminar training for 21 pastors from the Chin community. It is freezing cold this morning. At ten o clock, it is still around 40 degrees (F). So, we all huddle close to an open fire for warmth and some relief from the cold. There are no heaters here, no hot water, no insulated houses or rooms for us to run to. We opt for the open yard beside the church to form a ring around this open fire. It is the best place to received some comfort and rejuvenate our cold hands. Also, it is a perfect place and time to share some thoughts and ask each other question of importance or even mundane things.
"Missions can happen in your local churches, even among poor Asian churches who do not have much financial resources," I keep saying this to everyone in the sessions. Many of them agree and openly repeat the concept to each other. At the end of the day, we have a short period of feedback and sharing time. "Even though we are poor, we can do this mission thing," some of them encourage each other. I see their Superintendent smile and nod in agreement. I pray that this vision of Asian FM workers crossing cultures and reaching to other Asians will start here in the mountains of the Chin State. God is moving among the Chin people and so, we move with Him.
We started the New Year with a visit to our favorite Chinese restaurant, Wu Hua Ma, with dumplings, noodle soup, and other delicacies that we missed so much. Life in Kaohsiung is good! God is good, all the time!!!