Burma— where all the gold is on the pagodas
On 17 November Dr Jim Winter and John Hobson of Horsell Evangelical Church, and I of College Park Baptist Church, Lewisham, met for the long flight from Heathrow to Yangon. We returned safely back on 1 December.
It was a lovely surprise to see Yangon’s new, spacious and attractive airport, but even better to see Brothers Tuang and Suan waiting outside the wire barrier and waving excitedly on seeing us. They studied years ago at London Theological Seminary (LTS).
We arrived at City Star Hotel in Downtown Yangon. As before, we found the sprawling, bustling city full of taxis, buses, people and lights. Walking round the streets was an eye-opener and we felt again the pulse of this famous ‘Rangoon’ city, though in recent years the Government has moved its seat hundreds of miles away, leaving many former colonial buildings standing idle and derelict.
The roads and infrastructure still need much improvement. We saw men breaking up big stones in the absence of machines, to fill the many pot-holes. Yet the people seem resilient and adaptable, without the many grumbles we hear in the UK.
We were ministering God’s holy Word to hundreds of mainly poor people. I do not think I have ever been so busy, but it was such a delight to speak either through an interpreter or in direct English to so many eager to listen and learn. The young people were polite and appreciative.
If Burma was not so far away, I could live there — such was the satisfaction I felt as I went to bed each night tired, but ready and eager to carry on the next day.
Jim and John had their many engagements elsewhere. John spoke on Genesis 1-11 and John Calvin, and Jim on ‘Depression’ and biblical passages such as John 1. On Sundays they ministered in different churches.
My schedule was different. La Nu, who left LTS in June, arranged for me to minister for four days at Myanmar Young Crusaders. On 19-20 November, I travelled 24 miles to the Evangelical Bible Baptist College for several sessions.
There were 107 students present, who all stood up as I entered, saying together: ‘Good morning, sir’. The father-in-law of La Nu, a retired chef at the British Embassy, did a super banquet on both days. On Saturday 21 November, I was taken to the Myanmar Young Crusaders Orphanage, where over 120 youngsters performed in their age groups and then listened as I spoke on ‘Eagles’, translated by La Nu.
On Sunday I was taken to Myanmar Young Crusaders Church in Yangon and preached to over 100 people. I was back there at 4pm for the youth service, attended by over 400 young people. After musical items, they listened to me for 50 minutes as I preached on Jesus Christ and the gospel.
Later at my hotel I met Johnny Lian, principal of Canon Theological College, and agreed to address his students for two hours on two afternoons. From 23-27 November, I was at Grace Baptist Theological Seminary, speaking to the 53 students in English from 9am-noon. After a brief rest, I had other engagements in homes or at the Canon College. So I was teaching for 19 hours that week. God truly gave me the strength.
An unexpected highlight for me on the Saturday was to meet some students who invited me to join an English conversation class at the British Embassy from 5-7pm. Here were intelligent students, many of them Christians, wanting to improve their English and education so that they could help raise their country’s standards.
I was welcomed and then for over an hour was ‘on the spot’. This was completely off the cuff, but such a privilege. Finally on Sunday 29 November I preached twice at the church meeting in the Grace Baptist Theological Seminary. On Monday, we prepared to leave Burma, with farewells and many saying, ‘Come again next year!’
We pray much for Burma — for conversions and other changes, but clearly Christianity is spreading. There may be over 100 Christian colleges in Yangon. Not all of them may be truly biblical, but ‘God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year’.
I honour the memory of pioneer American missionary to Burma, Adoniram Judson, and I thank God for what I have seen this year.