It sure felt that way in terms of travel! Reaching our final destination in Kalaymyo, Myanmar required 5 plane rides (1 of which was 16 hours) complete with layovers and 2 nights at a hotel in Yangon. Including losing an entire day flying over time zones, we spent 5 days in route to Kalaymyo! Please don’t mistake these facts as complaints though. The journey there was part of the adventure, and what we found upon arrival was well worth it.
Pastor Joseph met us at the airport in Kalaymyo and escorted us to our hotel. Later that day (Wed.), we went to his ministry site to visit the students and orphans. The reception was truly a humble moment. We were welcomed with smiles, songs, and introductions. In the evening, we held the first of four evening worship services. The students and orphans sang with loud joy. Lyrics to one of their songs became a favorite instantly, not only for the words but for the passion with which they sang them. “Give me no name, O Lord. Give me no fame, O Lord. Give me souls for Myanmar to be saved.” Very touching. Very moving.
Thursday and Friday, each member of our team taught the students. On Saturday, we visited two villages and taught there as well. One of the biggest highlights of these days for me was distributing the clothes to the students and orphans. For most of them, they had never owned a new outfit. For the first time in their lives, they unpacked new shirts, new pants, and new shoes. Once again I was reminded in a very profound manner that it is truly better to give than to receive.
Sunday was a full day of exciting ministry. We worshipped with the saints, participated in the baptism of 9 students, and each had a part in the student graduation. To our amazement, over 600 people (at least) from the community attended the graduation. You may wonder why this number is amazing. First, the graduation was held outside and the heat was almost overbearing. In fact, two of us suffered heat exhaustion during this trip. However, 600+ maintained their seats and their attention for a service that lasted almost 3 hours. Second, the seminary is not located in an area of visibility (that’s an understatement), does not boast of grand facilities (that’s an understatement), and does not offer its graduates premier placement in the job market but rather a call to go and make disciples. 21 students answered that call, and this was the second graduation of Emmanuel Theological Seminary. Simply amazing!
On Monday, we began the long journey home and by Wed evening, we had all reached our separate homes.
This is just our itinerary though. The real story is in the ministry of Emmanuel, Kalaymyo. That is where the grace and power of God are truly evident.
In 2006, Joseph Bawi Ceu arrived in Kalaymyo to begin ministry. In 2011, he held the second graduation of seminary students. His ministry includes 44 students, 21 orphans, 7 professors, and helpers. The degrees include Certificates of Theology and Bachelor of Theology. Students arrive with their belongings in a travel box. The boys and girls have separate facilities, each on the top level with classroom space underneath. When they are not studying, they are engaged in worship, fasting and prayers, or manual work. The orphans are raised in anticipation of joining the seminary. The goal is that through this ministry, the gospel will be sent to every corner of Myanmar, and it has begun to reach fulfillment. While we were there, we met Josiah, a former student. As a missionary, he has led over 30 Buddhists to the Lord!
It really is a miracle story to stop and think this began in 2006 from nothing! Only God could bring about such lasting fruit.
It has not been without great difficulty. From what I could ascertain, their greatest struggle, among others, is hunger, and they face it often. When there is no rice, they spend the day in fasting and prayer. Maybe twice a week. Maybe twice a month. At times there simply is no food. They don’t quit. They don’t question God. They fast and pray. The result of their joyful, patient, suffering perseverance is a graduating class of 21 students, discipled, made strong through suffering, and ready to go into the fields of harvest.
Indeed, the story of grace is not that four Americans traveled to Myanmar but what those four Americans found when they reached their destination. The Gospel is alive and well and growing, without our Western necessities, or “niceties.” The Gospel is going forth from the pure grace and power of God. It was, from every angle and perspective, a marvel to behold.
Pray for Pastor Joseph and all the ministries of Emmanuel, Kalaymyo. And pray for Myanmar.