It's Friday evenig here in Kalaymyo near the western border of Myanmar. It's hard to realize that I'm not that far from north-east India. But what I've learned this week is that the border area between Myanmar and India is no place that we would want to be. This is where Pastor Thang's father was be-headed back in 2007. He was on his way back from a visit to India and criminals in the area assumed that he had gone to India to get money. When he told them that he had none the did not believe him because they knew he was a Christian. They were convinced that he had gone to India to get money for the churches in Chin State that he served. The criminals became frustrated trying to get him to give them the money that he didn't have and so they killed him by be-heading him. Hard to even imagine that a story like that could be a part of a churches' history. It was after his father had been killed that Pastor Thang was thrust into a leadership role that he had neither desired nor expected. He and Pastor Kham began looking for guidance in leading this small group of Lutheran pastors and congregations spread through-out the poverty striken Chin State. That was the time when the "stumbled" across the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Their email was forwarded to the CLC Bd of Missions and that email landed in my email inbox back in 2007. After initial correspondence and then correspondence course, Pastor David Koenig was asked by the Bd. of Missions to take over communication and to plan a visit. Since that time Pastor Koenig has traveled to Kalaymyo every year but one to meet with the pastors and to conduct Bible teaching seminars.
Since Chin State (where most of the congregations are located) remains restricted to foreign visitors Pastor Koenig has not been able to visit the local congregations. We were hopeful that the new and developing government here in Myamar would issue the necessary permit for us to visit one of the congregations that recently finished construction of a new church building. Unfortunately, we were not able to secure the permit needed to travel to Chin State.
The last four days have been spent teaching several pastors and about 90 others who have gathered to grow in their understanding of God's word. The seminar began each day at 8:00 am and concluded at 3:30 pm. And each evening there were more than a 100 who gathered for evening worship. Pastor Koenig and I took turns preaching and teaching at the seminar and evening worship services. It has been a joy and a privilege to spend this time teaching God's saving word to so many who are so eager and hungry for God's word.
I also so thankful for the opportunity to finally meet Pastor Kham and Thang face to face. I have read so many emails from them and have read and prayed over the reports that Pastor Koenig has faithfully sent to the Bd of Missions over the past several years. While email and things like Skype or Facetime are wonderful tools for instant communication...nothing can replace or make up for the understanding and fellowship that can only be established and truly appreciated through a face to face visit and standing and working side by side, shoulder to shoulder in our Savior's harvest fields. Thank You Lord for these past 4 1/2 days with these faithful servants of the word and for all those who have gathered around His word!
My travel plans have changed a bit. I will leave Myanmar a couple of days early so that I can return to India for a couple of days on my trip back home. My flight leaves from Kalaymyo tomorrow afternoon. My flight will take me from Kalaymyo to Mandalay and then back to Rangoon. I'll spend a short night in Rangoon before I catch an early flight back to Chennai (via Kuala Lampur) where I will be met by Pastor Starkey.
The internet here is too slow to post a lot of pictures...I'll try to upload one picture from the worship service last night. Check back again in a couple of days. I'm hoping to post a few pictures while I spend the night in Rangoon.
Good night from Kalaymyo in western Myanmar!