Two and a half years ago, I was sitting in a church service at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. It was an ordinary Wednesday night, and as I sat listening to the message, I heard the word, “Myanmar.”
I vaguely knew that Myanmar was a country, that it was located in Asia and that it had been through some hard times. Several weeks later, I was sitting with friends in another service, and they mentioned that they were from Burma (modern-day Myanmar), and there were some ministry opportunities there.
Two weeks later, I was in Myanmar.
I kept a journal while visiting that country in January 2014:
“In the middle of nowhere, down a dusty, broken road, you’ll find a Bible college. There are 18 students gathered from throughout the country of Myanmar. One is a retired government agent, committed to spending the rest of his days proclaiming Christ. One comes from a delta city destroyed by Cyclone Nargis. She plans to return and plant a church with a friend. One is a former animist, one a former Hindu. Together, they are beautiful.
Over the river from Yangon, in a village called Dala, a house the size of my bedroom fits 19 believers. We sit in a circle and pray and worship. Curious children poke their heads in the window and laugh and laugh and laugh at the first Westerner to visit.
Together, we celebrate communion. The first member of this church came to know Christ at age four, converting from Buddhism. Today she is 18, and she knows God answers prayers because her sister follows Christ.
Her 41-year-old mother attends church with her and is “very close” to Christianity.
Two hundred people gather in a one hundred-year-old church. A traditional Methodist service is held with only hymns sung, two offerings taken, and after service, the whole church enjoys coconut noodles together. Most have known each other all their lives.
Thirty young people sit in pews. The clock says 1:15, and the service was meant to start at one. The girl on my left wears a Sex Pistols shirt. She converted from Buddhism two years ago and is dating one of the youth leaders. The girl on my right is named Esther. She leads us in song and reminds me of my sister.
One hundred and forty children sing with passion. All are orphans. All have found a home – one that goes through 20,000 gallons of water a day, is partially sponsored by four international governments and is totally centered on Christ. A girl named Josie came from the wandering sea pirates. A boy named Agnus is not mentally ready for school, but his Woody costume and bright smile bring great joy. A man who went to Bible college without faith and left with a love for Christ tells me, beaming, story after miracle story of how this home came to exist.
At dawn, a handful of believers gather. We sing, worship and pray in a way that seems formal but reverent. The group are longstanding friends, family and neighbors.
In the last three days, these are the six places that I broke open God’s Word with the believers in Myanmar. At the Bible college, I taught almost four hours from Acts (thank you, Joyful Life!) At the house church, it was spontaneous Isaiah and Philippians. When I finished my first word, they looked at me disappointed and asked, “That’s all?” At the Methodist church, I shared on Christ, the bread of life (thank you, Steven Thompson). And for the youth service, I spoke on the life of Christ in the Gospel of Mark (thank you, Segerstrom and Ryan Pelton).
I have learned so many things here, and I am continually humbled. Today, one of the believers prayed over me and shared this vision:
-You are fruitful in many ways but dry on the inside. The Lord wants to refresh you, and the Spirit wants to overflow you.
-Trust me with your dad. His health is in My hands.
-There are many, many people waiting to hear the word of The Lord through you.”
Last weekend, I was invited to share on Acts 13. It was the first time I had studied that passage of scripture since visiting Myanmar.
As I sat, reflecting on the passage and reading my old journal entries, I was in awe of the unending story our God is writing. I am now part of a Methodist church. The words that were spoken over me in January 2014 are still true today.
The stories I could tell of the threads of my life in Christ are unending, and those are the ones I know about. How beautiful it is to realize that we are part of an unending story! The God who came before time and will continue after it leaves us. He knows the details of our lives, and He cares about them.
His unending love inspires us to greater confidence and richer faith. To borrow a phrase from Acts 13, “‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you'” (Acts 13:41).