Greetings to you and once again my thanks for your support and encouragement in so many ways. Thank you especially for praying – God continues to answer your prayers in wonderful ways and we see the ministries in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and India continuing to touch lives for the Lord Jesus Christ.
During October I had the privilege of visiting Advent Christian workers in MYANMAR and THAILAND, and I was also able to make contact with Ruth Devairakkam and Wilfred from Malaysia while I was in the area. It was a blessing to have fellowship with the folk in Myanmar and Thailand again, and to again realise the tremendous potential that there is for our ministries in both of these countries and the commitment of those who serve the Lord there to share the message of LIFE in Jesus Christ.
The prime reason for my visit was to be part of what we called a Teaching Team which ACGC put together to respond to a request from the leadership of the AC Conference in Myanmar to assist them with instruction and teaching for the leaders and workers of the four organisations which make up the Conference. It is to their credit that when we earlier asked how we could best help them; their request was that we assist them with leadership development and Biblical instruction, so that they could better share the Gospel with their people.
Our Team consisted of Rev Ron Thomas, Executive Director of ACGC; Rev Jeff Walsh, Director of World Outreach; Rev Penny Vann, Asia Pacific Area Director (along with her husband Jeff); Mrs Janelle Walsh, Chairman of the Central Region Women’s Home and Foreign Mission Society and member of the national board of that organisation, Janelle’s daughter Megan and myself. We met in Bangkok, Thailand and after an overnight stop there flew the relatively short distance to Yangon.
The first two days of our time in Yangon was spent delivering four half-day seminars to about fifty of the leaders and workers of the Myanmar Conference in a very suitable meeting room at a hotel close to the international airport. Most of these folk were from the area in and around Yangon but some had come great distances from other parts of the country where the ACCM leaders have outreach ministries, At least one of the brothers who attended had never seen a person with white skin until meeting our team members! It was a delight to interact with these brothers and sisters; for some of our team to meet them for the first time and be able to put faces to names that they had read about in reports for some time; and to be able to encourage and join with them in times of praise and worship before each seminar. Rev Ron gave the first seminar on Biblical Leadership, and Rev Jeff’s seminar was on the subject of Church Planting. The next day Rev Penny’s morning seminar discussed Evangelism and Janelle’s seminar in the afternoon covered Evangelism to Children. One of the Conference leaders, Pastor K, did a great job of translating the English words of the teachers into the Burmese language of the attendees. Our team members commented as we discussed the meetings at a later time, how impressed we were with the attentiveness of those present at the seminars. I don’t think I have ever before been in meetings of this kind where there was so much concentration and interest shown by those present.
The morning following the final seminar we all visited the home of Pastor K and his wife, where we had the joy of meeting the fourteen orphan children they care for as well as their own children. When Pastor K told us that the children would be reciting some verses of Scripture to us, I expected a few chosen, well known verses but was amazed as they unhesitatingly recited first I Corinthians chapter 13 and later Romans chapter 12 in their language – Burmese! What a blessing it was to see and hear them so familiar with God’s word and to realise that this beautiful family was seeing to it that God’s word was indeed hidden in the hearts of these children they cared for. Whilst here we were able to see the hand-looms which Pastor K has recently been able to purchase because of a gift from a generous couple in the United States. They intend to use these looms to weave materials which they can either make clothes from or sell to raise funds for their family and their ministries. The ladies of our team were blessed at a later time in our visit when Pastor K and his wife presented each of them with the “first-fruits of the looms” a beautifully patterned length of material of a type which they use for their “lungi” – a long, skirt-like dress worn by both Burmese women and men. How generous these brothers and sisters are!
Remembering that all of the organisations which make up the AC Conference in Myanmar care for underprivileged or orphan children, with her permission I want to share with you some comments that Penny Vann wrote in the ACGC E-News following her return to the United States. She wrote…
“In James, we read that true religion is visiting the widow and the orphan in their affliction (ESV). On my recent trip into Asia, I (Penny Vann) saw this principle being applied over and over again. I visited four different ministries and in each one they were taking care of children that were not their own.
One pastor and his wife that I visited were taking care of 29 children; only five were theirs. They go through more than 300 lbs. of rice a month to feed everyone. Another ministry had nine students they were caring for and were hoping to receive three more orphans to join in the fun. Some of the children were orphans, their parents having died in calamities, to diseases like malaria, or were abandoned. Others had come in from remote areas to get a better education. Each of them had found a Christian environment to live in with people who care.
What amazed me was that the people doing this kind of ministry never complained about providing and caring for this many children. They seemed to believe this is what a true Christian does. They chose to show what true religion was to the world even without what seemed to us to be adequate resources at times. These men and women hope by giving these children a Christian upbringing with a good education, they will return with the gospel to their unreached villages. In this way, God is glorified and the gospel spreads”.
After lunch our team then split up and visited the homes and ministries of the other three pastors and their groups and were able to meet the children they care for and some of their workers. It was also a blessing to see some of the items which gifts from generous supporters in New Zealand and the United States have provided to meet their day-to-day needs – bore-wells, portable generators and bunk beds etc. There will be more to say at a later date about some of these brothers and sisters and their ministries.
The next day was Sunday and again our team divided and four of us had the privilege of preaching to the morning worship services of each of the four Conference leaders. I had the joy of speaking to the little group led by Pastor J – about 20 kilometres outside of the city and seemingly in the middle of a huge area of rice fields. (See picture taken at the road entrance – their buildings in the distance).
They are in the process of buying an area of land there and already have their home; a Bible College in which twelve students from many parts of Myanmar are studying to become church planters and ministers of the Gospel, and who live in very, very basic conditions; and necessary dormitories and classroom facilities all of which are also of very basic construction – woven coconut leaf walls and thatched roofs. Part way through my address, we had to pause while half the members of the congregation dealt with a fire in the wall of the nearby kitchen building– fortunately the preparation of the meal I was to enjoy with them after the service was not seriously affected! The generosity of these brothers and sisters, who live in such extreme poverty, has to be experienced to be believed.
After the services and midday meals our team re-assembled and visited the major Buddhist Pagoda (temple) in Yangon – SHWEDAGON. This is a huge area containing dozens, perhaps hundreds, of temples and shrines and idols which house relics of Buddhas some of which date back more than 2,500 years. The main part of the complex, the Shwedagon, is covered with gold leaf and their literature boasts that it is “decorated with 3,154 gold bells, 79,569 diamonds and other precious stones.” It was heart-breaking to see this opulence and mentally compare it with the poverty that we saw all around us in Yangon and it was a blessing to remember the riches of the Christian faith with its eternal, spiritual blessings.
Please pray for the leaders, workers and members of the Advent Christian Conference of Myanmar, and indeed all Christians in the country, as they seek to share the message of God’s love and plan of salvation in Jesus Christ with their people. As the political situation in their country slowly improves, they see tremendous opportunities and potential for Christian ministry and have a wonderful commitment to serving the Lord in spite of the difficulties which still exist.
The next morning the leaders of the Conference and some of their family members farewelled us at the airport as we left to return to Bangkok. At Bangkok we had several hours wait at the airport until we flew north to Nakhon Phanom to spend a few days with John Middlewood and Maeo at Christian Mission Naratchakwai.
We had two and a half days at Naratchakwai and much of it was spent familiarising ourselves (especially Revs Walsh and Vann for whom this was the first visit to the ministry) with the ministries presently being carried out and discussing future ministry possibilities and ways in which ACGC could assist those ministries.
It was exciting to conclude that using modern technologies like Skype and the internet, there are ways that folk in other countries can meet specific needs at Christian Mission Naratchakwai. The older, young people who are presently part of the ministry have formed an orchestra using traditional Thai instruments and are being taught how to play them by an expert. They are presently somewhat hindered by their inability to read music, but during our discussion Sister Janelle indicated that she felt she would be able to teach the girls some skills in this area using Skype as a medium. We are very grateful to Janelle for her willingness to assist in this way. During the time we were there we had the opportunity to have the band give us a very creditable performance and to have some of the younger girls who are learning the skills of traditional Thai dancing show us their ability also.
We were able to visit two of the churches which are part of the recently formed Christ for All People Church Association of which Christian Mission Naratchakwai is one of the six member churches, and were able to meet the pastors and some of the leaders of that new organisation. John is designated as an advisor to the group. John is very grateful that the Lord has answered his prayers and ours in respect to this new organisation which gives the needed registration with the Thai government.
Three older girls were leading a VBS over three days in which about 40 younger children were participating. We had the opportunity of sharing with them in some of their programs and enjoyed the opportunity of this fellowship and of interacting with the older girls who live on the Mission compound. These older girls are a significant part of the English teaching ministry which CMN uses as a bridge into the community, and a few days after we were there, John advised us that a further three of them had told him that they had committed their lives to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and were to share the news with the church members on the following Sunday. Pan, Toom and Jaeub join Nun, Bee, Ploy, Lita, Bpun and Beem2 as the core group of Christian girls who are of so much help to John in the ministry activities at the Mission and in the teaching of English at “English Camps” in the elementary schools.
He – John – is praising the Lord as he sees this as the fruition of 10 years of ministry to this group. He asks us to pray regularly for these girls, that they will grow in their faith and in their knowledge of the Lord’s ways and precepts. He asks that we specifically pray that the girls’ parents/guardians will in due course allow them to be baptised. Only Bee and Nun have been baptised so far and the girls are being advised that at this stage they need to respect their parents’ wishes.
While we were in Myanmar John advised us that Baby Bleum, the infant son of Pastor Nhum and his wife Jutjang, who we have prayed for over recent weeks was again in hospital. By the time we arrived at Naratchakwai he was home again but is in isolation – only his parents are allowed in his room and they have to be masked and gowned.
Please pray for quick and complete healing for Bleum; peace of heart and mind for his parents and wisdom for the doctors and technicians involved with his treatment.
As was the case in Myanmar, we were impressed by the potential that exists for continuing and increasing the extent of the ministry at Naratchakwai. Please continue to pray that the Lord will lead a suitable Thai pastor to the Christian Mission to assist John with the spiritual ministries and to take some of the very significant load that he is carrying at this time. A Thai pastor will also be of significant help with visitation and ministry to the folk who live in the village of Naratchakwai.
I was pleased to also make contact with Ruth Devairakkam and her husband Wilfred while I was in the area. They told me that their group has decided that now is not the right time to be seeking to rent a larger property for their group. They are content at present to continue meeting in Ruth and Wilfred’s home and to continue their “one on one” ministry to contacts and friends. Since my return Ruth has sent the following report which indicates that the Lord is blessing this ministry.
“A non-Christian business woman receives a Bible from us.
Last year, a non-Christian business woman asked us for a Bible. For the past few months, she has been sharing with us about herself and her family situation, which she had bottled-up for many years. She confided that her relationship with her husband was strained, and she was unable to forgive him because he caused the death of her two children in a car accident by his carelessness a few years ago.
We shared Jesus’ forgiveness at the cross of Calvary for the whole world and for us. A few weeks ago, she said she has forgiven her husband. We praise God for His supernatural intervention in her life. Now she goes for meals and shopping together with her husband, and also goes for holidays with him.
Please pray along for her, that she will be able to sense the power of God working in her life and situation.
A mother’s prayer for her son is answered.
A non-Christian business woman in our neighborhood had been sharing that her teenage son is beyond control, and wanted our group to pray for him. The boy has calmed down from his rebellious ways. His mother always stops by to tell us about his progress. She told us that he is teachable now, and has improved a lot after our prayers for him.
Please pray that God will intervene into every step and decision the boy makes in his life.
One of our contacts, a non-Christian lady, lost her husband. She is unable to share her problems to her own family members. Since her husband’s recent death, she has been troubled by feelings of utter loneliness and grief. For two hours, she was telling us about her inner ache and fear. We encouraged her with God’s Word. She was happy that we were willing to listen to her, and to sympathize with her. Pray that God will comfort and console her during this time of grief. She knows that our group will be praying for her. This has given her courage and hope.
Pray for our group in Kluang, Malaysia.”
We have just received a long report from the Advent Christian Conference of India’s outreach ministry in Khagaria, Bihar State, led by Pastor Paul Sundar Raj and his wife Suder Mathi. The full report will be up on our website (www.acmissionz.org.nz) in the next few days, but Paul and his team ask us to praise the Lord with themthat during a three day Fasting and Prayer Camp held at the end of October, the team was blessed to have the opportunity to baptise a total of 30 people.
Please pray that these brothers and sisters in the Lord who have taken this decision to follow Jesus will be blessed and strengthened in their faith as they walk through life with Him.
Many thanks once again for your prayers and your partnership with us in Advent Christian ministries in south-east Asia. God bless you as you serve Him in this way.