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It was so surreal, it was like we were dreaming

Hello brothers and sisters,

For me, it is Saturday night here in Yangon and we have had yet another epic day hearing from the Kaang Chin Bible Translation Committee members and some members of the Kaang community. 

Something happened to us so surreal, that we feel like we’re dreaming. I know people overuse and misuse the word “surreal,” but I could not think of a more appropriate word for how we all felt.

It seems we are just starting to comprehend what God is doing here in Myanmar through this work. 

We are not only giving an entire people group the Bible in their own language, for the first time, but we are giving them a rally point for their entire culture.

There are not only thousands of Kaang Chin people in villages throughout the mountains of southern Chin State, but there has been a Diaspora of the Kaang around the world as they have been forced to leave their beloved Chin hills because of persecution and poverty. 

Being with these lovely people it is easy to see their cultural identity is at the very core of their lives and continues to be wherever they live. According to their oral history songs, one of which they sang and interpreted for us today, they have survived as a people for more than two thousand years. In all of this time, they have never read a book or story in their own language. 

If all we did today was hear this one song, that would have been enough to mark this day as unique in our lives. But there was more.  

Many of the Kaang Chin speak several languages, but there are scores of them who speak Kaang Chin only and nothing more. 

Today, after meeting a brand-new translation committee member, something wonderful and unexpected happened.

Ngui Thang, who was born and lives in a small village near Mindat, Chin State, told us how he has longed since the late 1980s to read the Bible in his native language.

He said, that after he became a true believer and disciple of Christ, he hungered to know and understand God’s word. 

The words of the other languages he speaks, at least four, did not touch his heart and mind like the tongue he speaks every day among his own people.

“They did not inspire me or touch my heart like what it could be to hear God’s word in my native language,” he said through Pastor Naing Thang, who interpreted his words for us. Smiling with the joy of being part of this dream come true, I asked him how it felt to read the Scriptures that are now translated into his language.

I was shocked and delighted to hear that he had only just joined the work and had still not seen any of the Scriptures himself. 

He was elected by the Kaang people to replace a committee member who had died, but he himself had been sick during the first two meetings and unable to attend. 

His patience and humility were amazing to me but knowing this dream of his had still not been realized, I nearly jumped as I urged anyone in the room to hand him some of the translated work immediately.

It was all I could do not to rip the wrapping paper off this gift he was about to get myself. I’ve never been more excited to see anyone get anything like I was right then.  

I asked for someone to get the man a computer or phone or find some of New Testament that had been checked for printing. 

Moments later, Thang Hung, my friend from Kruk village, jumped up and grabbed some papers off a nearby desk and put it in his hand. 

I asked Ngui Thang to read what he saw out loud from the page in front of him. 

Providentially, it was James 1.

My own tears started flowing as I and saw his eyes sparkle with the joy of what he was seeing for the very first time. Although I cannot speak Kaang Chin, I could see that his unquenchable smile was distorting his words as he read them and wondered at the sound of them in his own ears. 

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

The scattered people James wrote to were like his people, the 20 years of trials they had endured trying to produce this first part of their own Bible had been perfecting them too.

Committee member after committee member had just told us how excited they were to start their work nearly twenty years ago in 2000, but their own deep poverty, lack of help, and the deaths of several committee members had made them hopeless that they would ever see the Bible become a reality.

“But when you came and said you would help, it is like it has all been reborn for us,” one man said. “By God’s grace we will complete it all, you have given us hope again where we had none.”

This only happened a few hours ago and still in my heart, as I lay on my bed typing these words, I am standing with my hands raised singing the doxology. 

Will you stand with me now and sing it for all the goodness of God to allow us to share in His glorious work.

“Praise God from whom all blessing flow, praise Him all creatures here below. Praise him above ye heavenly host, praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”

Watch Ngui Thang reading the Bible in Kaang Chin for the first time!

The Wind Is Blowing In Myanmar

Pastor Naing baptizing new converts at the church in Bogalay, Rakhine

Pastor Naing baptizing new converts at the church in Bogalay, Rakhine

We are having a wonderful time with Pastor Naing Thang as he visits us again here in the United States. One of the things we enjoy are his great stories of God’s faithfulness to him as he works, dispelling the darkness in Myanmar by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I wanted to take the time to pass on this new story he shared with us about his recent evangelistic endeavor.

Just a few days before he was scheduled to come to America to visit several churches here and to take part in the annual presbytery of the Covenant Presbyterian Church Denomination, God put it on Pastor Naing’s heart to go to Rakhine State for a special time of preaching and teaching. I honestly thought it was a little crazy to try to cram in, and I was a little worried if he’d be able to make it back from there in time to catch his flight.

By God’s grace we were able to help him put on a three-day event at the church we built in Bogalay Village in central Rakhine. You might remember me telling you we sponsored several meals for the people coming to hear the preaching.

Bogalay is about a 10 to 12-hour drive from Pastor Naing’s home in Yangon in a very rural area.

Rakhine is a very dangerous place, torn by war and poverty, and often deadly for Christian workers. In fact, more than one Christian pastor has been killed and others taken prisoner in Rakhine in the past two months.

In addition to all of this impending danger, a monster cyclone was forming, and that’s not my description of it, that’s the official category given to it by meteorologists.

The cyclone formed in the Indian Ocean less than two weeks ago and began heading toward Rakhine on the eastern banks of the Bay of Bengal where Pastor Naing was preparing to hold his meetings.

Cyclone Fani, as the meteorologists called it, was the largest storm in this region in 20 years and packed with it deadly power.

As pastor Naing and his crew were preparing the food to feed those who had come to the meetings at the newly renovated church, they heard someone on a megaphone call for the people to flee the area and take cover to avoid the deadly storm.

Pastor Naing, feeling very strongly that God had called him to teach and preach at this specific place and time, reassured the people that they should stay at the church and that God would protect them.

He told them God was more powerful than the storm and he could turn it or stop if He wished or could preserve them in the midst of the storm at the church. Some were frightened and ran, and others stayed.

To reassure them and himself, God reminded him of another time in his life where God answered his prayers.

Naing’s own faith began to build as did those hearing him as he told them the story of how God protected him in a storm many years ago in what seemed to him to be very miraculous.

“I told them how we were on our way to a village to preach, and when we were walking six or seven miles into our trip, we began to see black clouds forming and coming our way,” he said.

“We stopped to see if we had umbrellas in our packs but we did not.”

Pastor Naing and those traveling with him wondered what they should do seeing they were about to encounter this harsh weather without proper cover. They had several miles to go on their trip, but they decided it would be best to continue no matter what because they had given their word they would be there for the special services. So they prayed and asked God to help them. And He did.

Swirling black clouds and the fighting sounds of lightning came crashing toward them as they continued on toward the village by faith.

“What happened to us was amazing thing,” Pastor Naing said. “A wall of rain came to us and stopped in front of us and another wall came behind us. All the way we walked to the village, the rain was moving in front of us and following behind us. I never see it like that before!”

When he arrived at the place where he was expected, the people were shocked to see that they were dry.

“How can this be,” they asked, “was there no rain?”

When he explained what had happened to him, the people were very glad to hear his teaching, and there was a great time of fellowship and faith.

After hearing this story and even knowing Cyclone Fani was bearing down on them in Bogalay, some said, “If Pastor Naing stays we stay, if he runs we run. Whatever he does we will do, God will be with him.”

This new attitude of faith set the stage for a good teaching time in Bogalay.

Pastor Naing said he often tells people about the wonderful things that happened to men of God in the Bible, but he is also able to tell people about what God has done for him. His own own personal testimony of God’s great care for him seemed to have a great effect on opening the peoples’ hearts and minds to the message of the Scriptures.

This story encouraged many who stayed for the teaching and preaching in Bogalay, and they were even more encouraged when the cyclone changed its course and turned northward toward India.

Today we are all praising God for the 17 people, including three entire families that confessed Christ and were baptized in these meetings.

When we are in great anguish and feeling faithless, we should take time to remember what God has done.

When you pray, you’ll find that it builds your faith to include what God has done and what you expect He will do as you come to him with your petitions.

Amen? Amen!!!

May God be praised for what He has done, what He is doing now and for what He will do through us. Past, present, future. He is the God who was, who is, and who is to come.

We can sometimes find it easier to believe what God has done – either what we read about in the Bible or what He has done for others in the past – or find it easier sometimes to believe what God might do someday in the future – but we have a hard time believing in the moment.

Be encouraged today by what God has done. Have faith He will never leave us or forsake us. Know that He goes before us as we walk with Him and work for Him.

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Wisdom From The Jungle

Wisdom from the Jungle
by Mark Robinette

While staying with my family recently, Pastor Naing Thang, of Myanmar, told us a story I’ve been telling everyone I can.
One of the pastors of his village in the remote mountains of Chin State, was a man who taught everyone the importance of a Bible truth. “In everything gives thanks, for this is the will of God, in Christ Jesus, concerning you.”
He stressed God’s sovereignty and how we should pray before we set out to do anything. If we did this, he taught, we could then give thanks for whatever happened, it was in the hands of God.
One day before he and one of the young men of the village left to go deeper still into the mountains to a favorite fishing spot, they stopped to give thanks and prayed for God’s protection and provision.
After their first day’s catch they needed to preserve their many fish by smoking them.
While cutting wood for the fire, the good elder accidentally swung wild with his machete and cut off his own finger.
Bleeding and in a great deal of pain, the old man thought to himself, “what a poor lesson this is for the young man. We prayed for God’s protection and this tragedy has befallen us.”
His finger was lost, and if he didn’t get back to the village soon, maybe his life would be too.
In these mountains there are a great many dangers. Giant pythons, Bengal tigers, wild boar, cobras and elephants who trample men when they can.
But there is one predator far more menacing. The head-hunting cannibals. They often slither quietly though the forest in search of human sacrifice. When the two men saw them, they knew who they were and what they wanted.
Terror stuck the hearts of the elder and his companion and they both ran in separate directions as fast as they could. The old elder was an easy catch for the cannibals. As they lead him back to their village where preparations for a ceremonial offering and meal were already under way, the man of God felt abandoned by his maker.
He watched as they built a fire for him and danced in the darkness. His heart darkened with thoughts of hopelessness, loneliness and doubt.
As his time came to face what they had planned for him, their priest came to see who and what the hunting party had brought to them.
He began inspecting him everywhere. Feet, legs, under his clothes and then noticed the wrapped hand and bloody stump where his finger had been.
The priest was very upset. Motioning to the others, the pastor could see he was not what they wanted. They wanted a man who was whole. His missing finger was some sort of bad omen.
They released him and motioned for him to leave.
As he made his way home in a sort of shock, at what should have been his fate, he remembered how he had felt toward God in his time of weakness.
He now understood, God had taken his finger to save his life.
Thanks be to God for his faithfulness to this man and the lessons it provides us today. May we indeed be thankful in all things, for this is the will of God, in Christ Jesus, concerning us.

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We Forget Because We Don’t Remember

by Mark Robinette

Rich people like us are so busy taking care of all our many blessings we forget the God who gave them to us. When we give to our brothers and sisters in need, we remember the giver of all things.

We have a catechism question here at Foundation Church that developed from one of my sermons years ago. I ask the church, “Why do we forget?” and they respond, “Because we don’t remember.”

Simple enough? We are a forgetful people and we need to be intentional about remembering or we will forget. From Joshua’s stones of remembrance on either side of the Jordan to sacrifices, feasts, Sabbaths, washings and even their every meal, God built a life of constant remembrance for His elect people, lest they forget.

God’s imperatives of Deuteronomy chapter 6 almost seem ridiculous as they hammer this point home.

It could have said, “teach your children my commands.”

But as we well know, God told them to do this as they sat in their houses, when they walked by the way, when they laid down to sleep and when they rose up in the morning. Then he told them to bind them for a sign upon their hands, make them as frontlets between their eyes and write them upon the posts of their houses, and on their gates.

The imagery here reminds me of the ever forgetful man who ties a green string around the pinky finger of his left hand, to remind him of the red one around the forefinger of his right hand, that reminds him of the blue one around his thumb telling him he’s supposed to remember something, but he can’t remember what it was.

That’s us. The more we have, it seems, the more forgetful we are. God told them and he is telling us to “beware lest we forget the Lord.”

Giving is a constant reminder God is the source of everything we have.

Jay Leno reminded people for Doritos to “eat all you want, we’ll make more” and I’d like to remind you and me to “Give all we want, God will make more.”

Every time we give away what God has given us it is an intentional way of remembering the one who gave the gift as well as faith that he’ll give us more tomorrow.

God taught this when he would not allow the Children of Israel to collect more manna than they needed for each day and later after they had come to the Promised Land not to harvest the corners of their fields but to leave them for the needy among them.

At our home, we know we are forgetful too. We have to work at remembering.

On our kitchen table we have a jar with a picture we made of our brothers and sisters in Myanmar. They are very poor. We put the jar on our table for several reasons. First to remember to pray, then to remember to put money in the jar for them and next to remember we have so very much at every meal. We also eat rice one meal each week to remember rice is sometimes all they have to eat. This has been good for me and my family.

God’s ways are so wise. Not only has it been good for us, it has been good for them. Yes they are blessed by the gift for it’s actual value in what they can buy, but they are blessed with several much needed reminders too. God answers prayer, they have brothers and sister in Christ who love them and pray for them and that all they have comes from God. This is truly a gift that keeps on giving.

It’s like the washer and dryer someone gave a young couple in our church. The rear entrance of their home goes through the laundry room and every time they walk by them they became much more than appliances. Not only do they wash and dry clothing, they hum a sweet tune. The words of this song testify of the truth God cares for them like he does for the lilies of the field and he does this through the church.

Have you remembered to give lately? Don’t be afraid you don’t have enough to give. When you don’t becaue of this you are saying God will not provide.

Trying to remember this years ago, my sweet wife spent many hours stitching these words into what is called a “sampler,” framing it, and hanging it on our wall. It says “The Lord Provides.”

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Should we feel guilty because we are rich?

 

(I was asked to write an article for Every Thought Captive magazine about the dangers of Vanity Fair. It was due just a few days before Pastor Naing Thang came to my visit my home for the first time. It was published during my visit. Admittedly I am still struggling with this issue, but I found some resolution in the word of God you may find enlightening)

Should We Feel Guilty Because We Are Rich?

In nine days a man from 8500 miles away, who lives in a third-world county and cooks his meals over a fire in his back yard, is coming to stay at my house.

Knowing this has done strange things to me. I’ve found it hard to live with how live. Suddenly, I see myself through the eyes of a man whose people are daily on the verge of starvation.

Through my own eyes, I have come to see myself as a somewhat poor, thrifty, father and pastor, making do with what I have. Since I heard my visitor was coming, I think I am beginning to see more clearly in some ways and tempted to be unthankful in others. I, unlike Bunyan’s good pilgrim, have been guilty of shopping at the Vanity Fair.

For the past few weeks I’ll be going about my regular business and I’ll open up my refrigerator and “BAM,” I see it through the eyes of my good brother from Burma.

“There’s no way he can look in here,” I call out to my wife. “No way. We’ll have to move some of this to the refrigerator in the basement.”

Then it happens again when we stop at a gas station, put $75 of gasoline in our 15-passenger van and then go to Dairy Queen.

The whole time I’m doing it, I feel the presence of a little, smiling, black-eyed pastor sitting beside me. Sitting there, watching all of this, I know he must be wondering where all this money comes from and when this fat guy will stop eating.

My wife’s been worried too. We’ve talked about it a lot.

“He just doesn’t understand our way of life,” I tell her, trying to comfort her, and myself, all the while wondering if I’m a waster and a glutton.

As the words come out of my mouth I hear other words in my head.

“The problem is not that he doesn’t understand,” the voice says. “The problem is, he understands better than you.”

Maybe I’m not what I have come to see myself as; I’m more like this new disturbing image.  Have I been deceived? Does God have more work to do in me than I thought He did? Certainly.

Is it wrong to be rich? Should I feel guilty eating my Reese’s Cup Blizzard with my long red plastic spoon? Should I feel sorry for my brothers in Burma?

I don’t feel so go, I’m almost motion sick just thinking about it. I have to go to the Word to find my bearings.

I don’t think the Bible teaches wealth is a sin or me being wealthy. So what’s wrong? What’s causing me so much difficulty?

In Pilgrim’s progress, Vanity is a city on the road to the Celestial City. It is not off the path like the Slough of Despond. We all must travel the streets of Vanity and pass by the wares offered to us at the Fair, this is part of our journey. This is not a city we can bypass, God has made us “subject to vanity.”

My visitor is traveling though Vanity Fair back home in Yangon and I’m traveling though it here in Ohio. Both of us are tempted to compare ourselves and our circumstances with one another. We are both tempted to feel pride and shame. We are both tempted to be discontent and unthankful. But this is not our calling. Our calling is to deny ourselves, take up “OUR” cross and follow Jesus, whatever or wherever that cross is.

I could be proud of my wealth or ashamed of it, he could be proud of his poverty or ashamed of it. These are not the fruits of a Spirit-filled life. Both of us should be thankful for what God has given us and content our provider has given us what we need.

From the moment I met my friend I admired him and wanted to be part of what God was doing in his life. I didn’t feel sorry for him.

God’s gift to me was that he needed help, I could be part of what God was doing through him. His gift was that he needed the help, he could be part of what God was doing through me.

I’ve learned that this is where the gold really is. Depending on the body of Christ for your needs is an inestimable wealth.

This is where the rich become camels and the Kingdom the eye of the needle. For the most part, the poor are not tempted to think God needs their wealth. When they give their mite, they do it because they know it isn’t enough. When we do it, we are tempted to believe God needs it.

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Car Wash Anyone?

 

Would you be willing to host a car wash? Maybe your family or church would like to donate a Saturday to help feed the hungry orphans of Burma.

This could be a fun day of playing in the water, a good memory and would do so much good it’s hard to believe.

Pastor Naing Thang and his family are by faith providing food, a home, medical care and even school tuition for 30 children besides their own.

School is not free there and those who do not attend are not permitted to get work permits. Those children who do not attend school are relegated to a life of poverty and hunger. Pastor Naing is praying God will supply him with the funds to build a school so he does not have to continue to send the children to the public school.  This is a big dream. Mission To Myanmar is working hard to raise the money to build the school for the 15 children in his orphanage in Rakhine State. Starting this summer, July 2014, we are going to be building the school in stages. The school will not only serve these children but many of the Buddhist children in the area who cannot afford to pay for school. The building will also serve as a Church on the Lord’s Day and other special service times. It is our goal to build a boys’ dorm on the end of the school to provide much needed living space at the Rakhine Orphange Center.

We are praying God will move on your heart to take part in this work. Please consider it today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Imagine Life Without A Car

Imagine trying to care for the needs of 35 people in one city and the needs of 16 more in a city 200 miles away. Every trip you needed to take you had to either walk or take a taxi. Imagine trying to do this while being a pastor, church planter, Bible school teacher and father. Hard to imagine isn’t it?

Now try to imagine it without a vehicle.

This is and has been the reality of Pastor Naing Thang for many years. It was only recently, just last year, we were able to help them get three motorcycles for use deep in-country in Myanmar. These motorcycles have been an incredible blessing for them, however, Pastor Naing Thang, their leader, is not able to use a motorcycle in the city of Yangon due to strict regulations. He could however have a car or truck if he was able to afford one. When I traveled to Yangon the first time I thought it would be one of the first things we could help him with. This was based on what getting a car is like back here in the United States. I was surprised to learn that getting a car in Myanmar is not at all like what most of us are used to. Continue reading

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The Lion is on the move in Myanmar

The Lion is on the move in Myanmar.  As the Son of God breaths on the snow-covered hills of what was once called Burma, we can now begin to see lush green meadows crowned with the flowers of faith.

Shut off from the rest of the world for many years by a repressive military junta, the work our forefathers began has continued to grow beneath the fertile soils of persecution. Like the beleaguered soldiers of Valley Forge, they have survived the winter and they are ready for battle. With a little help from their friends across the sea, they will emerge victorious. Continue reading

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Burma Missionary Work – History

The first missionary to come to Burma and stay was also the first Protestant missionary sent from America to any foreign field. His name was Adonriam Judson. Pastor Naing Thang of Yangon is building on what Judson started.

In the summer of 1788 in a small colonial town, a minister and his wife were blessed with their firstborn son. Here, from this city of firsts, Malden Massachusetts, the Kingdom of God would boast a greater first for the expansion of the Gospel on the golden shores of an exotic land. Continue reading

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