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.