Igniting The Youth of Myanmar

Pastor Paul has asked me to share an event he hosted last year for the youth in Yangon. At first I wasn’t sure how to go about it, since I have very little to go on. I mean I wasn’t there and only have a short description and some pictures.

When I started looking at the pictures and the videos and talking to Paul about it, I realized that it was a lot like some of the youth events that I have helped with here in the U. S.. Young people are the same all over the world. They seek truth and authenticity. Youth events like this offer young people the ability to meet the one and only Jesus Christ. There is teaching and music and fellowship in the presence of the Holy Spirit. All designed in the hopes of helping  them make a very real connection to Jesus from their head knowledge of who He is to heart knowledge of who He is to them.

Pastor Paul hopes to host another one of these events this year, but with the pandemic it will be difficult. Please lift him and the youth in Myanmar up, that God would provide an avenue and place and the time for such an event to occur. 

You Make A Difference!

****This is a much needed update on the starving people of Myanmar.****YouAre Making A Difference!

About a month ago I started a GoFundMe page to help feed those affected by the Covid pandemic in Myanmar. The lack of day labor jobs because of lockdowns and closures has really threatened the lively hood of the most vulnerable, the poor. With the generous donations of many people we raised over $400 to send to pastor Paul to distribute food parcels to the Christian believers In his house church and some non believers in the surrounding villages.

 So I asked Paul if he could talk to some of his house church members and see how they are doing and if the food parcels are helping. Pastor Paul sat down with three of his congregants in video interviews. Unfortunately, Paul has expressed concern about showing the videos so I have opted to relate their testimonies in written form. Here is an account of how your donations are making a difference.

The first woman pastor Paul talked to, we will call Martha. Martha is an older woman. She sits with a stoic demeanor. She says that she and her family have been with out work for several months now and that they receive no government support. She has a large family with grand children and it has been difficult to survive. They do not have enough food to eat 3 times a day. In fact most days they don’t have enough to eat once a day. But with the food donated and delivered by pastor Paul she says that she is able to feed her family once a day. 

Next, pastor Paul interviews a man we will call John. John is a younger man who looks like he is feeling defeated. He says everyday he goes out in-search of work but no one will hire him, because there are no businesses opened due to the lockdowns. Making survival difficult, but because of the food donations that people have made through pastor Paul my family has been able to adjust to survive a week at a a time.

Finally pastor Paul talks to a joyful older woman from his congregation. She mostly echoed the sentiments of difficulty during the pandemic. However, at the end of her interview she broke into prayer, with tears, for all those who have donated so generously. Asking that God would bless everyone of them richly. 

### If you have not taken the opportunity yet to help advance the kingdom of God and and bring relief to our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world. There is still a need. And you can make a difference here and now.###

What is Church?

Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Since I’ve met Pastor Paul he has shared his vision for his ministry to the unreached Buddhist people of Myanmar, several times with me. His prayer is to have a permanent structure that his congregation can all gather together in for services, discipleship and to encourage one another in faith and worship. Someplace that he can set an example for a house church model to be implemented.

With this in mind I find myself asking, what exactly constitutes church? Is it a body of believers? Is it a collective state of mind? Is it a building that Christians meet in? Is it a mixture of all of the above? I am no theologian, but I offer a personal observation and conclusion based on my experiences.

Now like everyone else, during the CoVid Pandemic, Pastor Paul has taken to the internet to deliver messages to his congregants. As restrictions lighten, Pastor Paul is looking for ways to meet with his flock again. His ministry normally takes him to several different homes to gather with his congregation in order to minister to and instruct them. For many reasons like geography, lack of financing and religious intolerance by some, this is the only way he can conduct church.

This got me thinking about how blessed I and my family are to have the religious freedoms, family of believers and a beautiful building to come together and worship the God who has blessed us so much. These last couple of months have been a real challenge for me. Now I have always, and still do, believed that church is more than four walls. But as we are forced to stay home on Sundays and “go to church” on YouTube, sitting in my recliner watching church on tv, drinking my coffee and trying to avoid every distraction that is my home, I am challenged to reconsider the importance of a permanent structure with four walls used for the express purpose of worship.

These days as a pandemic has changed how we are able to “do church”, every aspect of my digital worship brings a strong desire to be gathered with other believers. No matter how good my sound system may be it doesn’t make my voice any better, but when it is added to that of 100+ other believers pouring out their hearts in song to Jesus, it becomes other-worldly. When we have corporate confession together in one voice or recite the Lords Prayer our voices altogether drown out all the other distractions. Having someone pray for you anywhere, anytime, in any way is an awesome thing, whether on zoom or in a text message. However, when someone prays for you in person with their hand on your shoulder, it is even more powerful.

So what’s my conclusion? Can I worship God digitally without physical interaction with other believers? The answer is, yes. Of course, I can. But I believe the real question is, should I? Is it good for the body of Christ to only have zoom lessons and YouTube sermons? How long can a Christian believer be sustained without physical interaction with other believers? My conclusion is that a Christian believer without a physical place to gather with other believers to encourage one another may still be able to worship God for short periods, but without the physical interactions of other believers, I believe that they are ultimately doomed to fail and fall away.

Proverbs 27:17 “ Iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another“

For Pastor Paul to long for a place that he can gather his flock together is not only a great idea, but one that would give the church in Myanmar a better chance to succeed.

Please pray for this to happen. And happen soon. If you would like to help make this happen or would like more info about it please e-mail me here .

A Fresh Perspective

 For this post I wanted to tell you a little more about the Ignite Myanmar Missions ministry and the kinds of things Pastor Paul is facing in his country of Myanmar. I asked Paul to give me some info on the demographics and logistics that he has to navigate. I wanted to give some perspective on the need that Pastor Paul is facing.

First, let’s address the living conditions of the people Pastor Paul is ministering to. These people are in no uncertain terms, third world poor. According to Pastor Paul, 70% of the country’s population falls into this category. Most are day laborers and depend on the work provided by those who own businesses. When the Covid pandemic hit, all those businesses closed. Now these same people who worked day to day just to earn enough money to buy food for the day, are out of work. Earning between $3 – $6 per day, they were in no condition to survive a 3 month plus shutdown of their only means of survival. Most of these people have no source of clean water. They have to use candles for light at night because they have no electricity. They cook over a wood camp fire and most of their sheltering consists of nothing more than tent like structures supported by bamboo poles.
Here in the US we have what many consider a poor and homeless epidemic. 

According to a 2017 census, 12.3% of Americans experience poverty. However, in the US there are several welfare programs in place to help those people to survive. We have programs offered by both the government and private organizations. There are a number of missions and shelters that feed and clothe those who need it. We have state funded health care for those who are unable to provide it for themselves. In comparison, Myanmar has very few government programs in place to help its people who are facing a hunger that is just short of famine. There is no healthcare for all and no where to go for help.

This is not my attempt to make anyone feel bad for living in a country that takes care of its people. Nor is it an attempt to down play the the needs of countless Americans who need help making ends meet. I only wish to put in perspective the desperate need for food and clothes the people in the villages of Myanmar are facing. My hope is that you might realize how blessed we are and will want to bless others.

When Pastor Paul is ready to go and has put together the food parcels consisting of 2lbs of rice, a quart of cooking oil and a few potatoes or some other vegetable (enough for 1 or 2 days) he loads up his motorcycle and heads out. He can only carry enough for 7 families at a time so he has to make several trips. When he gets to the villages he is sometimes mobbed by the villagers despite the gathering restrictions and social distancing requirements that their government has put in place, because they have such need. The problem is that Paul could be arrested for creating that situation, but people are so desperate that it is hard to keep them from gathering to get even a little bit of food.
Pastor Paul is pleading for donations to meet this need. If you are wondering whether your donation can make a difference, I promise you it will and does.

My Friend Pastor Paul

This post is to introduce Pastor Paul. Pastor Paul is like one of those people, who, when you meet them you think is this guy for real. I will explain in a bit. Keep reading.

I met Paul at a LCMC yearly conference in Omaha, Ne.. LCMC, Lutheran Churches in Mission for Christ, invites Paul, who is an ordained Lutheran pastor in Myanmar, every year for the past 15 years. Last year, for financial and other reasons, was one of 3 times that he has actually been able to make it. 

My wife and I met Paul when we were on our way to a breakout session after lunch and we stopped by this booth that he had set up. He had this traditional Burmese outfit on display and we stopped to inquire about it. Paul was very enthusiastic and friendly. We only had a few minutes to chat, but after we left I felt compelled to talk with him some more. So I went back to his booth to find him and set up a time that we could meet up and talk. When we got together later that afternoon and started talking we were instantly connected. We sat for forty-five minutes and he told me about himself, his family and his ministry. We laughed and cried together. Afterwards, I told my wife what happened and what we talked about and we felt compelled to invite this perfect stranger, who felt like an old friend, to stay with us for a few days and to speak at our church before he went back home. 

He graciously accepted and we flew him to Chicago to stay a few days with us and we got to know him and his family who we FaceTimed in Myanmar one day. He played the guitar and sang a familiar hymn, ‘God will make a way’, but in Burmese. We spent the day In Chicago and had dinner with my in laws at their house. He was the perfect house guest. When he left to go back home it was like saying goodbye to an old friend.I said earlier that Pastor Paul was someone that after you meet him you just ask yourself is this guy for real. The reason why I say this is, because here in America most Christians, including myself, say that we are dependent on Gods provision and that we trust him to take care of us. The truth though, if we are honest is that we Don’t fully trust God. We might trust the bank account balance and we might credit God for it and then make a budget to pay our bills and our mortgage and to buy groceries so that we know how much discretionary funds we might have to go out to eat or waste on something else we don’t need. Ok, sorry I digress. Pastor Paul on the other hand walks day to day trusting God to provide for him and his family. Each day brings what God provides. 
After knowing Paul for about 6 months now and really getting to know his heart talking with him and working with him to help those in his native land, I can say that he is the real deal. His passion for God’s people to be saved comes out in everything about him. I hope that you will follow this blog and get to know Pastor Paul and the people of Myanmar who he ministers to.