The Wa people comprise one of the smallest of the 135 ethnics groups in Myanmar. About 10% of the approximately one million Wa are Christian. Their churches are typically rural and poor. They are led by modestly educated, part time pastors, who mostly volunteer their services. Few have been to college, let alone seminary. On top of these challenges, the church in Wa State (one of two major locations for Wa people) are in the midst of a major crisis. This past August, nearly 200 churches were closed and all the pastors were imprisoned. Eight pastors still languish in prison because they are refusing to sign a statement renouncing their faith and commitment to Christian ministry.
On the day we arrived in Lashio, Shan State (the hub for the other major location for Wa people in Myanmar), we set out to visit six churches and one Bible School in a whirlwind tour of the countryside. The tour helped me to understand the context for the 47 pastors I would soon be teaching.
In one typical church (small, plain, simply furnished), I felt a real sense of holiness. It was a sacred space, set aside for men, women, boys, girls to learn about Jesus and have their faith nurtured. In a context where Christians are in the minority, and sometimes persecuted, I imagined that these churches are places of refuge as well.
|Solitary Classroom in Bible School
At another stop, I visited one of only two small Bible Schools for the Wa people. I felt moved by the significance of this place of learning, limited by the poor educational preparation of its 29 students, but still exuding hope for those who are able to attend, many of whom could not qualify for more established seminaries elsewhere, but who nonetheless feel called to serve Christ as pastors and teachers. It's hard to put all my feelings into words, but I was touched witnessing so many signs of faith and such desire to grow and serve.
After returning to Lashio, I led a two day seminar on Christian Spirituality for 47 pastors. HtetPaing (pronounced, Tet Pine), my assistant, did the lion's share of the translating. Dr. Aye Nwe (pronounced with a long A sound followed by New-ay), the president of the Wa Baptist Convention and professor at Myanmar Institute of Theology did the rest. And the pastors eagerly soaked up every principle and practice.
"I have more courage to serve God as I see His blessings and gifts on me." (Female pastor)
"This workshop make me realize to humble myself and serve more under the leadership of Holy Spirit.
"I am eager to bring all the benefits I have learnt here to my church community." (Male pastor)
As is true in every one of our seminars and workshops, the real highlight is always what God does. Because of the education, language, and culture gap, participants struggled at times to link the theories to their real life contexts. But all their effort, the adaptations we made on the fly, and adding many extra examples and illustrations paid off. It was clear from their comments and responses that God had touched their hearts and opened their eyes in many different ways. We could see it in their expressions on their faces. We could feel their joy. We could hear it in their plans to take what they learned back to their congregations on Sunday.
Thank you for your prayers and continued support for our life-changing Christian leadership development work in Myanmar. By God's grace, we are making a much desired and sought after difference. The pastors want us to go back to do more training for them, as soon as possible. Meanwhile, p
lease pray for God's working this week's
(March 12-15) Spirit-Led Leader workshop for 50 pastors from five different regions
in Yangon. Thank you!
In Christ's service,