Myanmar 2018 Part 4: Lighthouse Farm
Like I said in our last post… there have been tensions in the area. Our Myanmar team has been the victims of lies, propaganda spread throughout the area by some religious groups, and just false information. They’ve also been the focus of different kinds of threats, including various levels of violence.
Some of the lies were that the Christians were never coming back to this place. That they had given up and didn’t care about the area anymore. It was too hard and they were afraid. They had moved on, left with their tails between their legs, and cowardly gone to another place.
And as we hiked into the first town, nothing could have prepared us for….
None of that is true. Rainy season had made it hard to access the farm for the Myanmar church planting team, so it was quiet for a few months, but they were always coming back. And as we hiked into the first town, nothing could have prepared us for….
Roasted crickets. Not my cup of tea, but several of our team members indulged and enjoyed eating this crunchy little bugs. In fact, the crickets were prepared for us, along with a few other goodies, by prominent people in the town. The offer of food, a rest along our journey, hot tea (instead of ice cold water… well, it’s a Myanmar thing…), was a gesture of welcome. One we didn’t expect. In the past, this town was one Christians would have to walk through without ever being acknowledged. Townspeople were instructed to not even make eye contact with Christians as they passed through here in the past. But we were welcomed, with big smiles, crunchy food, a place to rest, and an invitation to come back the next day to visit their new school.
A little more backstory, this was also the town that our CPC team last year visited. Back then we saw just an outline of a brick foundation of where a new school should have been. One group had previously promised money to build the school, but the money “disappeared” along with their promises. That happened twice. Earlier this summer though, Cedar Park Church raised money to build this school in partnership with the local community. Cedar Park would contribute a few thousand dollars from our Change The World fund, and the local community would pull together whatever funds they could to contribute too, plus add the labor.
That school is already built and we got to visit it. Not only that, but they basically cancelled classes that morning and invited us in to meet the teachers, students, and community leaders. It was surreal to be standing in the same place I had stood one year ago, hearing the disappointment of the principal about corruption affecting students’ lives and then this week seeing hear beaming with joy. Her dreams and her prayers had come true. Jesus had heard her, had answered her, and had used our church and our Myanmar ministry partners as a vessel to make it happen.
Because of Cedar Park’s partnership with this school and it’s community, they were able to extend their education all the way to grade 8… something that had never happened in this village before. We presented the grade 8 class a laptop computer, donated by someone at our church. It is their first and only computer, it gives the children chance to learn basic skills, allows the teachers to raise their own education levels, but it also symbolizes hope for a new day and a new level of opportunity they didn’t have before.
That day we played with the kids. Do you have any idea how many face paints, balloon animals, and dance moves were pulled out that day?
We were able to hand out nutritious Fedwell soup mixes to the school for them to try providing nutritious lunches for students in an area that sees a lot of dehydration and malnutrition. We gave clay water filtration systems to them that filter their dirty well water and eliminates over 99% of harmful bacteria simply with gravity filtration so they can have good, clean water to drink.
We also were able to roll out an optical care clinic right there in the school and fit a large number of people with quality eye glasses. You should have seen the looks on some people’s faces when they went from critically being legally blind to being able to see clearly. Jaws dropping, tears shed, hugs given, smiles everywhere, laughter filling the room, and good gifts exchanged as they brought us food, water, and friendship.
The message we were able to give that day was this: we see you, we care about you, we love you, Jesus loves you, we are all in this together, it isn’t about “us versus them,” it’s about us. We know you want what is best for your children, we do too. We want to dream about their future and invest in it with you. We want to be friends, companions, partners, family. It was beautiful day, one we won’t forget anytime soon.
Dave, Louise, Tom, Lisa, Cayla, Janelle, Andrew, Paul, Kathryn