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Lessons from a Banana Tree – June 2020

In a few weeks, our family plans to put in some peanuts and sweet potatoes in our orchard for some cover crops. We’ve spent the week clearing the ground by hand and getting things ready. As I’ve been thinking about peanuts, I remembered a quote by George Washington Carver:

“When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And he told me.”

Well, as George already has covered peanuts, I’ve spent time reflecting on banana trees. We have a lot of orange, lime, lemons and lychees trees in our orchard.Yet, the ‘tree’ we have the most of is bananas, with around 120 planted. I think they are one of our most interesting ‘trees’ that we have here in Myanmar (Burma) with some extraordinary characteristics..

Banana tree. Notice how we propped it up with a bamboo pole to allow us time to collect its fruit. Another stalk next to it collapsed in the wind..

 

First off, did you know a banana tree isn’t even really a tree? It’s classified more as a giant herb because it contains no wood. What we think is a trunk is just an offshoot of a root clump. Second, unlike any other tree here, we plant them in the hot season. Now hot season means around 110 degrees F, and the humidity is a killer. We’ll go to a nearby grove, pick out some shoots dig them up and replant these trees without any water at all. Now, who has ever heard of a tree surviving that kind of shock? But they do, and they actually do better when planted in the hot season. Third, they aren’t stable and are very top-heavy. Usually, after a strong storm, we’ll find a few have broken. When a banana tree does begin to bear fruit, they tend to have to be propped up with pieces of bamboo. Fourth, they are pretty easy to find. When you go into the jungle, you can find them growing almost anywhere. Their real growth and offshoots come from underground, something unseen, so if you see one banana tree, it won’t be too long until you see another. Thats why they grow so quickly in the jungle. Finally, after a few years, they tend to stop giving off fruit and need to be replanted. However, you just take a shoot from the original clump called a corm that has grown. Replant one of those shoots a short distance away, and then they’ll come right back and give you fruit within the following year.

When I look at all our trees around our property, a banana tree reminds me of who I really am as a disciple of Christ.

To begin with, sometimes we as Christians want to make ourselves look like what a Christian should be. But the gospel is not about what I attempt to be, but who God has made me to be. Sure, I’d love to be some great and strong tree, but in truth, I’m not a tree at all. Just a herb that God created to be fruitful. Nothing wrong with that, but a crucial step in my growth as a disciple is to recognize who I am and not pretend to be something I am not.

Second, God doesn’t tend to plant his disciples in calm conditions. On the contrary, he desires us to strive in the hottest of times and places. I think a lot of us have been put in an uncomfortable place during these tumultuous last few months. Whether it’s been COVID-19 or race relations in the USA, the heat feels as if it’s been turned up a little. Yet, maybe this is a time which God has planted and called us to live and flourish in. Sometimes, we need these pressures to force us to grow strong roots and bear the fruit God wants us to produce.

Even from a rotten stalk, new growth can shoot up.

Third, and I hate to admit this because of the American independent streak in me, but I’m not very strong. Sure, I look all green and nice, but when a big storm comes, there’s a good chance I’ll falter. I need support, and I’m thankful that the Lord watches over me (like a gardener who props me up with bamboo poles) and gives me a family and church, which helps me to weather those difficult times. But what happens if I do break? Well, that’s something else that is so cool about a banana tree. Even in the rotten stalk that has broken, a new tree will often take root and bloom again.

Fourth, every day I serve overseas, I grow all the more astounded at how the global church is growing and will continue to grow. You’d be surprised how banana trees can just grow and take over places. Once they take root, they’ll find a way to multiply. I’m so thankful to be playing a minor role as a missionary to proclaim God’s kingdom. This past week was a particularly exciting one for me as I spent time teaching a world missions course online to some Thai believers. It was wonderful to be speaking in Thai again, and be among Thai brothers and sisters who want their church to become more engaged in cross-cultural mission work. This has been a prayer of mine for so many years. My many years of doctoral study were for this aim and when I left Thailand, I was a little disheartened to have left without seeing this task through. To say I was excited to be invited to engage Thai Christians with God’s call for missions, is an understatement. I’m looking forward to more opportunities like this in the future.

Finally, just like a banana tree after a few years, I might need to be replanted. My theology is one that seeks reformation. Because I am a sinner, I need to recognize that my views are not 100% correct and that they might need some new scenery. I can’t take myself out of the garden (or out of the authoritative boundaries of scripture), because that will lead me to bear less fruit or none whatsoever. I need God as my caretaker. Still, sometimes a change is necessary for me to bear fruit, which the Lord calls me to do. I need to be open and willing for me to undergo such a change.

There is a lot to think about when you look at a banana tree. I trust God is going to use my reflections on banana trees, to teach me more about myself. More importantly, may God use it to teach me more about Himself. I hope you learned something from this banana tree post and may be encouraged by it too. 

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The Gray Havens – March 2020

One of my favorite bands is named ‘The Gray Havens.” They aren’t the most well known Christian band, but they should be. I probably listen to their songs once a day. I resonate with their lyrics and music, which always seems to call me to draw back and contemplate my own spiritual life and walk with the Lord.

I also think they have a cool Christian band name. Their name makes me reflect on life here in this world. Living in the grayness of a fallen world and at the same time assured by the gift of grace that I have a haven in Jesus. There is a mournful hope in how they share the gospel in their music.

The below Youtube links are just some of their many great songs. I really encourage everyone reading this to take a moment to check them out!

For many of us, the moment we are residing in now, seems to be without choice. We’re being dragged into this new gray haven and it sure doesn’t feel comfortable. Although, I’m quite sure God never intends us as His disciples to have lives with total comfort. By saying that I don’t want to diminish the pain and suffering so many are going through right now. Rather, I hope that in this time of challenge that all of us can find in this moment a new fervor to trust in our God. Christ alone understands all we are going through and oh so much more.

For our own family, things are changing quickly here. Technically, at the time of this blogpost there are still no confirmed cases for Covid-19 in Myanmar (Burma). However, we’re under no illusions and believe the virus is most likely making much headway with little testing being done.  We have closed our summer school classes and the government has urged large meetings from happening. A new normal that seems to be happening around the world. 

Travel out of Myanmar (Burma) has become more difficult, but in truth, our family has given little thought into leaving, unless we’re forced to do so. We’re planning as of now to settle in and try our best to have a faithful witness when the inevitable storm does arrive. Our family has good health. We’re taking precautions. We’re listening to our leaders. We are prepared and are trying to encourage those around us to do the same. We’re in a great community surrounded by resilient friends and family. This is the gray haven God has called us too. There is no reason to live in fear, rather we’re thankful to be able to serve where we are. 

We hope this message finds all of you well, wherever you may be. So many of you remain in our thoughts and prayers. These are challenging and stretching times for many of us and our hearts ache to be with you. But we’re called to be where we are for a reason. As we all faithfully lean into this season, we hope you do so too, knowing our Lord is LORD of all.

 

 

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One Rock at a Time – February 2020

Some may think mission service is glamorous work. Perhaps, some have a vision of Sinte and Austin going out every evening to do evangelism, lead a Bible study, or help to plant a new church. Truthfully, our hearts love this type of work, and when we get these opportunities, we love it. But for the past year, we’ve been doing more nitty-gritty work that many might feel doesn’t quite have a missionary ring to it.

Austin has been working a lot on improving KIEC’s gardens and ditches. You can’t rush plants, they take their time, and he’s learned how to grow vegetables and flowers he’s never even seen before. Building the foundation walls for our ditches has been much the same way. We mix our cement by hand and move and build walls one rock at a time. But when the job gets done, you see fruit, and it is joyful to be able to be a part of that.

Meanwhile, Sinte continues to lead the preschool and finish up her research on her MA TESOL. This year was mainly spent on the students and training new teachers. Unfortunately, a lot of those efforts seem to have gone away as two of our teachers left this year. So for Sinte, it looks like a never-ending cycle of training teachers again. Yet, lost opportunities turn out to blessings as well. One of the teachers had to leave to go to another country, so she could better support her family. Since our previous teacher arrived there, she’s been asking Sinte for advice on new teaching methods, so she can better serve the family she works with. We’re happy to help her out!

These tasks might seem menial. How can they relate to the Kingdom Building work? Yet, when we plant these gardens, build ditches, support friends in distant countries and teach the children at our preschool, we receive blessings too. Our Burmese Buddhist neighbors come over and share some of their seeds or give us some advice (wanted and unwanted).

We’re taking time to fellowship, share some of our vegetables, or have a meal with them. We celebrate with them in times of joy. In times of sadness, we mourn beside them too. We’re building relationships here based on love and respect. We hope that as we build each one, we take steps to share and proclaim the gospel…one rock at a time.

KIEC GARDEN

Front Ditch, Wall, and Gates

Rear Ditch, Fence and Bridge

 

 

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Settling In – August 2019

The past few months have gone by so fast since our last blogpost. After our family’s move to northern Myanmar in April, we’ve been busy getting the first KIEC building complete, hosting guests and starting our first preschool class. It’s been a whirlwind of activity! Through it all we’ve seen God’s hand guiding us and giving us opportunities to serve as well as opening our eyes for the need for growth.

 

As the saying goes, a picture says a thousand words so we hope the following pictures give just a brief window into the many events of joy we’ve had as we experience God’s grace and blessing on this work.

KIEC DEDICATION (June 10, 2019)

Ribbon cutting at the opening of KIEC’s first building.

Worship and song during the dedication ceremony.

Honored guests share words of encouragement with the attendees during the ceremony.

Blessed to have friends from Greenwich Presbyterian Church and Centreville Presbyterian Church in attendance.

Guest speaker shares about the importance of education in Kalay and shares encouragement for this ministry amd work to grow.

 

KIEC Preschool Students – First 10 Weeks

Jason Kinser takes some time away from being a college prrofessor to get into the nitty gritty of preschool education.

Sue Ellen Kinser assists KIEC during their first week of school introducing staff to Montessori methods and practices.

The center in early July. Painting work on outside and metal railing on outside almost complete.

House Family Settling In

Moving in upstairs into the center and unpacking pictures after being in storage for over two years.

Mornings tend to be cuddle and tea time with Enoch, Dad and Mommy.

Family and friends are close by and often are coming over for a visit and meal. This was a meal we had together during Austin’s birthday.

During the day, Austin teaches Ewing and Eliana homeschool upstairs while Sinte leads the preschool downstairs.

Breaks from homeschool mean garden time for Ewing to check on his eggplant, ginger and carrot plots.

Kids love the back yard with the pig house behind them.

Eliana enjoys riding her bicycle which was a gift from her grandma and shipped up to Kalay.

Enoch administers and assures the playground is always in working order.

 

Thank you so much for your prayers and support for Farthest Corners’ ministry.

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KIEC Building Update

Rather than give a long description and blog of all that has been happening with our first building on the KIEC campus, we thought we’d give an update through pictures.

December 2018

Signing our agreement with the contractor and engineers to put up KIEC’s first building.
Laying out the foundation for the building with the engineers and contractor.
Clearing and digging out a stump to make way for the foundation.
Marking out the foundation footers.
Hand digging the footers.
Footers set.
Enoch supervises the work.

January/February 2019

Well and creek next to the building.

March 2019

Laying the second story cement floor.

TO BE CONTINUED . . . .

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KIEC’s New Campus

After almost a decade of dreaming and praying. Then add into that a few years of looking at real estate properties, numerous meetings and seven months into our three-year KIEC fundraising campaign we now have a property for KIEC to be built on. As we looked at real estate options we had a list of important things we looking for hoped to find in a property:

1. We wanted to be centered in a Buddhist community. While we could have found properties in Christian areas of Kalay, we truly wanted a place where we could be a light and witness among those we desire to serve and share the gospel with.

2. We wanted a piece of land that was close to the center of the city and a large enough piece of land to allow us to grow. Not an easy task in one of Myanmar’s fastest growing cities.

3. We needed the right price. Our budget was limited and while we had a vision for a larger property, many shared with us that our vision didn’t match the reality of the real estate available for sale.

During the past few yeasr, Sinte’s father has been looking at properties for the KIEC Campus. In 2018, Sinte also traveled up to Kalay from Yangon and looked at properties about three times . In August, Sinte and her father identified a piece of land that met all of the above criteria. We started the slow process of negotiating for the property with an owner we already hae a relationship with, so we were encouraged. But the owner seemed unwilling to come down to the purchase price we offered and felt the land was worth. Something just didn’t feel right. Yet, we thought the land could definitely work for our KIEC campus.

In September, our family went up to Kalay to look at a few more properties but our hearts were leaning towards making a final offer and purchasing the one mentioned above. Then while still looking at these few other options, one Burmese landowner along with an agent came and shared with us about a property he was selling. When we went to look at it, we were shocked at the size of the land, how great the location was and how it met all we wanted and more. The price was in the range of our budget, but Sinte and her father being keen negotiators wanted to get the property for a lower price. During that time, Austin came the USA to meet with the Farthest Corners Board to discuss some of the property options and arrange how the monies would be transferred to Myanmar. A vote was made by the FC Board and it was unanimous that the property we had just came to know about was thought to be the best location for KIEC.

Sinte and her father held out for a few weeks sticking to their price and slowly and surely over the past month the landowner came down and finally agreed to our offer. To say we were ecstatic would be an understatement. So here it is, the new KIEC Campus!

KIEC Campus on the outskirts of Kalaymyo.

KIEC Campus land before filling land and fencing.

The KIEC campus sits on a main road which leads into the city.

Kalaymyo is a city in northern Myanmar (Burma) which sits in a valley along the Chin State mountains and is close to the border of India. A view of the mountains from the backside of the property.

The KIEC campus has a small creek which children and our neighbors use for bathing, washing laundry and play.

 

We began fencing one side of the property to ensure a good boundary. Robert Frost “Good fences make good neighbors.”

All holes were hand dug and we used cement posts and chainlink fencing.

Sinte’s father, uncles and brothers helped us with the fencing.

A job well done in a short time.

Filling Land – The land in the entrance sat lower than the front roadway so we filled it and this is  where our parking for KIEC will be.

Sinte’s cousin has a loader and helped us grade our landfill.

Grading the front parking area.

The front corner of the land had three large stumps which needed to be excavated as that is where our front ditch will be built along the main road.

Took over an hour to get those large mango tree stumps dug up.

This is what the front of the property will look like.

The local community uses the land quite a lot. We’re happy to have them come, but as the school develops we’ll have to find a balance.

 

Rice paddy is dried on the cement foundation by our Burmese neighbors.

After the paddy is cleared at the end of the day, children and youth come and play football here.

 

Fun time playing football (soccer).

Sometimes the football players just can’t wait until the paddy is cleared.

We had local church leaders and elders come to see and pray for the land.

Here we are praying together for God’s blessing for this campus and praising Him for this gift to use for His glory!

 

Thanksgiving meal with church leaders after our time of prayer and worship together.

Our family is excited for what this new land will bring for the building of God’s Kingdom. Praise God!

 

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Pigeons and Fishpaste

Fermented, rotten fish gets pounded to form fishpaste, a key ingredient in Burmese food.

Since our arrival in Yangon, our family has been blessed to attend two churches. One is a Chin church in the denomination which Sinte grew up in. Unfortunately, this church usually takes us around 2+ hours to get to and return (because of traffic), so we don’t go there every Sunday. We also found another church closer to our home called the Upper Room, which has both Burmese and English spoken during the worship.

The Upper Room has blessed our family tremendously, but it also sticks out in my mind as our worship time there has some peculiarities. First, is the symbolic presence of the Holy Spirit. The Bible often mentions the presence of our Triune God symbolized as a dove. In this church, it finds it’s cousin with many pigeons flying around inside the building. A few weeks back, when I preached at the Upper Room, there was a point in my sermon which I felt needed some emphasis. Just at that moment, two pigeons circled around me and landed right in front of the congregation.  I’m still not sure if those pigeons were of providence or rather an annoyance. Still, it was a pretty surreal experience.

Burmese woman preparing food in the market.

Yet, there is something else at the Upper Room that always brings me back to earth and reminds me that  Myanmar (Burma) is becoming my home. It’s a Southeast Asian invention called fish-paste. I believe of all the food created in this country, this one was devised to be my kryptonite. Next to the Upper Room church is a large open-air market and every morning during worship a strong waft of smell hovers into the room. If you were new to Myanmar, you might grow concerned. Perhaps, you might think a gas main had busted or some other dastardly issue. But no, that offensive smell comes from fishpaste being fried on the other side of the church’s wall. The combination of heat to fishpaste is very deadly and quite possibly could be classified as a low-class weapon of mass destruction. Though the smell may do some permanent damage to my sense of smell, by God’s grace it hardly distracts me in my worship. It only reminds me that I am in a country not of my own, to proclaim the great name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A couple of weeks ago was the last day for our family to worship at this church building, as it is now moving to a new location. We’re looking forward to more worship times ahead with this wonderful body of believers, but in truth, I will miss this building with pigeons flying and a smell I could do without any day of the week. But church isn’t about a location, our experiences or even how we feel there. It’s about a group of believers coming together and honoring God, worshipping the Almighty Creator. It becomes all the more special for a church to be one that reaches out to bring those who don’t know God, to begin to have a relationship with Him. We’re thankful to be serving and worshipping in some great churches in Yangon who share that same vision to bring about building God’s Kingdom here in Myanmar.

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What’s in the Kangaroo Boxes?

The question of ‘What’s in the kangaroo boxes?’ has been a question we’ve been asked and been asking ourselves quite a bit these past couple months.

This past March, South Pacific School Aid, an organization in Adelaide, Australia came through for us yet again by donating and sending us two pallets of books (over 5,000+). We plan to distribute these books to schools, Bible schools, churches and seminaries throughout Myanmar (Burma).

A treasure for schools, seminaries and bible schools here in Myanmar.

Getting these books through customs is not a fun experience. To be asked over and over again by the company’s agent to send them the same paperwork which we already sent them multiple times and being asked silly questions like: ‘Are we going to be selling half used stationary?’ is baffling. But we’re in Myanmar, so we have to play along.

When we finally got ahold of the books we had only just a couple hours to scour through them at the warehouse and pull out what we felt would be good to distribute to Yangon. Going through the books brought tears to our eyes knowing how precious they are here. We can’t wait to put them into good homes and use them for further ministry. We can’t stop talking about how wonderful these books are!

The truck arrives to send off books to the bus station

These little Suzuki trucks can’t hold much weight, but they did the trick.

After our hasty search through the books, Sinte arranged for two trucks to pick up 28 boxes, where she accompanied them to the bus station. The shipping company we used to get the books through customs was amazed at Sinte’s bargaining skills. The price she reached for the trucks to deliver the books to the bus station was rock bottom. To show their approval of Sinte’s negotiating abilities, the agents quickly got the phone numbers of the drivers so that they could use them in the future.

 

 

Once the books got to the bus station, Sinte yet again wheeled and dealed (in a good way) with the companies to ship the books up to the north. Got to say, I love having a local wife who will get the best deal she can get! Sinte returned home, and she and I (along with Enoch’s help) went through many of the theology books that we hope to give out in Yangon.

Sorting theological books for bible schools in Yangon.

 

Enoch joins his mom and dad late at night to help with the sorting.

We just got word the boxes we sent arrived in northern Myanmar this morning, and Sinte is now heading up tomorrow to sort and distribute them. She’ll also begin to look at properties for the Kalay International Education center (KIEC) that we hope to get started in the next couple of years. This is where we need your help with a lot of prayer. We’re hoping this summer to find the property our family and ministry will serve from. We haven’t found the property yet, and we want to be in the exact place the Lord wants us. So please pray for Sinte and Enoch as they head up tomorrow to sort and give out books while also going out and looking for a possible new home and mission site for our family. We greatly covet your prayers!

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Report from Rakchat (May 2018)

On 23 April, my son, Saw Shalom (who just graduated high school) and I left for a trip to Happy Home.

 

Crossing river on a ferry with my son, Saw Shalom.

 

We arrived at Happy Home after our bus, truck, boat and motorcycle ride. On 24 April, we had a meeting with the Happy Home leadership committee and discussed our plans for the upcoming year.

First, we talked on the preparations for the rice planting this year. Last year was our largest harvest yet, which was able to sustain the children for six months and also feed all of workers (i.e, farm workers and Board master family). Still, like any farm we can’t lean on our success from the previous year.

 

Harvesting rice in November 2017.

 

Harvested rice from November 2017.

 

Harvested rice from November 2017.

 

The things needing to be done at the farm were the maintenance of our tractors, ensure the temporary workers were hired, and to make sure we reinforce and clean out the irrigation ditch which was one of our biggest problems at the farm over the years.

 

Tractor purchased by Farthest Corners in 2016.

 

The biggest challenge in everyone’s heart right now in the Happy Home area, is that there has been some renewed fighting between the Burma and Karen Army about a day’s walk from Happy Home. About 2,000 Karen villagers are now in hiding with five of Happy Home children’s families in hiding. We discussed about these Happy Home children and how we could help the families in this area.

 

We also talked about the repairs for the Happy Home buildings. A couple of years ago we put new roofs on the home, which has been a great help. Most of the buildings have bamboo siding and after a few years these walls fall into disrepair. The committee shared how they’ve started collecting and cutting the bamboo into sections to fix these walls for the new school year.

 

Happy Home is also planning their garden for this year. We’d like to plant more vegetables, fruit trees and corn. We’ve also finally convinced the home and leadership that the pigs and goats need to be locked up and the goats are now fenced off in an area outside the home’s grounds.

 

Mango tree at Happy Home garden.

 

Banana tree at Happy Home garden.

 

Five children graduated and left Happy Home this year. One issue that came up was that two of our boys who graduated wanted to do further study. However, their village and leaders asked the two boys to become soldiers instead. The two boys are now in army officer training. We’ll continue to stay in touch with them and after their army service is complete, if they’d like to study further, we’ll do our best to help.

Everyone on the committee feels that the situation at Happy Home is much better than past years. The new board master who came to lead the home last year, teaches bible and hymn singing throughout the week. The children appear to be behaving better and listen to the new board master and his wife. The children come from all religious backgrounds but are also participating in church activities a lot more.

After our meeting with the Happy Home committee, my son, one of our hired farm workers and myself, went to tour the farm and look at the expansion work of about 3+ acres that has been done this year.

There has been one small change this year as we are hiring only two farm workers. One permanent and one part time. With the improvements made on the irrigation ditch, we don’t feel another worker is needed.

 

Irrigation ditch repaired in 2017.

 

With the great harvest success we had last year, we’re continuing to look at how we can expand the farm. Every year as we extend our property we have to watch our water intake and how it flows into the land. The rice paddies constantly need to be kept filled with water. So we’re slowly expanding and watching how the land matches our water usage. Also, it is important to understand that rice paddies don’t start yielding large harvests until they reach maturity which is about 4-5 years. So whenever we expand, we don’t see the full results until 4-5 years later. This is because the ground needs to change and flatten out to take in water and there is also usually a lot of weeds during the first few years of production.

Happy Home Farm in April 2018.

 

Below is a three-year plan on how we might like to expand the farm:

 

 

This year after we harvest the rice in November, we would like to plant beans, garlic and onions around January 2019. We’d also like to look at planting fruit trees around the rice paddy edges like we have already done at Happy Home. The food produced would be used for the Happy Home children and if our harvest is large we can sell the crops too. But we’re concerned if we don’t have fencing around the farm, the buffalo and other livestock in the area will come in and eat our crops as they’ve done before. During the dry seasons, farmers let their water buffalo and cows to wander around. We need to discuss this problem with the Happy Home leaders and how we might fence the farm to keep livestock out. I plan to do this on my next visit in June, when we also start planting the rice fields.

I praise God to see the money invested over so many years at the farm now producing as we had always hoped. I want to thank everyone for your support.

I’d like to request prayer for two major things.

  1. For the health of our committee. One leader in particular who has helped Happy Home since its founding in 2006. His health has been poor the past couple of years.
  2. Another concern is the fighting around Happy Home area. While there is not a large fear as people think its contained to a certain area right now, we still have to be prepared. We also want to pray for those 2,000 Karen villagers who are still hiding in the jungle. As the rainy season approaches, these villagers really need to return to their homes and farms. Please pray for peace in Karen State and throughout Myanmar (Burma).

 

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Settling In

I recently came across a letter written in 1815 by Adoniram Judson. Judson is considered to be America’s first overseas missionary. In 1813, he arrived in Myanmar and served conspicuously for thirty-seven years until his death in 1850. In this letter, Judson wrote:

“If a missionary, during his first years, should attempt to keep such an account [Note: For today’s audience a blogpost.] he might find little to insert under most of the dates, but the number of pages read, new words acquired, and idle conversations with the natives—idle, indeed, in substance, but not in purpose, being indispensable to his thoroughly attaining the phraseology and pronunciation of the language.

I am sometimes a little dispirited when I reflect, that for two or three years past, I have been drilling at A, B, C, and grammar. But I consider again, that, the gift of tongues is not granted in these times; that someone must acquire this language by dint of application; must translate the Scriptures, and must preach the gospel to the people in their own tongue, or how can they be saved?”

As I make some beginning in my own Burmese studies I feel a lot like Judson. Yet, my cumbersome attempt to do Burmese study is essential for our family’s long-term success in the field. To reach those whose hearts have yet to hear the gospel, will be much easier to do if I can speak, read and write in a comprehensible way.

Practicing reading and writing Burmese.

While setting time out for study is the wisest course of action, pressures still come. Churches and friends who know our family well, seek our help and support in ministries. One church we attend, asked that I preach at least once a month and help with other ministries also. The temptation for our family is to jump headlong into areas of ministry we believe we could impact, yet we know that we need to be more like the tortoise than the hare. There is great work in front of us, and we must prepare ourselves for it. Please do pray for our family to maintain this spirit of patience. While our reports in the coming months (including this one) might seem mundane, please know what we do now is to prepare to do even greater things for building God’s Kingdom.

So what does a daily routine look for us? For Austin, it begins after breakfast with his morning dedicated to homeschooling Ewing (our oldest son). There are international schools in Yangon, but the cost, as well as the long-term plan of our family leaving Yangon in the next year or two, means we should start homeschooling our kids now.

 

 

During the afternoons and into the evening, Austin continues to do Burmese language study either in homework or through a Burman language tutor that comes to our home.

 

Sinte has taken charge of Eliana’s homeschooling, as well as for the caring for our youngest Enoch. In the afternoons, Sinte is working on her MA TESOL research, which we hope will become the curriculum for the new education center we plan to open in the coming years. Sinte also is hoping to help in our local church as well and participate in some of the women activities in the church.

So for Sinte and Austin our days are mainly filled being either teachers or students. As for our kids, they have adapted well, as they always seem to. We do think there is some relief for them being here in Yangon, as we now have a place we can call home for a year or so. Our constant moving the past few years has taken quite a toll on them.

 

Over Christmas, our family went to northern Myanmar to visit friends and family. This is also the location we hope to move to in another year or so. While there, Austin was able to preach at Sinte’s home church and our family spent some time with one of our ‘old’ seminary students. Austin was also able to do some work at a small orchard farm that we have been developing. We have over a 100+ lynchee, orange and lemon trees planted now. We hope to plant more lynchee, banana, zangtaw and coconut trees this year.

Austin with his friend who was one of his previous students.

 

Austin also had some extracurricular fun.  He went out into some rice fields with Sinte’s brothers, cousins and an uncle, to do some rat hunting during the night .

We are connected with a local church where we have friends and family. Local is debatable, as we have to travel twelve miles to get there, but because of traffic in Yangon, it takes about an hour and a half to get there every Sunday. Recently, we had members of the church come to our home to pray with and celebrate our daughter, Eliana’s, fifth birthday. A great time was held by all.

Our ministry work and additional tasks are happening as well. We’ve been fortunate to host some of the seminary students that Farthest Corners has supported. They came for a visit in December and then we had them over again for Eliana’s birthday as well.

Sinte was also blessed to recently attend the graduation of one of these students that Farthest Corners provided a scholarship to.

We’ve already had lots of people to our home for visits and we’re building great relationships among Christians and Buddhists alike. We are thankful to be sent out as witnesses for God’s Kingdom and we look forward to more great times ahead.

We also have one major prayer request. With our family now serving in Myanmar, Rakchat our long time friend and colleague is now heading our Thailand border projects. He recently was in and out of the hospital suffering from what we believe is typhoid and he became very weak. Last week, we received good news that he is now recovering at home and is able to walk some now. Please continue to pray for Rakchat’s recovery.

Thank you all so much for your love, prayers and support.

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