The past couple of months have been particularly hard as fighting continues and an all-encompassing national uprising looms. With the increased conflict, the economy has collapsed, and many people without jobs are running out of food. We’re blessed to have relationships on the ground and in the USA to find avenues to support Myanmar (Burma). In the USA, one church seeing a great need provided a significant gift to help those suffering. Even with almost all of the banks closed in the country, we could get funds into the country and work with partners that we have strong relationships of trust to support those who need it most. Below are some recent pictures of rice distribution to people throughout the northwest region of the country.
On top of this, in the past month, COVID-19 has ravaged the country, and we’ve lost several friends. We’ve been able to coordinate and get funds into the country to purchase oxygen production equipment and tanks for the people. While tanks are difficult to find, the greater problem is finding a plant to refill these tanks that are being used. Along with other organizations, churches, and individuals have been pooling monies together to help with the building of an oxygen plant which will cost an estimated $125,000.
Yet, with all of these challenges, the people continue to do their best. On the other side of Myanmar (Burma), at Happy Home, the kids have returned to their school, which the Burma Army bombed. They have rebuilt a new girl’s dorm and finished planting their rice, which we hope to harvest by December.
God is doing remarkable things in Myanmar (Burma), and no evil can stand against His mercy and grace. Thank you so much for all of your love, prayers, and support for Farthest Corners ministries. We are truly humbled for your partnership with us in this great work!
As many of you know, violence forced our family to leave our mission field in Myanmar (Burma) this past spring. The country became too dangerous for our children, with shootings and killings often occurring around our home. After praying and discerning with our partners in the field and our mission sending agencies, we left for the USA, unsure where the Lord would call us next. Now in the USA, our hearts and minds remain with our friends and family in Burma (Myanmar). The transition has been a difficult one. Still, we are greatly loved by our family and friends here in the USA and we also believe the Lord calls us to be a witness wherever we are.
This month, our home church, Greenwich Presbyterian Church, offered a call to serve temporarily as Missionaries in Residence. The assignment allows for Austin to work on his ordination process and for Sinte to assist with many of the church’s children ministries. We’ll also be assisting with discipleship, young adults/families, youth ministry, and much more.
We are looking forward to a year of service in our local community in the USA and the opportunity to spend time with many in the northern Virginia area. We’ve already spoken at some churches and have visited some groups and individual families too. If you’d like to connect with our family, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
Front Ditch, Wall, and Gates
Rear Ditch, Fence and Bridge
The Woodbridge Flute Choir (WFC), directed by Debbie Gilbert and assisted by Lisa Sheldone, will present its annual Holiday Concert on Sunday, December 10, 2017 at 3:00PM at Greenwich Presbyterian Church in Nokesville, VA.
The concert will benefit Farthest Corners, a non-profit organization focused on educational and humanitarian mission in Burma. For more than eleven years the Nokesville-based foundation, under the leadership of Nokesville native Austin House and a team of Asian workers, has provided relief following typhoons and rice famine in Burma, operated a home and school for orphans and other children displaced by war and tribal conflict in Burma and provided educational and spiritual support in villages and refugee camps along the Thailand/Burma border. Admission to the concert is free but an offering will be taken to support the extensive work Farthest Corners is doing in Burma and Thailand.
Guest vocalists Judy Raze, Karen Savia, and 11-year-old Callie Smith from Greenwich Presbyterian Church will join the flute choir for three pieces. Judy and Karen will sing two beautiful contemporary Christian classics, Mary Did You Know? and Breath of Heaven arranged for flute choir by Phyllis Louke. Callie will sing Do You Want to Build a Snowman? from the popular children’s move “Frozen.”
The flute choir will also perform arrangements of three favorite Christmas carols O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and Silent Night (both arranged by Ann Cameron Pearce), and Away in A Manger by Steve Sample plus a lovely arrangement of the choral piece There Is No Rose by Z. Randall Stroope, arranged by Phyllis Louke. They will also perform Alexandra Molnar-Suhajda’s original work for flute choir, Kyriale. Also included will be a jazzy arrangement of Rise Up Shepherd and Follow by Ann Cameron Pearce and two fun arrangements of the holiday classics Jingle Bells by Valerie Coleman and The Twelve Days of Christmas by Amy Rice-Young.
About the Woodbridge Flute Choir:
The Woodbridge Flute Choir, directed by Debbie Gilbert and assisted by Lisa Sheldone, has 25 members who play flute, piccolo, alto flute, bass flute and contrabass flute. Since its inception in 1996, the WFC has presented a regular concert series in Northern Virginia and has performed at charitable and gala events, Flute Society of Washington events, and flute choir festivals. The Choir has performed at the Kennedy Center and the White House, and most recently was invited to perform at the 2011, 2013 and 2015 National Flute Association Conventions. As part of its mission to educate its members and the Washington area flute community, the Choir has sponsored masterclasses and performed with internationally acclaimed flutists such as Per Oien, John Barcellona, Tadeu Coelho, Chris Potter, Alexa Still, Thomas Robertello, Aaron Goldman, and piccolo soloist Nan Raphael. In recognition of the need for new music written specifically for flute choir, the WFC has commissioned and presented world premieres of original works by Gretchen Morse, Nancy Wood, Lee Larsen, Mel Lauf, Jonathan Cohen, Alexandra Molnar-Suhajda, Russell Nadel, and Greg Lutz. The group has produced four commercial CDs – Butterfly, Woodbridge Suite, Passages and A Silver Christmas. All are available for download either on CD Baby, iTunes, or through amazon.com. For more information about the choir, its upcoming concerts and its recordings, please visit www.woodbridgeflutechoir.org.
Debbie Gilbert, the artistic director, resides in Broad Run, Virginia near Warrenton and holds a B.M.E. from Louisiana State University. She has taught private flute lessons to youth and adults for over 25 years. She is the principal flutist with the Piedmont Symphony Orchestra and a nine-time winner in the National Flute Association’s annual Professional Flute Choir Competition. Currently she serves as president of the board of directors of the Flute Society of Washington.
More information about the Woodbridge Flute Choir and its 2017-2018 season may be found at www.woodbridgeflutechoir.org.
This concert is generously sponsored by Heritage Financial.
This concert is also generously supported in part by funding from NOVEC, and
Prince William County