We recently returned from Myanmar, where from November 26 to December 1 2016 , we taught two inductive Bible studies. Myanmar is a country with a population of almost 53 million, mostly Buddhist. Christians make up 6%. The Baptist Church makes up 4% of the country’s population and the other two percent belong to other denominations. This is because the first missionaries to come here were Adoniram and Ann Judson. On their long journey to this country, Ann lost her pregnancy and was close to death. When they got off the ship, Adoniram was carrying his wife in his arms, for she was unable to stand on her feet as sick and weak as she was. Burma was considered a difficult and dangerous land and the missionaries of that time were afraid to come here. Adoniram and his wife prayed for the Lord to give them 100 disciples in this country, but when they left, there were over 100 churches in the country. Adoniram translated the Bible from the original languages into Burmese and to this day it is the most popular and best translation. In the process of translating the Bible, Adoniram compiled a dictionary that is still the most popular Myanmar-English dictionary.
Our first conference was attended by over 50 Sunday school teachers from 19 localities in the country who teach 914 children. Among them were 12 men. After getting to know each other, we introduced the mission and the inductive method of studying the Bible and then went on to complete the textbook.
The Burmese are a quiet and hardworking people and on the first day we managed to study two lessons and the first day of the third lesson.
I had as my assistant in this mission in Myanmar Slava Crîlov, professor at the English language faculty of the Biblical Institute Precept Ministries.
Here I had them complete one day of the lesson and in groups and then we all checked.
Erik Brewer, who served for several years as a pastor with me at the “Good News” church in Chisinau, now serves in a church in Hoffmantown, USA. Together with a mission team, they went to Myanmar in the fall and on this occasion they taught the children’s book “Jonah” at the camps and financed the printing of textbooks from which the teachers who came to the conference will teach. Erik also sent a group of 7 teachers together with Saw Hay Thar who translated for the team then. He came to this seminar because he works with 100 children in a village and so far he did flip-charts, but now he says he has made a great discovery and will teach inductive Bible study textbooks to children. He also has a youth group and with them he will also study this textbook. Every summer he holds 7 camps with about 300 children and he will also teach them according to the manual “Wrong Way, Jonah!”
The coordinator of Precept Ministries in Myanmar is Saw Hudson, whom I met at the Haggai Institute in the United States, where I teach the course “Biblical and Modern Models of Evangelism.” Hudson translated the textbooks, organized the conference very well, and translated. He asked us to come in the morning, at 8:30, and as soon as we arrived he said to start. Then, about two hours later, I asked if there was a need for a break, and he said, “Okay, is 5 minutes enough?” I proposed 30, but he insisted it be only 10 minutes and so were the breaks all day. We studied until 6 in the evening and only had 4 breaks of 10 minutes each, and one at lunch for an hour while we ate. The students were very passionate and only during the last break they showed that they wanted it, at the others they were indifferent to the fact that they received a break and they quickly came ahead of time and were already waiting for us to continue.
Many times I made them work in small groups and I made them take turns leading, so that everyone learns to lead well and to moderate the study process in small groups.
This woman came with two small children and at noon she took one in her arms to sleep, climbed on a back table and there she studied with us while the child slept for 2 hours. Interestingly, the child was also very calm. She had one more child and they were both present, but I was deeply impressed by how quiet they were all day and how obedient they were to their mother.
Hudson said he was very impressed and that this course is very useful not only for children, but also for adults. I told him that he now has 2,000 textbooks printed. 1,000 will go with the teachers who are now trained, but with the ones that are left he should go and train other teachers to teach 1000 more children, and he said that this he will do.
The seminar was hosted by the center for the blind, which was founded by Thein Lwin. He was a Buddhist and in his senior year of high school he was the victim of an explosion in the chemistry lab as a result of which he lost both eyes and a hand. While thinking about suicide, he learned about Jesus Christ from a Christian. Then he prayed to the Lord Jesus to help him pass the baccalaureate exam, which is extremely difficult for them. After the miracle happened and he took that exam, he went to college and began to search the Scriptures and decided to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Once, while walking on the street, he was hit by a car and ended up at the hospital. There, the Lord gave him the vision to start a work for people with disabilities in Myanmar who make up 4.6% of the country’s population. Of all people with disabilities, 40% are blind, and most of them are born healthy but go blind at the age of 2 due to malnutrition. In the Buddhist religion, people with disabilities are despised and ugly, because they are believed to have become so because of the sins they committed in their previous lives, according to their belief in reincarnation. When he left the hospital, Thein Lwin gathered 14 blind people and had only 14 kyat (about $1.5) and began his work. Today, they work with more than 1,000 blind and disabled people and have 7 schools across the country, and 36 blind people have passed the baccalaureate exam and graduated from college. The greatest joy is for the more than 300 people with disabilities who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, were baptized, and now follow the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.
After visiting this center in January and teaching the course “How to Have a Real Relationship with God,” the book in Burmese was also printed in Braille.
One day when I was coming to class I saw a 7-8 year old boy wiping the stairs, who has no eyes at all, they don’t exist, his face is without eyes. I saw something like this for the first time in my life. I took this picture when I entered their place of worship, and you should have seen how joyfully they all sang praise to God. I also made some videos that can be found on my Facebook profile.
The students gladly took the books they would use to teach in their groups of children.
In the second seminar I studied Paul’s Epistle to Titus, for the textbook was translated and printed in Burmese. This time pastors, leaders and Sunday school teachers came to the last seminar and invited other friends and colleagues of theirs.
Sister Myint Myint Hlaing serves in a village where 100 lepers live. Among them is a church of 20 believers. The sister came to learn the course “Wrong Way, Jonah!” to teach the 25 lepers in the village, but she decided to stay at the second seminar to learn Paul’s Epistle to Titus and then study with the whole church.
From the very first day of the conference, people began to take study books of the Epistle to Titus for their groups, and by the end of the seminar they had taken all the 1,000 that had been printed. Those who did not attend the first seminar also took another 500 books of “Wrong Way, Jonah!”
Next year, in July, the first session of the faculty for Sunday school teachers will take place at the branch of the Institute for Inductive Bible Study Precept Ministries in Myanmar. Then, in December, the second session will take place, and two Bible study seminars for pastors will be held: one in Yangon and one in Kalaw. Pray with us for these ministries and all the preparations related to them. Pray for the 7 Bible studies that are to be translated into Burmese and printed by the end of 2017. Another prayer need is for the teachers who will be sent there and their travel expenses. God bless the work in Myanmar.
Translated by Aliona Sotan