This week is simple and sweet. Love For Myanmar does a lot of cool things in Myanmar and Austin of a very ‘serious’ nature…but we play a lot too. Really, we are experts in play and over the years a lot of really cool people have been a part of the fun and games. Here are some photos of the silly things we do! Enjoy!
I asked LFM’s long time friend Chin Chin to write a little bit about Christmas in Myanmar. To help you understand some of the context of things she is writing about I need to explain some cultural norms, recent political changes, and my own observations about the people of Myanmar. The freedom to congregate openly is a new phenomenon in Myanmar. Openly congregating together, especially of young people or religious movements, was frowned upon by the previous government regime. It is not surprising that out of a fear of loss of power and control, laws were made to make meeting openly a serious crime. This is why the meeting of 70,000 Myanmar citizens at the Shwedagon Pagoda for the MTV Exit/ Walk Free concert last year holds such significance. Never before would so many people have been allowed to meet all together for any reason. Chin Chin uses the word ‘crusade’, which sounds funny in our American ears. What she means is the ability to congregate and share the gospel (or anything) in public. (Chin Christians in Myanmar commonly call this crusading; it doesn’t have the same connotative meaning it holds in English). Notably, to my knowledge passing out any ‘propaganda’ (IE pamphlets or handouts) is still illegal. You must make your face time count, you can not rely on a micro encounter to hand a passerby information about your church or your group or where you meet regularly. Even if you could do this, previous fears of military threat would dictate a hesitance to have anything in print that would lead to your church. In Myanmar, if you were to visit, it would seem like the whole country was alive in song. The people love to sing. It is no surprise that this ‘Christmas crusading’ often takes the form of door-to-door caroling. Young people often go out at night with a guitar and a lot of laughter and walk the streets singing for their neighbors, sharing the story of Christ in song. It is almost always well received, with people waiting at their doors or in their yards for their chance to hear the songs. Sometimes they even sing along! Chin Chin makes some insightful observations about her country and some that maybe even we here in America could take to heart. Enjoy!
The, Christmas season, which brings peace and joy, is coming back again with a winter breeze to Myanmar. Although everyone does not know the full meaning of Christmas, believers rejoice in this time. Myanmar is one of the developing countries in Asia and different colors and beauty of Christmas traditions are being introduced to the country. Outwardly, colors and ways of celebrating Christmas can be realized. But, there is still a crucial inward need of informing the history and the real essence of The Christmas Story to the citizens of Myanmar.
Buddhism is a major religion in this country, and so, Christmas celebrations were not considered as a serious event until the last little decade. Moreover, most people thought Christmas celebrations were just for having a big party.
In the last two years, we have all noticed the introduction of Christmas decorations imported to the Supermarkets, adorning city buildings and in some families’ houses. As soon as out-door crusades (meeting together) was allowed by the government, believers also began to feel brave and celebrate the Christmas holiday (Sweet December in Myanmar) as an opportunity to get outside and talking about the real meaning of Christmas through song and laughter.
If we could all focus on spending our precious time with family and friends through giving meaningful presents and making fellowship with each other, singing carol songs and sharing the Good News in this Christmas season, the essence of Christmas will be brought to a fuller purpose inside Myanmar.
Let the peace, joy, and blessings of Christmas be with you all from now to forever.
For all of the homes we support in Myanmar, we try and offer the opportunity to develop and implement small business plans. Soe Win Naing (hereafter SWN), who runs our Victoria home with his wife, came to us with a plan to implement a motorcycle taxi service in his village area. After seeing his plan and how it would help him provide income to feed and clothe the orphans he is currently supporting, Love For Myanmar opted to help implement the moto taxi service.
SWN was given the money directly to buy a motorcycle taxi. He leases this motorcycle out to a taxi driver who pays 2,000 kyats (about $2.50 USD) per day for the use of the bike. The bike is leased out everyday (to the same driver) providing both a community member with a daily income as well as increasing the family income of Victoria Childcare Center. SWN earns family income for his childcare center by leasing out this motorbike daily, teaching a class at the local Bible College, and by driving a second motorcycle as a taxi himself at night.
Now with the addition of the daily income he earns from the motorbike taxi his home is roughly 30% sustainable and he is able to provide a small portion of meat to his children 5 days per week (up from 3 days per week previously). This additional protein is important to the growth and development of the children. He also has more money readily available for school, clothes, medicine, etc.
The addition of 4 more motorcycles to his ‘fleet’ would make his home fully supported with no additional outside funding. We hope that one day he can manage this fleet and sustain his orphanage completely on his own, needing us only for prayer and fellowship support. This is the example we hope to see all five of our Orphanages move toward in the near future!
Well another successful Thanksgiving has come and gone. It was a beautiful day here in Texas and facebook was awash with people posting just how much their cup runneth over. The LFM team in Myanmar was also able to celebrate this year and invite some of the youth we work with to share in the festivities. There was even a real Chicken-Elephant, which is what the English translation of the Burmese word for Turkey is.
The visual centerpiece of any thanksgiving meal is easily the Turkey. It has become the symbol of God’s bountiful blessings on that one day we set aside to focus all our energy on giving thanks for all the good things we got in the other 364 days leading up to thanksgiving.
Well this year Love For Myanmar (LFM) has so many things to be thankful for and we hope we remember to remain thankfully aware of all of our blessings in the days to come! We have had an awesome year with big movement in our organization. A lot of it can be paralleled to the fact that you could buy a Turkey in Myanmar this year. You see, it’s a foreign food. It has to be imported. In years passed there have been so many economic sanctions and bans on import/exports as well as unwillingness on the part of the Myanmar to negotiate such things with the western world. In the last two years so many things are beginning to change. As a result of these changes LFM has also been able to work more freely inside Myanmar which opens up a whole wealth of possibilities that we were not sure would ever be possible.
Just a few of the awesome successes we have to be thankful for this year are:
1: We changed our name and it is so much more reflective about how all of us involved feel about Myanmar and her people.
2: We enjoyed two awesome summer interns, one that spent the summer in Myanmar and one that worked with us here in Austin. They both brought a fresh perspective and new insights to LFM and we are so thankful for them!
3: We successfully negotiated and purchased land in Myanmar, which we have big BIG plans for.
4: We enjoyed sharing Myanmar with the largest group of volunteers composed mostly of youth on our mission trip this summer.
Thank you to everyone who has been a faithful part of our growth process. We are looking to the New Year with hope and excitement and can not wait to see what comes next! God’s Bountiful Blessings really are everywhere!