Land in Myanmar is a premium commodity. In fact owning land at all is rare. Very few citizens actually own the land they live on outright and those that do usually manage this by claiming ‘family land’ and can prove ownership generations back. Love For Myanmar started the process of looking for land a year ago at the start of 2013. It was a long process of inquiry and learning spent seeking out land that could truly belong to us as an organization that we could develop and grow.
In 2013 Love For Myanmar was able to acquire fifteen acres of undeveloped land in Myanmar. Our long term vision for this land is to develop it into a multi functional compound including and supplemental education facility, a youth learning center, dormitories for visiting volunteers/interns/mission teams, housing for long term employees, and various field crops. In February LFM founders Gary Watkins and Reed Iwami are traveling to Myanmar to begin pilot projects in the villages surrounding our land to see which of these programs/ building projects to tackle first. It is a very exciting time of growth and preparation for Love For Myanmar! We would love you to be a part of this exciting new chapter; find out how here: www.loveformyanmar.org
Our guest blogger this week is Julie Christianson. Julie travelled with Love For Myanmar to Myanmar in the summer of 2013. She has many stories from her time there, but this is one of our favorites. Small acts of kindness and faithful service can move mountains….or save babies. If you would like to learn how you could help children like Esther, please contact us! You can find us on facebook or at www.loveformyanmar.org.
On our mission trip to Myanmar last summer, our final stop was in a remote village near Ngwe Saung (The Silver Beach). We traveled by dump truck along the beautiful coastline and through the dense jungle on what turned out to be quite an adventurous trip. When we stopped in front of the simple little church the curious villagers greeted us warmly. They ushered us inside to find a seat in the pews. We were guided up to the front row and pulled into seats by some sweet little ladies. The service began with worship promptly, but we were distracted by the labored breathing of an adorable baby nestled in her mother’s arms behind us. She was clearly struggling to breathe and had very low muscle tone, seeming unable to even hold up her little head. My daughter, Brianne, couldn’t focus on what was taking place in the church service because she was so concerned about the sick baby. She asked if her inhaler could possibly help the child breathe. I was unsure and we both realized she wouldn’t be able to use the inhaler herself after that because we had no clue what was causing the child’s respiratory distress. I spoke with Sherry Crockett, who is a pharmacist and we met at the back of the church with the young mother and child. The pastor of the small church translated for us and we prayed for the baby. Then, Sherry made a funnel from construction paper that covered the baby’s nose and mouth so that the medication would not escape. After receiving a couple of puffs from the inhaler, the breathing seemed to ease a bit, but clearly there were issues that ran deeper. When we offered an invitation at the end of the service, the mother came forward and I was able to pray over her again while tears streamed down both of our faces. However, in the midst of interacting with many of the visitors after the service, they seemed to disappear without us finding out much more about them.
Weeks went by and we couldn’t shake the image of that struggling child and desperate, exhausted mother holding her. We continued to pray for them, but wanted to do more. We contacted Love For Myanmar and asked them to try to track down the infant and send the mother and child to a doctor to see if anything could be done. At the very least, we wanted to get her something that she could place the baby in so that her hands could be free to do her work. We found out the baby was a little over a year and a half old and named Esther. Most of the people we encountered in Myanmar had names that were hard to pronounce or just sounded funny to us. But, this baby was named Esther. In one part of my first prayer, I had prayed that God would use this little child to draw people in this village to himself and that he would be glorified through “his” little life. I even mentioned in my prayer, that with Christianity also being in it’s “infancy” in this village that perhaps, this child “was born for such a time as this”. When I found out the baby was a girl and her name was Esther, I was amazed! After visiting a doctor and then a specialist the mother was given a set of exercises to go through to strengthen Esther’s muscles. Then, she was given a baby activity/exerciser to allow the mom to have her hands free to be able to accomplish more and allow the baby to gain even more muscle control. The letter and pictures sent back to us showed Za Za Htay (the mother) no longer sad, but clearly thrilled with this small token of kindness and baby Esther grinning from ear to ear! The picture says it all. God gave us the greatest gift in allowing us to see that little girl smile.
YOU are our network! There is a lot going on these days in the social media world. From blogs to hashtags to tweets we are inundated with the everyday happenings of the people around us. Do not be fooled by these little virtual worlds that are being created online, there is life behind the computer screen! IT IS YOU! You are the driving force of social media. You are the voice that your friends and family and colleagues find interesting and witty and worth listening to. You are the reason Love For Myanmar is a success and you will be the reason we can continue to grow and change lives for the people of Myanmar everyday in meaningful ways.
As we head into 2014, we urgently need you and all your social networking prowess to keep doing what you’re doing and sharing, liking, posting, tagging, and following LFM. It is as easy as getting online (which I know you are already doing!) and beginning to integrate LFM into your social network. That might mean sharing a particularly interesting Facebook post on your wall, adding #LFM or #loveformyanmar to your pictures involving LFM, emailing us and asking questions about what you can do or be praying for, or even just telling people you know about Myanmar and the people we serve there. We want ‘Myanmar’ to be on peoples minds and hearts in 2014 and we can not do it without you!
You are our network… and you make all the difference in the world!
Check out this snap shot of kids from one of our children’s homes trying on their brand new school uniforms. School uniforms are one of the hidden costs of education in Myanmar (of which there are many), as children must have a uniform in order to attend class. LFM purchases new school uniforms for over 100 children every year so that they have new clothes that fit them correctly to start the school year with. Last year (2013) we asked our good friends at Living Water Church to stitch them for us. Living Water Church has founded a sewing shop where they train women from the community who have no jobs to use sewing machines. They split the profit amongst themselves.
A donation of $7 will buy one child one uniform. Click here http://www.loveformyanmar.org/donatenow to make a donation today. Make sure and add the note “school uniforms” in the comment section and we will make sure that every cent goes where you intend! In fact, any time you make a donation to LFM you can tell us what project you would like your funds to be used for and we will make sure they are applied as requested!
Our guest blogger this week has lived in Myanmar for almost four years and is the Director of Myanmar Ministries Relations here at LFM. She is also in our first ever LFM quarterly newsletter. Interested in reading more articles like this? You can email us at email@example.com and we will add you to the quarterly list! Happy 2014 to all!