Monthly Archives: August 2018

How to Become a Third-World Country – Lessons Learned in Myanmar

After moving to Myanmar, Holli and I quickly realized that the government’s main concern was to maintain control – at any cost. They didn’t want things to change because that would mean they would lose their power. Red signs with white letters were everywhere commanding the people to turn in traitors or those trying to break the unity of the nation. The government-run news agency aired stories of the junta elite giving gifts to industry, agriculture, education, and medical community.

It was all a public image ruse. The reality was Myanmar was slipping further and further into a third-world, third-rate country and the generals didn’t know how to stop it. Word on the street was the generals had been raised in the jungle and didn’t know any way to rule expect barbarism. They ruled with an iron fist and fought among themselves for more power. Competing government-run businesses were bombed, as a result.

The future of Myanmar was being depleted and fast. And it broke our heart.

I think seeing all these things was particularly hard for Holli. She was good at organizing things and finding ways to turn the hardest situation into a life-giving oasis. She was overwhelmed with the brokenness and decay she saw around her. She believed God could change the hearts and begin to work with the Burmese women to help them come up with solutions to the problems they faced every day. Through casual conversations over tea, Holli began to bring some order to the chaos around her and these ladies she loved. She had a God-given ability to persevere that always amazed me.

I visited with the Myanmar Baptist Convention (MBC) to see ways we could partner with them to share Christ and His love. Some of the leaders were amazing examples of Christlikeness and we spent long hours together. But persecution from the Burmese government had hardened the denominational leadership’s hearts over the years. Like an old car, rusting in the back of the house, they seemed unable to move forward or forget the past.

The MBC thought the answer to all their problems was for everything to return to the way it was before the Junta took over the country. Pastor’s laughed when we talked about how their Buddhist neighbors would spend eternity in hell if they didn’t receive Christ. “They deserve it for how they have treated us” was their reply.

Myanmar – The Land Time Forgot

When General Nei Win took over the Burmese government in 1962, he began isolating Myanmar from the rest of the world. He took a country rich in natural resources, skilled workers, and the best education system in Asia and bankrupted each one paying his cronies and living a lavish lifestyle. We often called Myanmar “the land that time forgot” when we moved there in 2003. Everything was rusting, decaying, and spoiled. Another example of how pride comes before the fall. In this case, Nei Win enjoyed the lucre of his pride, and the Burmese people endured the oppression and humiliation of watching their country collapse from within.

Holli and I had felt called to missions when we were in college, but the opportunity didn’t come until after I had celebrated my 40th birthday. God was preparing us all those years. Bringing dear friends and ideas into our lives that we needed for the mission field. Then, we found out I had ankylosing spondylitis while we were planting our second church in America. The members of Highland Fellowship were so supportive and loving during this difficult time in our lives. We thought we would never be able to go to the mission field.

The doctors finally found medicine that turned our night into day, however, and the dream of serving Jesus by taking the gospel to places it had never been heard shone again. Holli and I had learned how to equip leaders and multiply ourselves because of my illness. Now God was sending to do the same overseas.

I took a vision trip with a dear friend in the spring of 2003 to Southeast Asia. As soon as I stepped off the plane, God said, “You are home.” That night, I called Holli and she said, “You, don’t have to tell me, I already know. We are supposed to spread the gospel in Southeast Asia.” Holli’s faith never wavered. I found out several years later that she had prayed throughout my illness, still believing God would send us.

We had seen spiritual markers in our lives for years pointing towards the foreign field: our desire to see people come to Christ, our joy at baptizing adult believers, our gifting to share gospel truths in simple but profound ways, our heart to not build on any other man’s foundation, and our willingness to go wherever God led us. Our journey through church plants and church pastorates may have not made sense to our friends and family at times, but God was getting us ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

The toughest issue Holli and I faced was taking our children (ages 11, 9, 7, and 4) to a hostile country. We knew it would be difficult for all of us. But Jesus said, “to take up your cross” and promised He would be with us. After much prayer and surrender, we announced to our church that we would be selling most all we owned, receiving training as Gospel-bearers to foreign lands, and leave for Myanmar in the fall of 2003.

There were mutual tears, fears, and excitement as our friends, family, and the members of Highland Fellowship in Lewisville, Texas, sent us out.

(Please forward this to your friends who are passionate about missions and ask them to join our newsletter. Persecuted and poverty-stricken believers in Myanmar need our prayers and support)