Scott chatting with Pastor Angela in Eastern Shan State, Myanmar in April 2008 8.
October 2008<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Dear Faithful Friends and Family,
September has come and gone, and I am just getting to writing you all an update of our lives here in Chiang Rai.
We’ve had a few new arrivals in Chiang Rai who, though may not have a direct role in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Mekong Minority Foundation, are considered part of the “family”. Ruthie Simpson, a member of our Ridgeview Baptist Church in Danville, arrived in late August with our daughter Alisa, who had stayed on in the US a few more weeks after Tan and I and the boys returned. Ruthie is teaching at the Family Learning Center where the kids go to school and where Tan helps in the library. Also, Joel and Trish Hoefle—American Baptist volunteers from Minnesota—just arrived in September with their three children. Trish is going to be working with a Baptist-related ministry here in Chiang Rai called the New Life Center. Joel is looking to see what God has in store for him to do here. It’s been good to get to know both the Hoefles and Ruthie. Their hearts to serve the Lord have been an encouragement to us, and we’re sure they will be a great addition to our community here.
Something interesting happened to me (Scott) last week. A European Christian organization that specializes in sponsoring children and promoting education contacted me to say that they’d like me to connect them to good local people and organizations involved with kids, particularly in the border areas. It seemed good. So I gave them some contacts of local Christian leaders and leaders in Eastern Shan State, Myanmar, with whom we work. Well, after the European representatives had come back from their time at the border and meeting with various people, they met with me one evening. They explained to me that they were not impressed with the Christian people they met. Why? Because these Christian leaders were evangelists, planting churches, and “imposing” their faith on the children and upon the people with whom they worked. Hmm. As a result, they will probably support a Buddhist children’s organization because they agree more with how the Buddhists do it. Interesting, huh?
I am used to folks who have different points of view than my own. In some cases I am able to understand and actually agree with some of their concerns that the Christians are too forceful with their religious teaching. But this time I was particularly bothered. Some of the leaders with whom we are working in Myanmar are desperately trying to help their poor. They have very little, yet they struggle to make a difference in other people’s lives. Myanmar has few schools in the villages, and about the only people who care enough to do anything are the Christians. The children’s futures have been dependent on the church and faithful leaders who establish homes for kids to live in the various towns and cities so that they can go to school. This person from the European children’s support outfit admitted that the people she met were very needy and she pitied them. But because she didn’t want these Christians imposing their faith on these children, she wouldn’t consider supporting their work.
That evening when I came home and thought about it, I began to ask myself what is “imposing our faith?” Are not we Christians asked by God to tell people about God’s great gift of Christ’s salvation? If Christian are not showing the love of Christ and allowing these kids to hear about Jesus, then who will do it? You know what? I am proud of the people I work with. I consider it a privilege to help them help the poor and needy around them, and I am proud of them for witnessing to the people they help.
One particular lady, Rev. Angela Shwe, is an inspiration to me in her sweet nature and tireless efforts. Half Shan and half Lahu, Angela has been called to help the Wa people. Because of her acceptance by the Wa Baptist Convention, she has been elected General Secretary of one entire association, meaning she is responsible for both the social and spiritual development of over 50 congregations in some of the roughest territory of Myanmar. In addition to all her responsibilities as a church leader, Angela looks after an orphanage and a day care center for toddlers whose parents live in the border towns of Tachilek and Mae Sai. Angela has never married, which may be part of the reason she’s had time to learn seven languages. When asked about when she plans to have a family, she jokes that her orphan and day care children are her family. If I had just half the dedication and perseverance of Angela I’d be pretty happy with myself.
As for me, I think it’s an honor to be able to help Angela, even if it’s just in little ways here and there. I plan to stick by her even if others think that she’s too evangelistic in her ways. This woman is truly a servant of Jesus.
Thanks again for your part in keeping us on the field serving Him.
Scott and Tan