Thursday, July 31

Why Not Just Pay the Nationals?

The first trip I took to Myanmar was rather startling, especially given what many would consider a reformed worldview. There are, it turns out, at least eleven distinct reformed denominations in Myanmar, all but a handful of those denominations among the Chin tribes. One of the first things that my travelling companion and I noticed was the extent to which Christian missions in that country resembled nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. In fact, a group of Baptist missionaries was very quick to explain to us at breakfast one morning how little we understood about missions. "The way it is done," he explained in nearly condescending tones, "is that western Christians send money to the locals who do the actual work of missions."

Yes, indeed. That is the way Christian mission work has operated in Myanmar for the nearly 200 years since Adoniram Judson first came. However, it is not the manner in which it ought to be done. There is an excellent short article by Craig Ott in the EMQ from about 10 years ago called Let The Buyer Beware. In that article, Ott depended heavily on the Nevius method (see Blog from yesterday, Jul 30). Ott began his article with the warning, "A careful study of the history and theology of missions will, however, reveal that financial support of national pastors and evangelists is fraught with dangers. In fact, such well-intended subsidies often weaken receiving churches and undermine world evangelization in the longer term. Think twice before you start supporting nationals in your missions giving, and consider the following dangers." He then listed nine dangers or warnings that accompany the idea of just "Paying the Nationals" to do missions. In fact, in many respects the modern concept of "nationals to nationals" is a retrogression to the old missionary/colonialist approach to missions.

The article is worth the read.
“There are no closed countries if you do not expect to come back”


Wednesday, July 30

Politics and Travel

Monday President Bush placed a trade embargo on Myanmar (Burma). In response, the Myanma government seems to have dug in their heels. Here is a news article on some of the repercussions. And here is another. This may place a new perspective on the delay that we've experienced in receiving my visa for this upcoming trip. Of course the two things may be totally unrelated, too.

I ordered 15 copies of William Perkins' The Art of Prophesying, but 11 of the copies were placed on backorder. Hopefully they will all be in by the time I leave -- and hopefully the political mess will be cleared up a little bit before I go.

Also, Chris Coldwell, the webmaster for the FPCR website, has put up some new information regarding my last trip to Myanmar. There are five new powerpoint presentations (available via HTML at the website) there. Thanks, Chris, for the hard work -- especially in reducing the size of the photos so that they would download the same day, even at a 56K connection.

Another interesting thing happened this week. I received an email from a pastor-friend in the ARP, who reminded me of John L. Nevius' work in China at the end of the nineteenth century, that he called Methods of Mission Work. There is a copy on the web (click the title in previous sentence). This is one of those works still available in plain vanilla ASCII following the original internet specs. Nothing fancy -- beyond being divided into pages, there is no formatting. But the info is all there. And this is a system that will work well in Burma, in my humble opinion.


Monday, July 28

This morning I received a post from Rev. Moses Van L. Dawnga. Dawnga is the administrator of the New Life Presbyterian Orphanage. They are presently putting in this year's first rice crop in their new paddy field. The powerpoint presentation that shows the paddy field is a rather large file (it doesn't fill a CD-ROM, but it comes close). Thus Chris does not yet have that particular file up on the website, but perhaps it will be shortly. The objective with the paddy field is for the orphanage to move as much as possible toward self-sufficiency. Our design in helping them with the paddy field was to teach the orphans the importance of labor plus giving them a certain degree of independence respecting the price of rice in Myanma. Of course, many of the orphans are still too young to be much help in the planting season, but their turn will come in time.

Dawnga is eager to learn more about the reformed faith. I will teaching each day of a five day conference on 1) the gospel of free grace; 2) reformed church polity; and 3) the federal theology. Myanmar is an overwhelmingly Buddhist country, so we anticipate a number of baptisms when I arrive. If my "calculations" are correct, there should be something on the order of 30 paedobaptisms and 20 adult baptisms. Of course, one of the things we need to teach the officers is the ability to consider the credibility of an adult profession of faith. There is a long history of "rice Christianity" in Burma, and the last thing we want to do is contribute to that atmosphere. Thus, our approach up to now has been somewhat different from the typical evangelical missionaries who come to Burma. We believe the best way to bring these people out of poverty is to teach them the value of labor and service to neighbor. Simply offering them western largesse on the basis of them "professing Christ" is precisely what has caused the people to remain in poverty in spite of the gospel being in the country for nearly two centuries.

By preaching a "full-orbed" gospel, i.e. one that affects the entirety of the professor's life, we expect to see the people adopting both Christ and Christian values. Adoption of Christian values means that they will do their work to the glory of God. When they no longer work simply to keep a subsistence living, but do their best all the time to glorify the living God, we believe that the world's goods -- at least a competent portion of them will flow to these people, along with the blessings of God.


Friday, July 25

First, thank you to those who wrote to me with suggestions for books to take for Rev. Thang Bwee on homiletics.

I will be preaching, Lord willing, at evangelistic meetings seven times during the week I am in Tahan. This is not easy, as it is the kind of meeting that the military intelligence folks like to shut down. Tentatively, however, I have arranged the following preaching schedule:

Sun 7/9 -- "No Restraint to the Lord," 1 Samuel 14:6
Mon 8/9 -- "One More Night With the Frogs," Exodus 8:8-10
Tue 9/9 -- "That Awful Hour," Mark 15:34
Wed 10/9 - "A Proud Leper Cleansed," 2 Kings 5:12
Thu 11/9 -- "Come See The Place Where He Lay," Matthew 28:6
Fri 12/9 -- "The Poor Man God Favors," Isaiah 66:2
Sat 13/9 -- "A Taste of Honey," Canticles 5:1
Sun 14/9 -- "Not Without Blood," Hebrews 9:18-22.


Wednesday, July 23

As I continue to prepare for the trip to Burma (Myanmar), I went through some of the requests various men made of me on my last trip. It is not a good idea to give money directly to the people of Myanmar. But a better alternative is to bring books into the country. It is very difficult to get books in Myanmar -- they are both rare and expensive. English language books and theological books are even rarer still.

Rev. Thang Bwee asked me on my last trip to Yangon to bring back some texts on preaching. If the Reformed denominations of Myanmar will prosper, it will be on the basis of two basic skills that ministers might bring to the churches. The first is that of biblical preaching. So what text would one bring if his desire is to stir up men to preach the gospel in such a way as to change the nation? The second thing the ministry should provide is the needed material for the families of their churches to carry on regular family worship. The first may be brought into country on the backs of those traveling there. But the second needs to be in the language of the various people groups in the country -- especially Burmese and Falam.

Any ideas? Write to me at Doctor Bacon Email


Tuesday, July 22

Now that I have established the conference in Kalemyo/Tahan, I've begun working on the remainder of my schedule for this trip. Thus far, here is what I have:

28/8 -- Arrival Yangon (Rangoon), check into hotel, recover from Jet Lag
29/8 -- Visiting with contacts in Yangon
30/8 -- Visiting with contacts in Yangon
31/8 -- Preaching at United Reformed Church of Myanmar, Yangon congregation
.1/9 -- Greek at City Star (day 1)
.......Note: I teach Intro to Greek following a DLI model and can therefore teach a semester of Greek in about eleven days of intense training.
.2/9 -- Greek at City Star (day 2)
.3/9 -- Greek at City Star (day 3)
.4/9 -- Greek at City Star (day 4)
.5/9 -- Greek at City Star (day 5) + Preparation for flight to Kalemyo on 6/9.
.6/9 to 14/9 -- See Blog entry for 21-7, 01:02:55 PM
15/9 -- Rest and meetings at Taung Zalat hotel in Kalemyo
16/9 -- Flying to Yangon and reuniting with Mrs Bacon at Golden Guest Inn
17/9 -- Greek at City Star (day 6)
18/9 -- Greek at City Star (day 7)
19/9 -- Greek at City Star (day 8)
20/9 -- Free for resting and shopping, plus visits with contacts in Yangon
21/9 -- Preaching at Ebenezer URCM (see 31/8)
22/9 -- Greek at City Star (day 9)
23/9 -- Greek at City Star (day 10)
24/9 -- Greek at City Star (day 11)
25/9 -- Greek Review at City Star (day 12)
26/9 -- Examinations and Picture Day for Greek Class (day 13) -- 64 clock hours
27/9 -- Free for resting and shopping, plus visits with contacts in Yangon
28/9 -- Lord's Day
29/9 -- Old Testament Introduction at City Star (day 1)
30/9 -- Old Testament Introduction at City Star (day 2)
1/10 -- Old Testament Introduction at City Star (day 3)
2/10 -- Old Testament Introduction at City Star (day 4)
3/10 -- Old Testament Introduction at City Star (day 5)
4/10 -- Free for shopping and resting, plus visits with contacts in Yangon
5/10 -- Lord's Day
6/10 -- Old Testament Introduction at City Star (day 6)
7/10 -- Old Testament Introduction at City Star (day 7)
8/10 -- Old Testament Introduction at City Star (day 8)
9/10 -- Old Testament Introduction at City Star (day 9)
10/10 -- Old Testament Introduction at City Star (day 10)
11/10 -- Free for resting and shopping
12/10 -- Lord's Day
13/10 -- Examinations and Picture Day for Old Testament Introduction (day 11) -- 55 clock hours
14/10 -- Return to USA at 7:50 PM from Yangon Int'l. Airport.

While the schedule looks pretty ambitious, I also know from past experience that as soon as word gets out on the street that Dr Bacon is in Yangon, people will be coming to visit me at the hotel up until I finally go to bed at night.

The costs for such a venture are considerable. Just for air fare for Debby, Matt, and me we will be spending about $4,000. How do we get three people half way around the world and back for $4,000? We buy the tickets WAY in advance. Meanwhile, as all the other activities are taking place, Siang Lian Hup and I will be spending the evenings making plans and devising curricula for the ESL school that we hope to have open by June 2004. For those who read this, please be in prayer with us for both this six week trip and for the future ESL (English as a second language -- though it will really be EFL, English as a Foreign Language) school.


Monday, July 21

It looks as though I have the schedule for the Kale portion of the trip pretty well setup. I am working in that area with Saya (teacher) Lal Tai Lo (whom I call Titus) and Rev. Abraham Len Thang -- a 77 year old gentleman who just got out of hospital with "liver swell" (hepatitus A). Here is the schedule we have set up tentative to God's providential intervention:

6 September (Saturday) Speak to the General Assembly executive committee of MRPC

7 September (Sabbath) Preaching in Tahan and Leqpan Chaung villages

8-12 September Conference with church officers of Kale Classis URCM and MRPC (Monday thru Friday)
........Constitutional Presbyterianism
........Reformed Sotieriology & Preaching
........Psalmody & Reformed Worship

13 September (Saturday) Opening of new church bldg in Sadaw village and feast with villagers

14 September (Sabbath) Preaching in Tahan village

We hope to have 80 church officers from the URCM (United Reformed Churches of Myanmar) and the MRPC (Myanmar Reformation Presbyterian Church) for the weeklong conference. It has tentatively been titled "Reformation Foundation Conference." The church opening and feast in Sadaw village should have about 500 adults and children from the MRPC plus "neighbors and friends" who enjoy reformed preaching. The men of the MRPC -- and I trust the URCM as well -- are looking forward to having some scriptural foundations laid for generations to come.

July 21st

If the Lord wills, my wife and son and I will be leaving DFW airport five weeks from tomorrow for my sixth missionary journey to Union of Myanmar (Burma). I applied for visas to Myanmar three weeks ago. It has never taken this long before, but there are some differences in the way I've applied. In the past I've always applied for a tourist visa and for a standard 28 day (four week) tour. This time I've applied for a business visa and a six week duration in country. At the same time, I've asked to have pages added to my passport. So all these things taken together likely explain the additional time the application is taking.

In the weeks to come -- before I leave country -- it is my plan to log some of the things I hope to accomplish on this trip. Then, once I am in country (the plane should land on August 28th), I will send log entries back to someone in this country for the purpose of updating this blog.

Why Myanmar Blog? Because Burma Blog was already taken. The Burmese military government refers to the nation as "Union of Myanmar." To see info about past trips, go to this site on the FPCR website: Missions Reports.