Finally -- Word on the Visas
It has been over two weeks since my last Blog entry because I kept thinking that I would like to have some definite news on the visas to report to the folks who read this. We have "worn out" the expeditor with our continual calling, but we finally received word from them this afternoon that the Myanmar embassy plans to send the visas out tomorrow (Wednesday 20th Aug). By the time it is sent fed-ex to Dallas, we should be able to pick them up on Thursday (21st Aug). It seems that the visas took much longer than usual to process this trip -- and so they did. The reason, it turns out, is that business visas must actually be approved in Yangon rather than at the embassy in Washington or New York City (where folks were even literally in the dark last week). We have said all along that the issuing of visas is in God's hands (Prov. 21:1).
Here in Texas, where summer ends on Thanksgiving Day, I was quite concerned that my lawn would burn up with nobody to take care of it. My wife and son will both be with me, so I put in a sort of "poor man's sprinkler system" with hoses and oscillating sprinklers strategically placed so that the loss of pressure would be compensated by the proximity of the sprinklers. Anyway, in the process of doing that I had opportunity to meet with Julio Calles who will be mowing the lawn and replacing the sprinklers to the right positions during my absence.
Of Coffee -- the Mountain-grown Kind
For some time we have been considering what it would take to get some sort of ag product for the chin people to raise in their "high jungle." Some have tried mushrooms, but with little success for the churches. In the Yangon area it is possible for the people to find various kinds of work and even to start businesses, but up in the jungle that is harder to do. So, on my last two trips it occurred to me that the climate (tropical mountains) would be a good place to try coffee. The problem is that I know nothing about growing coffee and knew nobody that could advise on it. I did know that it requires a forward looking vision, because it takes about three years before one makes any money from coffee plants.
So, as I was talking with Julio Calles (see above), he mentioned that he was originally from El Salvador. When he was a child two groups of people came to his village. One group consisted of "teachers" from the Sandanista of Nicaragua, who taught them how to carry guns and hate the government. The other group consisted of missionaries who taught them how to read and love the Lord. Julio's father was converted by the gospel preached by those missionaries and long story short, eventually made his way to the USA. When Julio was a child his father, who had a Protestant work ethic because the missionaries preached a full-orbed gospel, learned to raise coffee in the mountains of El Salvador. Well, that may be some time down the calendar; but don't be surprised if coffee is one day associated with the Chin the way tulips are with our Dutch brothers today.
ESL, EFL, TOEFL
At present we have at least six volunteers to teach in the English school, if we are actually able to get it going. The fact that the Myanma government seems willing to give me a business visa is a good sign. I will be talking with government officials this trip, attempting to negotiate a venue for the school, and basically arranging for the school to open, DV, in summer 2004. At this point, the Myanmar government now considers me a businessman and as long as I have someone on the ground in Myanmar (i.e. a businessman) who is willing to invite me, I will be able to come to Myanmar for longer than a few weeks. I stopped by the half-price bookstore and picked up a lot of teaching ESL books and some TOEFL practice tests to take with me to Myanmar on this trip.
It is quite difficult to learn the Myanma language. It's script consists of two distinct "alphabets" with many, many "diphthongs" and vowel sounds we don't use in English. My son has managed to download some fonts and some sound files and lessons that we intend to install on one of the laptops. Hopefully we will find some folks in Myanmar willing to help us out.
Thank you for all your prayers. It seems that the visas are "on the way." We're looking forward to meeting with our orphans and teaching for several weeks in Myanmar.