Less Rain But Not More Sunshine
The rainy season seems to be nearly over. When we first arrived a month ago (August 28th), it rained pretty much every day and sometimes several times a day. Now as we near October, the rain is less often, though it is still overcast on most days. The temperature is also far more comfortable. October is generally considered the first of the "cool season" months -- cool season being a relative term in the tropics. As the rainy season comes to an end, so too does Greek. Tomorrow will be final exams for my third Greek class. Hopefully today we can finish up to the point the exam covers. Old Testament Introduction begins next Monday. Matt and I have discussed the possibility of visiting the national museum tomorrow.
Putting Someone "On The Ground"
Matthew picked up one of those advantix cameras before we left the states. He even got some extra rolls of film, not knowing if he would be able to get them in MM. Sadly, he didn't even finish one roll of film before the camera quit working. I'm not sure what the problem is, but he assures me it is pretty permanent. So since my return from Kale he has been using my digital camera. He's been taking a lot of pictures -- pix I would never think to take -- and perhaps when we return, DV, I'll be able to figure out how to post some of them to the blog.
Some of us have been discussing the possibility of helping with an ESL school here (English as a Second Language). One of the places that has been discussed is the Yangon School for the Blind. They are very nice people over there, and I think that the ERCS plans to put an office there, but the place is really quite dirty. While it would be acceptable for an office -- and maybe even for the students -- I don't see how it would be acceptable for westerners and especially if some of them are young ladies. There are no western toilets in the school; only "level" toilets. Also, the students, being blind, do not always do a good job of cleaning up after themselves when they use the toilet. There are other venues. I hope to talk with Zaw Lin Htun at the City Star. Perhaps he can offer us a good rate. Right now I'm using half the second floor office space and he is charging $17 per day. Perhaps I could use it all and he would charge less. Or perhaps since it will be necessary to have both classrooms and living quarters, we should investigate further the possibility of using the back building at GGI.
The ERCS "office" would double as a library when the ERCS is not here teaching courses. ERCS is the Evangelical Reformed Churches of Singapore. I spent a good bit of time on Tuesday evening with Pastor Cheah of the ERCS. They have been involved in ministry to the Reformed churches here in MM longer than anyone I know of. A number of things are on the minds of the ERCS as well as my own. The first is the very poor condition of theological education here in MM. Pastor Cheah is therefore here for a period of about four months to "jumpstart" a theological institution. It will be a diploma institution, i.e. it will assume a certain amount of knowledge on the part of all those entering. They have also contributed a large number of theological books for a library (to be housed at the blind school -- see above). What Cheah is suggesting, and I personally think it is a good idea, is that the key reformed denoms that have ministries in this country begin to cooperate at the non-ecclesiastical level. This is something that Pastor Bruce Hoyt of the RCNZ and I have already discussed and I think both he and I are agreed on this in principle.
How Cooperation Might Work
Again, this is very much at the "brainstorming" level, but we are looking at possibilities such as diaconal ministries. A retirement home, an orphanage, a theological school, or an ESL school, could be brought under the purview of a joint missions committee or board (I hope that didn't give heart attacks to my Thornwellian brothers). The JCM might then function as a sort of board for these activities. It is quite difficult to convince the various reformed denoms in this country to cooperate with one another on even the simplest of projects. One of the reasons is that they are so recently tribal in their orientation (and still are to a great extent). Perhaps if we were less tribal it would encourage them to look at the bigger picture of what cooperation can do. Now I hope this statement neither offends or leads to controversy, but I am not altogether opposed to tribal loyalties. God organized his people into tribes (i.e. families) long before they had a king to lead them. Whether we may want to admit it about the other tribes, we do all have the same King Jesus today. The problem is not the existence of tribes, but the jealousies of one tribe against another. And that is where we can be a good example to the reformed denoms of MM.
We did not talk about details because it is still a little early for that. But basically, those denoms represented by MTM could probably cooperate with little or no conscientious difficulty with the other denoms involved. We would continue to have our "tribal differences" as surely as the reformed denoms have theirs in MM. Most of our differences cannot be seen from a distance of more than a few feet (a rider on horseback cannot tell us apart). They may be important to us, and so they should be; but outsiders are often at great pains to tell the differences. So, can we at least cooperate to the extent necessary to be an example for the MM denoms? I would hope so. Is there a need for eleven reformed seminaries in Yangon? Is there a need for twelve or thirteen separate reformed orphanages, each with five orphans? It would be a much wiser use of resources, perhaps, if we were to set aside our jealousies for the sake of the kingdom before asking the denominations of MM to do so.