September 3rd, 2003
First Sabbath Day in Yangon
Matt and I went by the City Mart on Saturday and picked up some items for Sabbath -- bread, crackers, peanut butter, and such. So we began our Sabbath day with bread and tea, praying for the day and for the services that would follow. I was scheduled to preach at Grace URCM in North Dagon. We arrived just before 10:30 and so we also attended the Sabbath school service where Saya Andrew taught on Lord's Day 11 from the Heidelberg Catechism. Of course we undestood very little, as the entire lesson was in Burmese. The congregation is in Burmese, but most of the congregants are Zahau Chin, Indian, or Karen. The only language they have in common is Burmese, the national tongue of Myanmar. I preached from 1 Samuel 14, Jonathan's Faith in Trying Circumstances. We spent the remainder of the day in the GGI in various Sabbath day activities. We missed our home church.
First Day Greek Class
Class began on time Monday AM with sixteen Greek students. There are two younger men from RBI (2nd year students I think) who will have trouble. But if they are steadfast in their studies, they will be able to handle it. Their only problem is that they have so little English. The class is divided roughly half and half between students from RBI and students from the URCM (United Reformed Churches of Myanmar). Most of the students from the URCM are already in ministry at some level, either as pastors or sayas (teachers). Some of the URCM students also attended my Greek class last Januay, but they will benefit from a review, I am sure. The sixteenth student is Matt. He has decided that he will also benefit from the Greek (as long as he has to be there he may as well do the work). Actually, he is taking on a bit of work in doing this, because I do give homework -- as the students will attest. I had meetings scheduled for Monday evening, but both were "no-shows." Thawna did call to explain that he was held up at another meeting, but wanted to reschedule. Puii simply does not speak English and I was unable to work out a time to reschedule for a translator to be present. She said she would attend my meetings in Tahan.
Greek Class Goes On
Amazingly there were actually more students the second day than there were the first. Rev. Thang Bwee attended class the second day as well as the first. I only expected him to attend the first day because he wanted to introduce all his students to me. But apparently he decided that he could benefit somewhat from the classes as well, so he came the second day. I handed out notes on the first day. My notes are designed around the Machen textbook. There are numerous places where the student must choose the correct answer or fill in a blank etc. It is really as much a workbook as a notebook. But in MM, everything the student works with is a "notebook," so these have come to be known as my notes. Also in the MM education system, it is not uncommon for the professor to hand out a syllabus or notes or something similar so the students can better follow along. Second day I noticed that several of the students had gone to the expense of having my notes "bound" into a single notebook or workbook. Some had a GBC type binding and others were more professionally done. The average cost (yes, I asked) was 500 Kys. That doesn't sound like very much unless you consider that is roughly what a MM worker makes in a day.
The reason we had more students the second day is that Titus (Lal Tai Lo) decided to come down to Yangon for class. I expect it cost him around 15,000 Kys and three days or four to make the trip. It is very difficult for the buses to run during the rainy season (the roads are all dirt or other unimproved material in that part of the country), so he likely had to walk or take a "chariot" for a good part of the trip. This Titus is from Cicai village -- there is a picture of him at our website from my January trip poking a potato or other vegetable into my mouth at a feast in Cicai. It turns out he is cousin to the URCM's Rev. Khup, who studied Greek with me in January and is also in class this time as well. Khup was very happy to see him. They sat together at the same desk yesterday. Titus has apparently had some Greek in the past, because he was catching on very quickly to our first paradigm (present indicative active verb endings). Burmese, like English, is an uninflected language. So it generally takes awhile for someone to catch the idea if it is his first language in which verb and noun forms change. Tomorrow -- second declension nouns!
Outside Class Other Ministry Concerns Continue
I am sending this blog from MM and it is being "cut and pasted" by the FPCR webmaster and Blue Banner editor, Chris Coldwell. Because it is coming, though indirectly, from MM, there are some sensitive issues that it is best not to explain in much detail. But I will say only that it is much more difficult for me to transfer funds from one place to another within the MM banking system than it has been previously. So it took until yesterday for us to find a way to send the financing to Tahan for the upcoming conference with the URCM and MRPC church officers. I do not yet know if it was entirely successful. I will ask Titus Lal Tai Lo to make a call to Tahan today and see if the funds arrived. The folks at the AWB (Asian Wealth Bank) were very understanding and worked with me through Siang Hope, my translator. But, in a word, many things have changed. Those changes helped us decide not to use the Yoma Bank as we have in the past.
Len Thang's cousin Paul came by the hotel in the evening. I did not know that he was Len Thang's cousin. I only learned that fact yesterday. I met Paul on my last trip to MM. I know him through Robert Thawm Luai. Nevertheless, it turns out that Paul is pretty well connected in the Tahan area, and has offered to write some letters of introduction for me to some of the local officials in the Kalemyo/Tahan area. He promised to come back by the hotel before Friday with the letters. That pretty much covers the first two days of classes. Today (Wednesday) will be the last day of the first week I've been in MM. U Khin, the hotel proprietor and general "fixit man" in Yangon, has agreed to get airplane tickets for Matt and me and Siang Hope. Generally one must wait until the day before leaving to buy tickets, however, so I don't expect to see them until Friday. Since there are two of us going, perhaps the rules will allow us to take two nationals instead of only one. If so, then maybe Titus can return to Tahan with us. We shall see.
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