Monday, October 20

Back to Yesterday

Whew! I think I'm finally through lagging. We crossed the international dateline last Wednesday, and so we landed in DFW in mid-afternoon on Wednesday, the 15th. Like most of these trips, the jet-lag took a few days to overcome. But yesterday, being the Lord's Day, I propped my eyes open with toothpicks (it seemed) at times and thus had pretty much of a full night's sleep last night. The difficulty of lagging for me is not that I continue to have days and nights turned around, but that I can seldom get more than a few hours sleep at a time. So I'm hoping that a full night's sleep last night has been the turning of the corner.

Short Report

During the Biblical Institutes hour yesterday evening I gave a brief synopsis (overview) of the trip and of how this trip builds hopefully into future ministry in MM. As soon as Chris (our webmaster) has the report up as RA file, readers should be able to access it via the FPCR Website. If the Lord wills, I will bring a longer report, including photos, next week. That report will also go on the website, so readers will have some photos as of next week.


Tuesday, October 14

On The Way Home

I am now sitting in the Tokyo Narita airport waiting for this evening's flight. If I've figured my schedule correctly I may be home in time to watch game seven of the cubs v. marlins. I would have expected to type that about the same time or year as I typed "I'm typing this from the permanent space station...." The trip has been a good one, overall. There were some disappointments, to be sure. But there were also some excellent "gains" on this trip. The key gain, IMO, will be the fact that the Falam Psalter is on its way to becoming a reality. Additionally, however, we see a number of improvements in relationships between the various reformed denoms in MM, including the PRCM, URCM, ERCM, and MRPC.

Our Colds During the Last Week

After a relatively healthy trip -- at least for my part -- I managed to come down with a "summer cold" last Thursday. We certainly take things for granted in the USA. There we were in a country that had almost no idea what an antihistimine is. Anyway, just about the time I got over my scratchy throat (which almost had me sidelined last Friday), Mrs Bacon got it. I'm still "sniffling" and using a lot of facial tissues. The trip is quite uncomfortable for Debby, however. We found the "internet room" here at the Narita airport and Matt and I are updating this and that (including, of course, checking the baseball scores), while Mrs Bacon is in the other room nursing her cold.

Speaking of Baseball

Maybe next week, if the Sox and the Cubs end up playing, I can get together with a friend of mine from Mass (RI actually) and fly back and forth to one another's cities to watch the games. That could be fun! Now with the Cubs and the Sox in the series, it would have to go to game seven. And then the game would never end.... A baseball fan's dream come true (or would that be a nightmare?)!


Wednesday, October 8

Finishing Up at the City Star

The Old Testament Intro course has only a few days left. We will work on Thursday and Friday (October 9 & 10) and then administer final exam on Monday (October 13). We still have a way to go -- general intro is complete and we are about to finish up the wisdom books tomorrow AM. Hopefully we will able to get to the prophets as well, but as Thang Bwee pointed out earlier -- it is better to understand the material than merely to cover it. The students have been much "livelier" this year than in years past. It is a real treat to be teaching students who are participating in the class and seem to care about the material.

Reformed Ministers' Fellowship

Pastor Cheah of the ERCS has planned a convocation for Friday night for the reformed sem that ERCS and PRCM are developing. Rev. den Hartog will be bringing the exhortation. They have allowed me a few minutes to speak about the future of the ESL school. They hope to "kick off" the ministers' fellowship at the same meeting. This will allow a regular opportunity for all the reformed ministers in the Yangon area to meet together for encouragement and possibly even delivering papers and undertaking mutual projects. It is a joy to see this finally coming to pass as well.

First Pass Finished on Psalter

After just over a year, we have finished the first pass translation of the Comprehensive Psalter (i.e. the 1650 Scottish Psalter divided into 312 Psalm settings) into the Falam language. Hopefully we can get some volunteers to do the digitizing for us between now and next spring and then bring it back for a second pass with a broader committee consisting of several reformed denominations. Then we can "clean it up" for any difficulties of language, decide if we need to standardize on various terms, and hopefully by that time Tha Nei Sum will also have finished making the tunes ready in Tonic Sol-Fa format. This is another exciting development, and one we hope several of the reformed denoms will help us complete next spring.

D-day (Departure Day) Approaching
I think we dread doing the necessary packing, but are looking forward to our return to the US. This has been an extraordinarily long trip with a lot more sickness than in past trips. Up to Monday I had been fine, though Debby & Matt both had bouts of travellers' stomach and Debby somehow got "acute tendonitis" from sleeping wrong until she could not sleep from the pain. We took her to the hospital Friday, where she received some excellent treatment. But finally on Monday I managed to get some heat stroke. It had me pretty well sidelined Monday evening, but by Tuesday I was back up and didn't have to miss any school from it. Now we are getting ready to come home and really looking forward to it. We have two days of teaching, one day of preaching, one day of exams, and a convocation left. There may even be some time left for packing as well.


Thursday, October 2

Subject: Winding Down

Third Calendar Month

We arrived on the ground in Yangon on 28 August, having left the US on 26 August. There were only two or three days remaining in that month, then we spent all of September in MM, and have now entered October. We now have less than two weeks left (we will actually be on the ground in the US in less than two weeks time, if the Lord wills). Old Testament Introduction began on Monday and I must say that it is not exactly what I expected. It is much easier to keep a Greek class on course. But as Rev. Thang Bwee noted earlier in this trip, it is better to get understanding of the material rather than simply to cover the material.

The Interest in Further Reform

Most of yesterday (Wednesday) was taken up in questions about reformation in the church. Over the three years that I have been coming here, one of the pressing concerns in the reformed churches has become Psalmody. When I first came nobody in the reformed community here had even heard of singing the Psalms beyond the idea of having a Psalm number at the head of a hymn. That is not precisely true. Titus San Ceu Luai had already begun to sing a few Psalms that someone in his church had translated into Burmese. At this point, however, there is practically a clamor on the part of both leaders and members in the reformed churches to have Psalms that are suitable for singing in the churches. So, two of the hours yesterday were spent (at the request of the sem president) explaining three aspects of reformation that have still not taken place in MM. The first reform is that of church polity; the second that of worship; and the third (closely allied to polity) is that of reformed education in the seminaries. Some of the students are even thinking through some of the practical aspects of their professed belief in TULIP. It has been an encouraging trip in many ways.

More Health Concerns

Matt was unable to accompany me to Kalemyo because of a sickness that came upon him on the eve of my departure. It has returned, but this time it seems with even greater strength. He has been confined to bed or his room since Monday. Dr. Tat has prescribed a second generation broad spectrum antibiotic and he is also attempting oral rehydration therapy. Matt seemed a little more "chipper" last evening, so perhaps he will be able to return to duties today. His problem may simply go back to an ingested amoeba or some such, but that is little physical comfort. He has been taking an amoebicide since Monday, hoping that was the problem. Meanwhile, Debby is also not feeling well. She has continued her duties, but has also been feeling rather poorly. We suspected it was something she ate. We finally decided it was the roasted rice and so she has returned to a stricter diet of white rice (steamed rice) instead of the tastier roasted rice. It does seem to have helped her digestion to stick with simpler fare.

A Phone Call in the Night

Last night I received a phone call from Len Thang and Titus Lal Tai Lo. They did not have much to say beyond what they already had said in their email previously. Of course first Titus explained the situation and why they were calling and I answered him. Then he handed the phone to Len Thang who asked the identical questions. I guess it is only true if they have heard me say it with their own ears. This Saturday Moses Dawnga (Tahan Moses) is supposed to be coming to Yangon with an English translation of his new constitution and bylaws. I will look it over and probably bring a copy of it back with me to the USA. He does seem to be trying to do what I've asked him to do, viz. have a board to which he will be accountable, which can tell him "no," and which will be able to meet without his permission. I shall see on Saturday what he has come up with.

Standing in Sandals All Day

Standing in sandals (i.e. no arch support) is starting to "tell" on my leg muscles. They are in knots in several places. It is a relief to sit down for even a few minutes. When I finally finish at the end of the school day I am more and more looking forward to getting in the car and heading for GGI. I've begun doing stretching exercises several times during the day, but it will be good to be able to wear shoes again -- if my feet still fit in my shoes! I have not even been wearing shoes for preaching engagements. The custom here is to preach barefoot and so most of the people would be quite shocked I think, to see someone wearing shoes behind the pulpit. I have only six more days of lecturing before we return home. Of course there will also be a day of final exams and a day of packing after that, and preaching this coming Lord's Day, but the end is in sight.


Wednesday, October 1

Preaching for Reformed Baptists

Last Sabbath was a typical Lord's Day in MM. We don't speak enough of the language to be able to profit from a worship service, so I generally accept invitations to preach. Next week I am scheduled to preach at the ERC (Evangelical Reformed Church) of Yangon. I preach "through" an interpreter, usually Pasiang. Today I preached in Michael Zahau's Reformed Baptist church. Michael is the man who is doing the lion's share of the translation work for the Falam language Saamhla (Psalter). He has finished at least rough draft translation through Psalm 134. There are some revisions it must undergo and then Tha Nei Sum will finish the "assembly" process by arranging the music (tunes) for the Psalms. Tha Nei Sum is one of the few people in the country who is able to read both staff notation (they refer to it as "stem notes") and tonic sol-fa notation. Pasiang is concerned that they should have the same tunes for the Burmese Psalter as for the Falam Psalter, but I really think his concerns are misplaced. He thinks that if the Yangon classis sings from the Burmese Psalter with one set of tunes and the Kale and Falam classes sing from the Falam Psalter with a different set of tunes that this will cause problems at synod meetings. I think he is borrowing troubles that he need not concern himself with. Synod takes place once in three years. Surely they will be able to figure out which Psalter to sing from if they can figure out which language they are going to use for the synod meeting itself.

We're Losing Some Guests Today

BEE (Biblical Education by Extension) has had some reps here since we've been here. At first it was Carl (Artie) Hunt, and when he went home his place was taken by Tom Arnold and Curtis Thomas. Curtis Thomas is the same man who, together with David Steel, wrote The Five Points of Calvinism and Romans: An Interpretive Outline back in the 1960's. Mr. Steel passed away about 10 years ago and Mr. Thomas retired from the ministry about five years ago. Since that time he continues active with BEE. The organization has purchased or rented -- I'm not sure which -- a facility for the Myanmar Bible Seminary of Henry Mang Hlei Thang. The seminary itself is independent, but Henry and his brother are the cofounders of the Biblical Presbyterian Church. Apparently Messrs Thomas and Arnold have been teaching both there and at "Solomon's School," a place I know nothing about except that it has a pretty Arminian reputation. I think that they are also distant cousins of some sort to Tawk Kap. But Tawk Kap has distanced himself from most of the reformed community at this point. Today Messrs Thomas and Arnold return to the US. It has been a pleasure getting to know Mr Thomas especially. Back in the day, I used to hand out a lot of copies of his book. That was back when we could get most of the Calvinists in Missouri into my AMC Gremlin all at the same time and still have room for the spare tire. We loaded up the Gremlin with copies of The Five Points in Memphis and motored back to Springfield with them, where we handed them out on Arminian Baptist College campuses. Mr Thomas tells a similar story about a time when he, David Steel, and one other man were driving up to visit Lorraine Boettner when he was in Rock Port, MO. They thought that if they had a fatal car wreck it could "wipe out" Calvinism in Arkansas. We were all lonely back in those days. His book was some assurance to me that perhaps we were on the right track in spite of the fact that there were so few of us. There was not yet a PCA and it was questionable whether the ARP would be able to turn the corner and return from its move toward liberalism.

And Gaining Some Others

A couple of ladies arrived Saturday. They are from America and seem to be in the flannelgraph business. Their contacts do not seem to know them. Whenever they have guests they always have to introduce themselves. They did not venture out of the hotel for several days, but invited their guests to come and eat lunch with them in the lobby while they explained how to teach to children using flannelgraph. The Chin for their part seem to be wondering why someone would be using a perfectly good longyi to hold up pictures. For any readers who do not know what flannelgraph is...count your blessings.

Class Resumes on September 29

I think I will continue to have a few students from the URCM for Old Testament Intro, but most of the students will be from RBI. Pasiang will be translating for me. Class will consist of students from various ethnic and tribal backgrounds, so he will translate into Burmese for me. Hopefully we will be able to do General Intro the first week and Special Intro (individual books) the second week. I should be able to guage better after the first few days how much ground we will actually be able to cover. Class will be only 44 classroom hours, so with a translator we will have to rush. If Pasiang uses half the time, it will have to be done in just over 20 hours. If I am not able to cover the material in the first course I will know better how long to take if I should teach it again.