Back In The USofA
Actually I landed at DFW just after 6:00 PM last Friday (2/18). But it has taken this long to get my days and nights straightened out, and I'm not sure if I have done it even now. It takes awhile to overcome jet lag when the displacement is almost exactly one half day. I led the worship at both services on this past Lord's Day (2/20), but left the preaching to Rev. Todd Ruddell and our Licentiate, Thomas Allie.
Or perhaps it would be better at this point to report on the status of the Psalters (plural). We had already invested a considerable amount of time and resources into a Falam language Psalter. Falam is the language spoken by most of the reformed denominations in Myanmar. However, when I was in MM in the rainy season of 2003, it became more and more apparent that if the gospel is going to permeate the nation as a whole, the Psalter needs to be in the official language of the nation. Burmese, or as the government now calls it "Myanmar," is the official language of the nation and so I encouraged some of the reformed men -- especially those who do not speak Falam -- to consider translating the Psalter into Burmese.
Not only had they done much of the translation work, they had also done some of the musical notation as well. The Burmese sing using what is commonly called "sol-fa" notation. It is not so familiar here in the US, but is quite well known in other parts of the world. They have presently translated 150 Psalter settings, but do not have all the sol-fa notation they need. We have a large number of Psalm tunes already done in sol-fa from last February's work, so we may be able to help out a lot in this area.
They had already published 26 Psalms to form a small songbook for use in their worship services. While I was there I helped them publish some more copies of the book, but the typesetting and so on has all been their own labor up to now. It is our hope that the 150 settings that have been translated will be revised and typeset by next August and be ready for publication by that time.
The Teaching Went Well
We worked very closely with RBI on this trip as far as teaching is concerned. RBI bases all its instruction on the Burmese language as well. English has become a sort of necessity for now because there are really no standard theology books written in Burmese. But it is far more reasonable to teach in the national language than in one of the tribal languages, given the fact that there are over 100 tribal languages in the Union of Myanmar.
This trip, being short as it was, I taught only a single course. The course was in "Covenant Theology." The idea was to show how theology fits together. The students will have plenty of time over four years (five years for some of the students) to learn the various loci of theology in their several particulars. The idea of the CT course is to show them how the various loci fit together to form a sort of "unified whole." The students did quite well, though I did not personally grade their final exams.
An Invitation To Teach Again
President Thang Bwee of the RBI has asked me to come again in August, which will be a new school year, to teach two more courses over four weeks. By teaching a single course for five hours per day over two weeks, we essentially cover a semester of lecture time in the two week period. If I am able to come for four weeks in August, then Rev. Thang Bwee has asked me to teach a course in New Testament Introduction and a course in Hermeneutics.
I Didn't Get To See The Orphans
But Moses Dawnga did come to Yangon to see me. The work is progressing very well at the New Life Orphanage. Of course in any developing country one must beware of the fact that the perceived needs are far greater than the developed world can provide by simple gift. The old adage about giving a fish and teaching a man how to fish is well to keep in mind when dealing with such matters.
The children are all learning to work in the rice paddy. At planting time, they get out into the mud and silt and help with the planting. At harvest, they bring in the crop and bag it for their own consumption. In fact, they are actually producing most of their own rice at this point and the food expense has been reduced to curry (meaning vegetables every day and meat three times a week), cook's salary, and firewood. Five of the young men over the age of 15 have taken work outside the orphanage during the day at such jobs as mechanic, weaver, etc. So the reformed worldview of calling (vocation) and the so-called "puritan work-ethic" is beginning to thrive among the orphans.
They are in need of a few things that they cannot supply for themselves. One is an upgraded septic system. They can do most of the labor, but they need funds for the supplies to build a three stage septic system. They are also in need of greater hostel space. If any of the readers of this blog would like to help in that regard, please direct your inquiries to:
Mission to Myanmar
c/o First Presbyterian Church
8210 Schrade Road
Rowlett, TX 75088 USA