Tuesday, February 22

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.

Psalter Status

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
+1 972-475-2184


Thursday, February 17

On My Way Back to Dallas

I left Yangon about three hours ago and have landed at Bangkok International Airport for a lengthy (overnight) layover. In order to get the flight I wanted to take out of Bangkok tomorrow, there was not a flight out of Yangon early enough to catch it. So I left Yangon at 7:45 PM (all times local) and will not catch the Thai flight to LAX until about the same time tomorrow morning (subtract 12.5 to 13 hours from all times).

The Last Day Was One of The Best

We began the final exam just before 9:00 and finished up by 11:00. The students seemed to understand the questions pretty well. Of course I wrote the test in English, so it was also necessary for Thang Bwee to do some translating on some of the questions. Basically he rewrote the exam on the white board. Most of the students answered in Burmese, so I left the exams with him for him to grade. He said he would forward the grades to me when they are posted and I will post them here for those who are interested.

After class we had a graduation party complete with cake and "coffee mix." Some who have been reading the blog since the time it was just an email broadcast will remember coffee mix. The name is half right -- it is a mix of some kind. The Burmese seem to like it and even mistake it for coffee. So the students all had coffee mix and I joined in with them. Burmese cake is not so sweet as we are used to and the texture is much coarser. But we had no trouble getting rid of all of it. Cake is a great idea and just having it makes the party....a party.

After the party we had "class pictures." I took a couple of digital shots which I hope to post to this blog when I actually make it all the way back to the US. Most of the pictures were taken by Ram Uk. Several of the students posed for pix with me until I complained about being hot (I was sitting in the direct tropical sun while they all took turns returning to the shade).

They have me a really nice 'picture' made of jade and other Burmese stones laid into a sort of mosaic. It is not really a mosaic, but I'm not sure how to describe it. I packed it as best I could and hope it makes it back to the States without being demolished. The rest of the day was spent in conversation with Jeff Easley of The Aquila Project and Wayne Curles of BEE. It was really a well-spent day.

But like all good things, it came to an end. U Khin took me to the airport around 5:45 PM and here I am in Bangkok. More when I reach the US.


Friday, February 11

On The Ground One Week Plus

I've been in Myanmar now for just over a week. I arrived last Thursday morning and have been teaching a class ever since. I teach 5 hours per day from 9:00 AM until noon and then again from 1:00 PM until 3. The students are very good this year and Rev. Thang Bwee has been doing all the translating for me. These are all students of the Reformed Bible Institute.

A really great development is that the Burmese Psalter project has continued apace even in my absence from the country. I have had little contact with Dr. Thang Bwee, but he has translated about 150 Psalm settings into Burmese already. Many of them they sing to the tunes of the CDs I left last year instead of singing to the tunes we use in the Comprehensive Psalter. Nonetheless, the project is going very well.

After 26 or so of the Psalms were translated, they published them in a booklet form for the students of RBI and the ERCM churches in the Yangon area. I borrowed the book and had a couple of hundred more made at a local printer. So now ERCM and URCM and the Reformed Baptist congregation in Yangon are all using the same Psalter, short though it may be.

As you can see by the date stamp, there is now internet access in Burma. I am at the Cybernet Cafe at Junction Eight in Yangon and have been able to access the internet with no trouble. Also, the email at the Golden Guest is working well.

I will attempt to update the blog again either before I leave or from Bangkok next Thursday.


Wednesday, February 2

So Far So Good

I've arrived in Bangkok and it is now 1:00 AM Bangkok time on Thursday. The trip was thankfully uneventful thus far, but it had its "moments." The plane we were supposed to take out of DFW was broken, so we went back to the gate and "deplaned" for about an hour while they fixed the whatever was wrong. We ended up getting to LAX about an hour late.

But I was pleasantly surprised by another development. While American Airlines and Thai Airways do not have codeshare, they apparently do have a baggage arrangement. As a result, I was able to check both bags through all the way to Yangon. Hopefully the bags have kept up with me on this trip. That has not always been the case in the past.

There were absolutely no problems at LAX. I got checked in at the Tom Bradley Int'l terminal in plenty of time. The flight was an older aircraft (747-400), but plenty comfortable and as usual, Thai Airways sets the standard for airborne cuisine. The flight from LAX to Osaka Kansai took a long time, but was thankfully uneventful. I took dramamine and slept for most of that leg.

We had a one - hour layover in Osaka. I'm not sure why, but we had to get off the plane. When we returned they had done a nice job of cleaning the inside of the aircraft. I was hopeful that the Thai Airways mechanics were as diligent as the cleaning crew. So, after changing crews and I suppose gassing up, we were off on the Osaka-Bangkok leg.

The last leg was by far the most uneventful. It was just under six hours, and I slept for about four of them. So it is now approximate 27-28 hours (I've lost track) since I left DFW airport and I have several hours left in this layover in Bangkok. They closed the waiting lounge where I was sitting for cleanup, so I've got about 2 hours (1:00 AM to 3:00 AM) before I can return. The flight leaves at 8:00 in the morning, DV.

OK, I've still got some time, so now I will call my darling wife to let her know that everything is humdrum thus far.

Postscript -- I was able to reach her on the phone and said hello. It was good to hear her voice, of course. For the next couple of weeks it will be somewhat difficult for me to update the blog here, but if you want the latest news, simply send an email to webfpcr@fpcr.org and ask for updates as they become available