Visit to Myanmar (Burma) October 14-16, 2004

Purpose of the Trip to Myanmar (Burma) 10/15/04

Philip, missionary of the Chin Tribe working in Tachelek in Northern Myanmar, was eager for us to come for a visit. We had never been to the village where the mission was located. It was about thirty minutes from the border crossing between Northern Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). It is in a remote area of the Golden Triangle. Our purpose would be to encourage the members of the church and deliver funds from Southeast Asian missionary Nicky Barnett. The funds would be used to construct a water delivery system to the new church building and to fund construction of the new building. The picture shows some of the leaders of the church squating in front of the stack of bricks which will become the outside walls of the new building. The thatched-roof, dirt floor building will be replaced with a nice, larger building with a concrete floor and walls with windows. The site is situated on top of a hill just above the Lahu Hill Tribe village.

The Johnsons were also going to assess the need of translating Sunday School and other materials into one or more languages for use in Myanmar. Philip, a well trained Baptist who was born in Chin State in western Myamar is capable of translating into Burmese language. He is currently working with Nicky Barnett in the mission at Tachelek and with the New Bethel church in the Lahu village about thirty miles north of Tachelek. Philip translates in hand written form, however, with the new computer purchased with funds provided by Emmanuel Baptist Chruch, Greenville, Texas we will be able to put the manuscript in type for printing. It will take some time to train him in using the computer, but soon we will be able to provide printed materials to help the children of Myanmar understand the story of Jesus and His love!

After a long day teaching the advanced students at the school in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Rita and Bill Johnson put some snacks, a few bottles of water and a change of clothes in the pick-up and headed north. It was about four in the afternoon when they found Highway 118 leading from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand. By dark they had passed through two mountain ranges and were on the outskirts of Mae Sat, about thrity miles north of Chiang Rai. The area is known as the Golden Triangle. It became famous many years ago for the opium trade with China and later several other countries including the Untied States.

The Lahu Hill Tribe Village of Tarlaay.

Their goal was to reach and preach at the village of Tarlaay, where they would find about two hundred Lahu villagers, all of whom are very warm hearted. The children play with simple toys in the bare dirt areas around the small teakwood houses built on "stilts". The houses are built of split-bamboo or teakwood or other lumber taken from the jungle in which the village is located. The narrow streets are of dust in the dry season or mud in the rainy season. Most of the people of the village have been born again and are baptized members of the New Bethel Baptist Church. There are a few animists among them. The animists worship spirits, thinking that there is a spirit of some sort in almost every object in the jungle. Animism is deeply rooted in many of the Lahu villages, but God has set most of the Tarlaay people free by the blood of Christ.

One Book Translated

Philip has translated one book into the Burmese language. Most of the Lahu people of Tarlaay can read and write Burmese. The book, Baptist Doctrine, by Dr. Ray O. Brooks, has not yet been transferred to the computer from the handwriting of Philip. This book along with what we pray will be many more will make it possible to train future pastors and leaders of the churches which are being planted by Nicky Barnett in this fertile field for the gospel.

The Children of Tarlaay

The children of Tarlaay are taught to read and write in a long, one-room building. Inside the building one finds worn desks made of wood. There are very few ammenities for teachers to use intheir work. Teachers are doing a remarkable job with these well-behaved students. They have no electricity in the village, so there is no television to distract the children from their school work. In addition to their own Lahu language, they learn to speak Burmese. Most of the children of the village will learn to hunt for game in the surrounding jungle or work the rice and vegetable fields by hand using only the power of the water buffalo to assist in the work.

The City of Keng Tung

Leaving Tarlaay, Bill, Rita and Philip were driven by thier hired driver about three hours north to the city of Keng Tung. This city is on on the north of the Golden Triangle. The people who live in Keng Tung are Burmese and of Shan, Lahu and several other Hill Tribes, butprimarily Shan. While there are some animists among the Shan, we learned that many of these people are Baptists. The history of their churches takes them back to Adonirom Judson, the first missionary ever sent by Baptists from the United States to a foreign country. We were especially impressed with one congregation there. We visited in the youth choir practice and enjoyied the singing of the forty or so chior members.

This extension of our trip was made necessary by the immigration authorities at the border crossing. Myanmar has very strict travel restrictions on all visitors to the country. God used these restrictions to give us an opportunity to see this beautiful city and visit with some fellow Baptists who have kept the faith through several generations for almost two hundred years since the seed of the gospel was first planted here.

The entire trip to Myanmar was a blessing to Rita and me. We enjoyed working with Philip as we planned to provide printed materials with which the churches and missionaries in Southeast Asia can effectively reach these wonderful people for the Lord Jesus Christ.

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