Impressions & Reflections on a Week in Burma-Myanmar
Beauty: There is beauty all around:
- In the singing of the people from Christian Reformed of Myanmar who were in the workshop with me. They hit the notes with grace. I especially enjoyed their singing of Ephesians 2:13 in the Chin language: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” It reminded me that all of us start out as aliens to God, and it’s all about God’s grace to us. There is a sense of awe in the way Christ gathers his multi-national people to himself.
- In the moon rising over the lake in Yangon—–every day for the first 3 days of the week I got to see the full moon rising, forty minutes later each day, but still there. It reminded me of watching the moon rise over the sea in Corozal, Belize.
- In the elaborate, golden Buddhist Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. I’ll upload a picture of it. The guide told me that during the 1500a and 1600s the kings of Burma made this into the elaborate Buddhist center it is now.
Eagerness and Gratitude to learn:
In our study together the 30 learners were eager to gain ideas on how to restore and protect the fertility of their worn-down lands in southern Chin State. There were so many questions!
about composting, about legume cover crops, about regenerating trees from stumps, about slowing down the run-off of the soils on hillsides, about using amaranth to improve nutrition, about using the hybrid Artemisia plant to treat malaria, about rice varieties, about herbicides and insecticides….
Their vision is to have enough rice while preserving their land and to earn enough money to send their children to school. Their challenge is to find ways of improved fallow to take the place of their slash-burn shifting system that is now longer tenable because of increased human population.
We agreed together on a few crucial follow up steps:
- We have to obtain legume seeds of tephrosia, jack bean and of a local-unidentified legume bush species that the Baptist farmers have been using.
- The learners who were in the workshop will try “effective composting” (thermal composting of the style developed in Zimbabwe) on their own lands. A few of them will try amaranth and Artemisia as well.
- Gratitude:It’s touching to be thanked with sincerity and words like: “You are the first person who has ever taught us about these things.”
A rich country:
Burma has gas, oil, gold, rubies, jade, and rivers. But, there are many people, like the people from southern Chin State (borders on Bangladesh) who have not tasted much benefit from this wealth. The Chin people told me that it’s a major break-through when a village can join together to dig out a motorcycle path so that they can move their rice to market. If this is not done, the only way is to carry it out strapped over the head and back.
A diverse country of many ethnic groups and often deadly tensions between the ethnic groups and the government. I learned that one of the country’s most famous leaders, Aung San Suu Kyi, is of a Burmese father and a Karin mother. There are parliamentary elections scheduled in a couple of months and she will now be allowed to run in the election—after being under house arrest for many years by the military government. I think there is a feeling of cautious hope, that maybe, just maybe, the long years of strong-armed government control may be easing. I noticed that a current weekly newspaper is still publishing a picture of Hilary Clinton shaking the hand of the current military leader of the country.
I’m grateful, too. I’m grateful for the invitation to teach with this group of Chin Burmese people and to get to know their country a little bit.