As you likely know, God has a significantly long and successful track record of starting things and sooner or later – maybe a day, a month, a decade or perhaps a century later – bringing them to completion. His sovereign purposes sometimes seem like circles to me. They start….they usually meander a bit…and then pretty soon…somehow…they seem to come back to square one and make perfect sense. On earth, with a limited view of God’s ways, I find myself scratching my head and thinking….
“Whoa, that was wild…how’d that happen?”.
On a recent flight from Oklahoma to Dallas, I sat next to an Asian man in his late 50s. As we sat down and said our hellos, taking note of his fluent English, I asked him where he was from. He said Burma. Awesome…I thought…I’ve never met anyone from Burma. This might be interesting. After a few niceties, I asked him what the main spiritual faith was in Burma….”are there any Christians there?”, I asked.
With a wide grin he said, “Yes, there are.”. Then he said very proudly and confidently, “I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ…he is my Savior….in fact, just yesterday I prayed to God that He would let me sit next to someone on this flight so I could share my faith in Jesus Christ….and here you are!!”
With that, he slapped me on the knee he nearly yelled out, “Praise God!”. Instantly a feeling of joy, happiness, friendship and warmth came over me.
The man’s name was Pau and he is from the Chin province of Burma.
As it turns out he was pastor of a “home-church” in Burma. He also was led by God to start a school to teach Burmese children how to speak English, as illiteracy is a major problem in parts of Burma. “Start a school?”, I thought. Whoa. I’m thinking ok…maybe 10 or 15 students…..and tons of money; so I asked, “how many students do you have?”
“We have about 70 students,” he replied.
Wow…that’s a lot of students I thought, so I asked, “How’d you get the money to build a school?”.
Pau answered very casually and matter-of-factly, “One of our friends in the US has a friend who gave us the money”.
Pau told me that the school uses text from the English Bible and American Christian hymns about Jesus as the material to learn English.
I asked Pastor Pau how receptive the government was to Christians and his answer was “no….no…not so much…it is not good”. Pastor Pau told me of atrocities, beatings, homes being burned and people being killed because they were Christians.
I asked Pau how he became a Christian and he began to tell me a story had its origins starting way back in February of 1812 when God started a plan to bring His Word to the people of Burma via the American Christian (Baptist) church….as it turns out Ann and Adoniram Judson were sent to Burma to be missionaries from America. Missionaries that followed the Judson’s in the late 1800s were directly responsible for Pau’s grandparents becoming Christians.
Later, one of the other missionaries to follow, Joseph Herbert, led Pau’s parents to Christ. Both missionaries translated scripture and other books into the Burmese language for the Chin people. The missionaries also built schools. Several missionaries died in their effort to share the gospel of Christ with the Burmese.
Missionaries that followed Joseph Herbert, told Pau of the saving grace of Christ.
Nearing the end of his story of faith, Pau turned to me, looked me squarely and sincerely in the eyes, as if delivering a message from 10,000 people to just me, and said, “The Chin people have a great debt to you the American Christians….we are very indebted to you for bringing us the gospel….thank you very much…very much. Our way of repaying the Americans is to serve God as they labored for us.”
Whoa…that was sobering….to receive such deep gratitude from what seemed like an entire nation. I felt a little awkward….what did I have to do with this that he would thank me? Maybe God wanted to show me what a grateful heart looks like or maybe He wanted to let me better see the impact of telling others of Christ’s work in our life.
“So why are you over in America now,” I asked.
“There are many Burmese people in America now and many do not know English, so I am going to Maryland to translate English to Burmese for them and to preach to them in their language”, he said.
So, an almost 200 year old circle of faith is nearing completion….courageous American’s obey God’s whisper to evangelize a little known people in the early 1800s….they risk their lives and wealth to tell others about Jesus Christ…to translate the Word of God into a new language….and now sits Pau, almost 200 years later, traveling back to America to translate English to Burmese, to teach English to his people and to grow the church in the US, the very country that set out to help his people.
What does this mean for you, for me?
- Will we listen a bit more intently to the “still small voice”?
- Will we share the good news perhaps more quickly to those in need?
- Could we keep a better look-out for people who are down or worried and share a quick prayer with them?
- Will we more actively support the missionary God has placed on our hearts?
- Could we bring joy and peace to the world around us by just showing up?
- What will happen 200 years after we obey God?
- What’s at stake if we ignore one of God’s promptings?
I am sure we will see it all in heaven and perhaps we’ll stop and scratch our heads and say….
“Whoa, that was wild…now, Jesus, can you share again how all that happened?”.
Philippians 1:6 (NIV) – “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
The complete story of the Judson’s missionary efforts can be read about in the book “To The Golden Shores“.