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New Mission Initiative to Myanmar

A letter from Bill and Ann Moore, serving in Japan

March 2017

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Dear Friends in Mission,    

As our long but thankfully uneventful flight from Osaka, Japan, to Yangon, Myanmar, began its descent for arrival, we wondered what would meet us on the ground. For the three of us, it was the first visit to Myanmar, so about all we had to go on was what we had learned from the news. After many years of authoritarian rule, a long-entrenched military-led government, rocked by demonstrations, had allowed civilian participation in elections. The result was the election of Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader, who assumed the office of State Counselor in April 2016. However, with the military under tenuous control of the new civilian government, it could at any moment reassert its rule.

Rev. Ling Zaw, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar, explains the management structure of Agape Hospital to Dr. Watanabe

Japan Mission in mission partnership with the Presbyterian Church (USA) was asked by Presbyterian World Mission to consider partnering with the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar and its Agape Hospital in Kalaymyo, and we were making this trip to discern what God was leading us to do together. As leaders of Japan Mission, we were privileged to have Dr. Naoya Watanabe, Superintendent of Japan Mission’s Yodogawa Christian Hospital, accompany us.

After a smooth landing at Yangon Airport, we headed to our hotel, where we were met by Barry and Shelly Dawson, who serve as Presbyterian World Mission’s regional liaison for Southeast Asia. Having made a number of previous trips to Myanmar, the next day they guided us up north to Kalaymyo and introduced us to leaders of the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar.

Founded by missionaries from India, the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar has some 30,000 members who are from various tribal groups and speak numerous dialects. Three institutions in Kalaymyo are managed by the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar: Agape Hospital, Tahan Theological College, and the Child Development Center.

A happy family celebrates the birth of a child at Agape Hospital

Our first visit was to Agape Hospital. The largest, best-staffed and best-equipped hospital in the area is government-run. But tribal people—who often do not speak the language of the majority Burmese—find it quite difficult to communicate there and are drawn to Agape Hospital, which has caring staff who can communicate in tribal languages and dialects. The hospital, with 100 inpatient beds, does an amazing job meeting the medical needs of its patients, but it is challenged because it has no full-time staff physicians or registered nurses, instead depending on outside medical personnel who see patients on a rotating, part-time basis. However, upon entering the wards, we were impressed by the large presence of family members who had accompanied their ill loved ones to care for their physical needs and provide comfort, encouragement and prayer. No patient seemed to be alone, but instead was surrounded by the tender loving care of family. We also visited the maternity ward and were able to share the palpable joy and pride of a family who had just welcomed a healthy new member into the world.

A baby ready to go home

Agape Hospital’s administrator, Mr. Lal Pui Thanga, explained that their very old X-ray machine was no longer reliable and needed replacement along with other diagnostic equipment. In addition, the hospital was being told by the power company that a new (and expensive) transformer was required to ensure the stable supply of electricity. Despite these challenges, all were doing their best to provide medical services to their patients. This was exemplified by the hospital’s neonatal incubator that was made inexpensively by a local carpenter.

Next, we visited Tahan Theological College and attended chapel with its students and staff. This school has 150 students preparing for church vocations. They come from 10 different tribes, and the student body is comprised not only of students from the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar, but also students from ten other denominations. We were impressed by the faculty’s commitment to providing high-quality theological education, the lively singing in the chapel service, and the friendliness of staff and students. Challenges include not yet being on the electric grid and having to rely on limited solar-generated power for lighting and water pumping. Even though the cost of tuition, room and board is about $500 per year, many students find this sum very difficult to raise and need scholarship help.

The Child Development Center provides care for 40 children who are either orphaned or whose parents are unable to care for them. It provides material and spiritual care as well as educational opportunities in a residential setting. Recently, one of their living units burned down, leaving only the exterior stone walls standing. When we visited, a few workers, including teenaged residents, were doing their best to begin reconstruction, performing all work by hand.

Bill and Ann with the Dawsons and Rev. Siam, Vice-Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar, and his family at the Siams’ church

In spite of these challenges, the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar is moving forward in faith and trust that God will meet their needs so that they may provide healing, educate church leaders, and care for children who are without caregivers.

Japan Mission in mission partnership with the Presbyterian Church (USA) decided that partnering with Presbyterian Church of Myanmar is indeed God’s will and has committed to do so. The first initiative is to invite Agape Hospital’s administrator, Mr. Puiya, to visit our Yodogawa Christian Hospital to observe its management practices and discuss how together we may enable Agape Hospital to have greater healing capability in the name of Jesus Christ, the Great Physician. We are excited about this new mission initiative and look forward to seeing how God will expand it as our partnership with the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar deepens.

We invite you to join this partnership between Japan Mission and the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar. Please pray that God will give us wisdom and persistence so that this new partnership will grow and bear much fruit for the Kingdom. If you feel called to support this new mission initiative in Myanmar and/or come alongside us in our ministry of leading Japan Mission in partnership with the Presbyterian Church (USA), we invite you to support us with your prayer, correspondence, and financial resources. No gift is too great or too small.

With gratitude,

Bill and Ann Moore

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