One year ago today…

One year ago today, I went to Myanmar!

I can’t believe it has been one full year since I went on my FIRST international trip!! Isn’t this always the case? When you could hardly believe something that magical has been one year past already?

I was browsing through my files this morning and found myself looking at my passport and there I was transported back in time with that green departure stamp saying last May 14, 2013, I together with seven other friends left for a mission trip to Myanmar. It was the shortest ten days of my life but one of the most fulfilling yet!

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A page from a magazine aboard Singapore Air…nailed it!

I first heard about Myanmar  in a coffee date with one of our mentors, Ms. Sandra when I was on the School of Campus Ministry as she was sharing about her family’s life and their obedience to the Lord in being world missionaries. The stories she shared resounded so deep in our hearts that almost all of us who heard her speak about Myanmar even began to had the heart to be able to go in a mission trip there and share about the love of Christ.

Myanmar, also referred to as Burma is a fellow South East Asian country bordered by India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. They were colonized by the Great Britain for quite a time, gained independence but was eventually subjected under military rule in 1962 since then. Heartbreaking human right deprivation and oppression was so rampant in the nation. Mass assassinations would happen but left unreported and unknown to the rest of the world. Massive demonstrations which were almost always violently suppressed would happen but great national reformation soon followed. After the 2010 election, the government has been since doing reforms towards democracy. (Thank you Jesus!!) I believe this heart wrenching political turmoil in Myanmar is one of the reasons why I hold this nation so close in my heart. When I first heard about it, I immediately found myself praying for peace and comfort among the Burmese.

Before going on this mission trip, our team watched the amazing documentary of Aung San Su Kyi, the nation’s pro-democracy leader, entitled The Lady. And boy, did it bring us to our knees for God to use us in being a blessing to such an oppressed nation. (Here’s something interesting, you can spot Aung San Su Kyi’s poster in the Spiderman 2 plastered in Peter Parker’s room!! I watched the movie last night and still can’t get over that fact! Ha!) 

I feel so grateful to God as I see Myanmar and it’s people healing from their past and growing in leaps and bounds towards economic and political growth and success–Obama visited, they hosted the SEA Games last year and important world economic forums with various nation leaders as their guests.

When we decided to embark on this journey of doing a mission trip to country a with 89% of its population practice Buddhism, we knew it was not gonna be a walk in the park. You begin to add up the obvious language barrier and cultural differences, then a part of us may even begin to think of how sharing the gospel be made possible. But that’s the expertise of God, right? — making us see as we believe that nothing is ever impossible for Him.

And so off we went, one year ago today and stepped in an almost familiar place having come from a third-world country ourselves. It was the end of the summer and the sun had a field day blazing out its rays. It felt going back in time though with that tricky time zone difference.

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We arrived at Yangon International Airport and we were giddy with excitement. It was surreal lining up the “foreigner” queue. Going on my first international trip  and not for a simple vacation was so worthwhile! Not that doing it the other way around is not (worthwhile) but I guess there’s just something different when you get to explore a new land with the heart to truly immerse yourself in their culture just so you can share the most amazing news they could ever hear about.

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Forget that we cannot actually go to all tourist spots like Nyapidaw, Mandalay and Bagan and just stay go through the usual places where the locals stay…if this would mean I get to build lasting relationship with these amazing people of Myanmar and hear their stories and dreams–of their hope for the future, then that’s more than amazing for me!

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We stayed at Beautyland Hotel II around Downtown area in Yangon. The place was perfect for me. It was comfortable enough and the staff were so accomodating–we all gained friends in them! The area afforded us to take a peek into what city living for them looked like. I would look out in the window from my hotel and had to pinch myself that I was not staring in a movie or something. lol

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 Flags from the nations of guests they had…a different kind of pancake, welcome to Beautyland Hotel!

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 Exploring the backstreets of Myanmar.

I think I haven’t met any group of people as friendly as the Burmese. They are just downright kind! I guess this has to do greatly with their belief in karma but you must believe me when I say they have golden hearts. I can still vividly recall the wide smiles the people has to just give out when you greet them.

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Prayer walk with our new Burmese friend, Isaac. :)

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All kinds of foods being sold at the street. Crickets, anyone? ;)

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Lots and lots of building renovation and construction on their way! Yay to economic progress!

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Visiting the famous Yangon University. Many protests led by students happened here during the oppressive military rule that reigned over Myanmar.

For this trip, we were asked to help out in teaching the locals English which will give us a way to share who Jesus is and what He has done,too. Studying English for them is so popular–not just so they can be in the trend but they just honestly want to learn the language to have better work opportunities. This took most of our time in our stay and it gave us the most wonderful opportunity to truly get to know the Burmese deeper. I gained friends and valuable lessons simply by hanging around our ‘students’. They were so respectful and humble. They would call us ‘Teacher’ even if what we only did was basically teach them to pronounce the alphabet and some words and phrases correctly.

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Words cannot express the fulfillment I had every minute I spent “teaching” English to the group of people who went to our classes. 

I remember going back to our hotel from our English class bursting with so much joy I just had to jump and down on the street! There’s no greater joy in touching lives with the gospel, indeed. You see, sharing the gospel doesn’t always need to be done behind a pulpit. Sharing the gospel for our case as we went to Myanmar was done by sitting down with the Burmese, talking about their daily life, their frustrations from work or school and their hopes, laughing with them when you mispronounce their language, and even just by treating them to a meal, going around their city and praying for them deep in our hearts that as we have spent a portion of our time with them, they would see the love of Jesus and His sovereign hand at work beyond what our eyes can see through our gestures and works of service.

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Sharing lives together with a group of our students. Coffee date and visiting the famous Buddhist temple, Shwedagon Pagoda.

Going into this mission trip taught me life altering lessons. Some of it shattered a part of me–in a good way, for I believe being broken for something makes you feel compelled to act even simply by asking God to use you in any way to be a blessing for the people or cause you are broken for.

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Seeing the way the lives of the Burmese made me appreciate the privileges I had growing up here in my country. What seemed to be too little and too shabby suddenly became  a small fortune with the new lens I gained with what little time I had in Myanmar. Being able to speak English fluently suddenly became something so precious…and humbling at the same time. Travelling into this country made a major shift with how I begin to see things back home.

I remember Ms. Sandra telling us that the heart of God is soooo big–and big it truly is. Getting to sing praise and worship songs along with a group of people speaking an entirely different language blew my mind away. It was as if getting a glimpse of what heaven would like. Absolutely amazing.

Recalling our experiences one year ago in Myanmar fills me up with such gratitude also for the group of people who believed and partnered with us into making this trip possible and for the amazing team I went with. Their tenacious hearts inspired me to do anything and become all things to all men for the sake of the gospel. Honestly speaking, when I prayed to be used by God to minister to Myanmar I didn’t know I would be catapulted into such kind of trip so soon.

But it did happen..

one year ago today, I went to Myanmar 

and my life was changed forever. 

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