Thanksgiving is a time for the family and a time to thank God for all that He has given. The Lisu people also have a thanksgiving and that’s usually right after they’ve harvested their crops for the year. Thanksgiving, in many different cultures seems to include food. In America, the painting “Freedom from Want”, by American artist Norman Rockwell, portraying the elderly woman placing a gigantic turkey on the long table filled with what appears to be family members gathered around smiling happily. The Lisu thanksgiving is a church service. The villagers would bring their first of their crops and place it in front of the church as an offering to God. These crops (cucumbers, rice, corn, potatoes, etc.) are then given to evangelists, church leaders, and preachers, and some of these are even used in the food that is provided to everyone after the service.
During the week of Thanksgiving, Stephen and Nick traveled to Myitkyina, Northern Myanmar. The trip was incredible. They were able to join in the Lisu Thanksgiving services which happened to be on the same week as USA Thanksgiving. Away from family, no turkey, but a lot of great Burmese Lisu dishes, none the less. Stephen spent the majority of the time preaching, teaching and answering questions about the book of Revelation; many of the Lisu leaders in this area had read Stephen’s commentary on the book of Revelation and requested a workshop in order to further understand the meaning of the text through historical and literary and many other context. Stephen offered two different workshops: one in Wain Maw and the other in Myitkyina. Each workshop lasted for two days. It was very intensive, but well worth it; it’s worth it, even to sleeping on mats on the floor with few thin blankets below freezing temperatures. Most of the Lisu churches hold the belief that Revelation is a book of prediction for the end of the world. For them, if anyone wants to know when or what happens at the end time, one must read the book of Revelation. Many Lisu Christian leaders were shocked when Stephen pointed out to them that the book of Revelation is not a prediction of the end of the world. It is indeed God’s Word giving a warning and exhorting people to follow His Word. We need to understand what Revelation meant for the readers in the past so that we can understand what it means for us today; and we have to say what the Revelation says and not to say what the Revelation doesn’t say. Rather than holding to what is written in the Scripture, many of Lisu churches held on to one commentary which was written by the early group of missionary among the Lisu in the early 19th century. Overall, the leaders from several churches in northern Myanmar stated that they are refreshed and encouraged to understand the Word of God. They requested Stephen to go back and offer a longer and more detailed teaching seminar during this coming summer of 2017. Many Christian leaders will fly to Chiangmai to intensively study the book of Revelation with Stephen at the end of this December.
|Stephen preaching at Sanka's Thanksgiving service|
|The congregation at Sanka|
|Nick preaching at Bethany Christian Church in Myitkyina|
|Nick preaching at Malikah outside of Myitkyina|
|Stephen teaching how to understand |
the book of Revelation at Wain Maw
|The Revelation workshop at Wain Maw|
|Revelation workshop at Bethany Christian Church |
Another aspect of this trip was in order to help the Lisu people in their daily living. Our team believes in the “wholistic” approach in our ministry. We believe that people are made of the physical and also of the spirit. We teach and preach the Word in order to help with the spirit of the people, and we also try to help their physical aspects in life, if or whenever we can so that they would become a healthy church for carrying the Great Commission to the lost souls of the world. The majority of the Lisu people in Myanmar are living way below the poverty line. Many gather and scrounge for money in order to have food on the table for their families, and there are no government programs to aid the people at all.
A great amount of the Lisu people grow opium in the mountains of Northern Myanmar; they have no choice but to grow opium as their cash crop because they do not know how to grow other crops. On top of this, the Lisu that do not live in the mountains but closer to the outskirts of the cities will often grow corn as their cash crop. The ones who grow corn were cheated by a Chinese company who came in and provided the Lisu with “fake” corn seeds and “fake” fertilizers. The thing is that a certain Chinese company came to the Lisu many years ago and sold them corn seeds that the Chinese said was good like American corn that you see in Midwest USA. The Lisu in Myanmar, being that they had very little education and very little knowledge of the outside world, believed the Chinese company. They bought and planted these “fake” seeds and even bought the Chinese fertilizers. You see, the Chinese company promised that once the Lisu grew and harvested these corn, this Chinese company would buy it from them. The Lisu trusted this Chinese company, and when it was time to harvest the corn, the Chinese company disappeared without a trace. Throughout the years, Stephen has on many occasion been to the Lisu villages that still bought corn seeds every year from China and sold them at an extremely low price. Stephen, through experience of seeing corn almost every day in Illinois, saw the corn that the Lisu were buying and growing from the Chinese companies, who claimed they were seeds from America, were not the same; the corn from the Chinese company that the Lisu were growing were very small and had various faded pigments, contrasting to the big yellowish orange corn that you see driving down the roads of Midwest states in America. The Chinese company had taken advantage of the Lisu in Myanmar. At this point, the Lisu have no choice but to continue to grow these Chinese corn because they don’t have any other options.
The Lisu, living in the cities, have no jobs. Some of the families may have a little business that will help them, day to day; other families may go rent land outside of the city to farm. Even preachers and church leaders living in the city will go out to farm because the church doesn’t have enough money to support a full time preacher. Some Sundays, the preacher won’t even be at the church because he didn’t make it back in time from the fields. Even further, many of the youth have no hope and turn to heroin, meth, and alcohol. At each village that Stephen and Nick went to, the main problem in the youth was that many of them were addicts and several had recently died from drug overdose.
|Lisu leaders from Wain Maw explaining about the problems |
they are facing in their daily lives and farming
|Lisu leaders from different parts of Kachin state |
hold a special meeting to discuss how to improve
their churches into healthy churches by improving
the standard of living of their members
During the trip, Nick went to various villages and met with some of the kids that didn’t have either a mother or a father and also kids without both parents. The purpose of this trip was to survey the villages and to provide some immediate help for the kids. Nick went and spent time with them and encouraged the kids. There was one particular boy that touched Nick’s heart a lot. The boy’s name was “Marina”. Marina is 5 years old, very small for his age. His father died from an illness when he was an infant, and his mother died while going to find a job on the Chinese side; Marina currently lives with his grandfather who was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and is being treated with the help from IDES when Stephen previously arrived in the village last year to help with TB and Malaria problems in Myanmar. Marina lives in a small village of about 20 people, in the mountains, about an hour from the city of Myitkyina. Nick had been spending the time with the people in the village and asked Marina what he wanted to be when he grew up. Marina replied with the Lisu words, “Jaa Ja” which meant “eat.” It was a funny comment but there was something deeper to those words. Most kids would say firefighter, police, doctor, even superman. The fact that the boy just wanted to be able to eat when he grew up was absolutely heartbreaking. Nick then gave Marina a bag of candy and he began sharing the candy with the other kids in the village… how does a 5 year old boy living day to day with barely any food or clothes, be so selfless? Nick visited about 10 other kids on the trip. Many of the kids had little clothes and some didn’t even have a coat for the coming winter season, so Nick was able to buy coats for the kids with the leftover funds that Nick’s college friend Tiffany Bayless raised for aiding the orphans in Myanmar from a Vacation Bible School in Indiana last summer.
|Nick giving Marina some candy from Thailand|
|Marina shares the candy with other children in the village|
|The orphans at Sanka|
|Yabahu is happy to receive coats for the winter|
Immediate Need at Hand in Myanmar
While Stephen and Nick taught and spent time in Myitkyina and many surrounding villages, off in the distance, gunfire and bombs were going off; the fighting between the Burmese soldiers and Kachin rebels sounded the whole time. During the week, a group of Lisu representatives from the eastern part of Wain Maw, Myanmar, now battlefield, came to the teaching sessions and asked for help. They said that 400 households fled for their lives, leaving their homes, farms, and even families… during Thanksgiving. These Lisu people are from the area in the mountains where opium is heavily grown as a cash crop. Actually, the reason they grew opium in the first place is because they live at such an altitude that, with their knowledge, they can only grow opium. Now that the land is riddled with bullets and shards of bombshells and burned ashes from the supposedly banned Napalm bombs, the Lisu fled down into Myitkyina where they are being fed and sheltered by the already poverty stricken churches. No one knows how long these churches would be able to help the displaced people since there are so many in need. The displaced people know that they can no longer go back to the battlegrounds and to the opium because there is nothing left, they are searching for a new hope and a new home. They seemed to be losing morale since winter is coming and some of the families are separated because the churches can’t house everyone. The churches in the city area suggested that there is land near the city that the Burmese government would sell that could house about 200 households so that they could have farmland to grow crops like corn since opium would no longer grow at this lower altitudes. The cost of the land that will be able to house 200 households is about 30,000$. Please pray about this immediate need and if you feel a calling from God to help, please let us know. We know that God is great and God is able.
|Representatives of the displaced Lisu |
from the battlefield-opium field
|Another group of representatives of the displaced Lisu |
from the battlefield-opium field
Isaac is doing exceptionally well at school. He is being challenged to think critically in class and we can tell that he is learning a lot of new knowledge. Becky is doing well. She is very excited because one of her speech therapist Lisa of Cleveland Clinic, from when she was ill, is in Chiang Mai at the moment. Mary is doing alright. She had just finished harvesting the rice from behind our house with help from her family and some of the neighbors. Mary loves gardening and farming so she just couldn’t resist to be out harvesting the rice, while Stephen and Nick were in Myanmar. Stephen and Nick, had just returned from Myanmar; they are exhausted but are blessed and glad to be able to shine the light of Christ in Myanmar.
Please pray for Stephen and Nick as they plan on heading to China for the Lisu Cultural Conference. Stephen will be presenting about how Christianity and Lisu culture do actually go along together really well. Please pray for them because many Christians have gone to China in the recent months and were arrested, but so far Stephen has been blessed because God has always opened a door for him, even when there were many close calls. The mission field is not always safe, but it’s a definitely a must because Jesus commanded in Matthew 28 to “Go! Make disciples.”
Stephen and Nick will also plan to go to Laos in the near future because the government of Laos has requested them to go and help the university in the capital, Luang Prabang. As many of you may already know, Laos is a closed country when it comes to religion; Laos actually persecutes Christians who have come into their country. Dozen of evangelists from Thailand had been jailed in the past year alone. So, please pray because if God opens a door in Laos, this may be one of our first government endorsed Christian ministries in Laos.
|Mary harvesting rice|