South East Asia

Acts 1:8

Our Summer 2016 Mission to Myanmar will occur Tuesday, July 12th – Tuesday, August 2nd.

Team members:  Reed Iwami, Glenna Iwami, Charly Skaggs, Sherry Crockett, Zane Lancaster, Grant Ehlinger, Stephanie Cochell, Sherwood Moffett, Claire Dees, Regan Dees, Thuy Bishop

Prayer Requests

  • Safety of the team throughout the mission trip, particularly during our ministry in the remote Mon State villages
  • All mission supplies arrive safely, without being confiscated
  • Safety and effectiveness of our Burmese team in Myanmar
  • Our first ever Evangelism Event proves successful, and touches the hearts of many
  • Our new resource center program be well received by each village
  • God is with our team throughout our journey
  • The mission will have a positive impact not only on those we are ministering to, but each team member

Day 18

Hi Everyone,
Today we had the opportunity to worship with the Living Waters Church. This is church plant from one of our Burmese friends and co-worker’s church, Gilbert David. This house church is very small, and is in a poor Buddhist neighborhood. The pastor is a lady who converted to Christianity later in her life. Her testimonial is remarkable. Early in her life she heard about Jesus but didn’t believe. Then one of her family members was involved in a motorcycle accident and was near to death. She prayed for the first time in her life that she would become Christian if he was healed, which he was. However, she did not honor her promise. Later one of her family members became seriously ill. She prayed for the second time in her life, and was once again they were healed, but still she did not honor her promise. A few years later her dad was put into the hospital seriously ill. She prayed for the third time in her life and a few days later he made a miraculous recovery. This time she honored her commitment and dedicated her life to Christ. She rented a small house in a very poor Buddhist neighborhood and started the Living Waters Church with the help of others like Gilbert. Life has been hard. Her neighbors wanted her to leave because they didn’t want a Christian church near them. She persevered, and today she has a small congregation of around 25, and the whole church is passionate about Christ. You could see this in their faces during the entire worship service.

Tomorrow we leave for home. It will take us approximately 40+ hours to reach Austin. This will be the last Myanmar mission team update. It has been a good mission trip blessed with good team members. I truly believe it will have a lasting impression on all of them.

Please pray for the people of Myanmar, for improvement and safety in their daily lives; that the new government will make the country a better place to live for everyone. Pray also for the safety of the team as we travel for home.

Blessings,
Reed

Day 17

Hi Everyone,
Today was Love For Myanmar’s first public evangelism event. In the past it would have been virtually impossible to put on. We would not be granted approval from local authorities. If we went ahead without approval, the military would have shut it down, possibly arresting our Burmese friends, and sending our team out of the country by revoking our visas. Our event was held at Judson Hall which we rented from a Christian university. We asked our orphanage directors, house church pastors, neighborhood school teachers, and our Burmese employees to invite primarily non-Christians. The program included well-known Christian singers, and a few Christian speakers offering words of encouragement to the audience. We had no idea how many would attend this function, maybe 300 if we were lucky. We were surprised and humbled when we had over 600. It was standing room only. The children were put in the front, sitting on the concrete floor in order to maximize space.

Not understanding Burmese I couldn’t understand what was being said, but looking at the faces of the audience I believe this event was a success. Many seeds of Christ were planted. It is now up to those that invited guests to follow-up on opportunities to witness.

One change I believe that needs to be made is the length of the event. It was a little too long, approximately 4 hours. It should be half that time. The next event should also be held in a much larger facility.

Blessings,
Reed

Day 16

Hi Everyone,
Today the team took the day off and did some shopping at the Bogoyoke Market. Bogoyoke is an open air local market where a number of local vendors have small rented booths to sell their products. A great number of products being sold represent the culture of Myanmar. For example there is a large variety of handmade lacquer ware being sold, something that Myanmar is known for.

The team taking the day to go shopping gave me the opportunity to meet individually with each of our Burmese team members.

Tomorrow will be our first ever public evangelism event. Please pray that many unbelievers will come, listen, and contemplate what is being presented to them.

Blessings,
Reed

Day 15

Hi Everyone,
Today we spent the day at Vivian’s orphanage. Vivian was one of our interpreters in 2005. During our mission trip he pleaded with us to visit an orphanage that was in desperate need of help. After our visit to this orphanage we decided to sponsor this orphanage, thus the name Vivian. We have moved the orphanage to a better location and helped fund their current home. 16 children were present today with 2 still at school. One of the children at this orphanage is named Samuel. When he was a little more than 1 year old his parents left him on the railroad tracks to die since they could no longer feed him. Someone found him and brought him to this orphanage. Today, Samuel is a wonderful, playful and loving young man. We enjoyed seeing all the children again, and they thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the team.

That evening we invited all our Burmese friends to a cultural show. It is something we have been doing since we started bringing mission teams into the country in 2005. It’s our way of thanking them for helping support our ministry. A good time was had by all.

Blessings,
Reed

Day 14

Hi Everyone,
Our first ministry visit today was to Kid’s Life Orphanage with a visit to the HIV orphanage In the afternoon.

Kid’s life is about 1.5 hours from our hotel and is one we have been sponsoring for the past 11 years. Unlike the other homes we sponsor, Kid’s life has some acreage and grows fruits, vegetables, and raises pigs and chickens. Most are for their own consumption, but they also sell some to help pay for their ongoing expenses. The children at this home are well cared for, and are passionate Christians. 25 children were there to greet us and to participate in our program. At the beginning of the program they sang in English songs we have taught them over the years. The children love to be around us, holding our hands, sitting in our laps, all the time smiling at us. It was hard for us to say good bye and move on to the HIV orphanage.

The HIV orphanage is about 20 minutes from Kid’s Life. It is currently being sponsored by a Canadian group, Seeds of Hope. We have been visiting this orphanage off and on for the past 5 or 6 years because of its close proximity to Kid’s Life. They are a loving home with a new home director. There were 30 children eagerly waiting for us. It was a bittersweet time laughing and playing with the children understanding that some of these children may not make it to adulthood because of their disease.

Please pray for the children at both homes. That these children be protected and comforted under His loving care. Pray for continued good health and protection of the team as we near the end of our ministry.

Blessings,
Reed

Day 13

Hi Everyone,
Since the Victoria Orphanage facility is so small we broke into two groups, with the larger one going to Faith Orphanage.

Faith Orphanage had 16 children/youth present, 4 were in school taking exams so they couldn’t be with us. Faith unlike the other orphanages we serve is more in the downtown area. In addition to our normal program, we had time to fellowship with them. The ladies on our team painted finger nails and one did face painting. The guys on the team mentored the youth and played with the younger children. One young boy became very attached to one of our team members, Stephanie and asked her to stay with him. When we packed up to leave he started to cry. We all felt so bad for him.

Only two team members Sherry and Sherwood traveled to Victoria Orphanage. Two of our interpreters Chin Chin and Rosy went with them. Victoria is the farthest from our hotel approximately a 2+ hour drive because of the heavy traffic. There were 9 children at the home to greet the team.

The kids at our orphanages look forward to seeing our team each year. It’s like Christmas for them. It gives them a chance to forget all their problems, at least temporarily. It gives them a chance to laugh, play, and receive some small gifts. It is also a blessing to each team member as well.

Please pray for all the children/youth of our orphanages. Pray for wisdom and direction for each orphanage director in raising them in a loving Christian environment. Pray for continued safety and good health for our team.

Blessings,
Reed

Day 12

Hi Everyone,
We started our day meeting with students from Isaac’s seminary. Isaac is our orphanage coordinator, Rosy’s brother. She introduced us to him a number of years ago asking us to help support her brother who was going to attend Gordon Cromwell seminary in Boston, which we did. Once he graduated he went back to Myanmar and started a seminary. Currently there are approximately 26 students enrolled in his school. They come from all over the country, and appear to be passionate about Christ. Sherwood presented his Evangelism program which was well received.

In the afternoon we broke into two groups. One went to Isaac’s orphanage, and the other to one of his house church.

There are 16 children in his orphanage. They are well cared for and are all strong Christians. The team sang songs, played games, and taught them a story. They thoroughly enjoyed interacting with team.

The house church was a distance from his seminary. It is located in particularly poor neighborhood and is one of the poorest I have seen over the years. It is called a squatters village since no one owns or rents property, they just move to an empty area of land, put up a small bamboo house, and live there until they are kicked out. The church is made up entirely of Buddhists. The pastor is a seminary graduate from Isaac’s school. There were approximately 75 people of all ages present. It was so crowded that we had people in the doorway and looking through windows. They were all genuinely interested in what we had to say. Isaac felt we planted many seeds of Christ today.

Blessings,
Reed

Eleventh Day

Hi Everyone,
We had the opportunity this morning to worship with the Telegu Church. It is a small church with about 25 in attendance. 3 or 4 in attendance were Buddhists who came to our program the day before. The government confiscated their land and church a number of years ago to build some government offices on it. A few years later they gave them a small plot of land in a missionary cemetery to build their church. We provided some funds three years ago to build a small church, which they did. Unfortunately, having a church in a cemetery scares many of the Telegu Hindus from attending. During the service they asked us to participate in their worship service by singing a song, providing a few words of encouragement, and to pray for them. Towards the end of the service the Telegu pastor thanked us for worshiping with their small church. He said when he heard a few months ago that we wanted to worship with his small church he was humbled and grateful since the Telegus are a lowly group of people. He said we had a choice to worship with larger churches but we picked them. We told the congregation we were honored to worship with them, and would continue to do so in the future.

After the service we had lunch with them and headed back to Yangon. Along the way we stopped to show the team a waterfall attraction in Thaton. We arrived at our hotel in Yangon about 8:00 pm.

Please pray for the Telegu Church that they can better reach the Hindus in their village, and can find safety from persecution. Pray for our team that it can accomplish all our ministry objectives in our final week in Yangon.

Blessings,
Reed

Tenth Day

Hi Everyone,
We started out the day with evangelism training, and finished with a ministry to the Telegu village.

It has been our impression that even though Christians in Myanmar were passionate about their values and beliefs, they were not strong in evangelism. As a result, we brought all our resource center personnel, pastors from around the area, leprosy hospital directors, and an evangelism group from the remote villages of the Mon State together for evangelism training. There were 36 in attendance with Sherwood conducting the training. Many commented afterwards that Sherwood did a great job teaching. The program was concise, easy to understand, and simple to use. We would like to conduct classes like this in the future, in a number of different disciplines.

The Telegu people are of Indian heritage and a small minority group in Myanmar. As a result, they are badly treated mistreated. The village in which they live is a slum which they own no land. A few years ago the local government was contemplating moving them out in order to renovate the entire area. Since there was no place in their village to conduct our program, the Catholic Church in the area let us use their facility. There were approximately 56 in attendance mostly adults. The team did a wonderful job in ministering to them and making them feel welcome. Unfortunately, I was tied up in meetings during most of the ministry so I couldn’t take very many photos.

This was our last village ministry. It has been a long tiring week, but it went by too quickly. I asked at our team meeting this evening which village did they enjoyed ministering the most. Many felt they enjoyed them all equally well.

Blessings,
Reed

Ninth Day

Hi Everyone,
Today we visited the Midwife and Rock Quarry villages. That is not their real names, just what we call them in order to better remember them. At the Midwife village there was a Christian midwife that allowed us to use her home for the first program presentation, thus the name Midwife village. At the Rock Quarry village there was quarry where little children were climbing out of a steep embankment carrying a heavy load of mud in order to make bricks, thus the name Rock Quarry village.

The Midwife village had approximately 20 people present, mostly children and teenage girls. Our resource center coordinator, Zarni lives and works out this facility. He is a young Christian man that is very much interested in helping the people of this village even though he is not from it. What is interesting, a middle aged man was with the children at the beginning of our program. As we began our program, he raised his hand and started to ask us questions about God. It was apparent that he was Buddhist and very much interested in our Christian faith. After answering some of his questions for a few minutes, we took him outside, and Gilbert and I began to witness to him while the program continued inside. Gilbert will be following-up with him to see how he is doing and if he has any further questions.

When we arrived at the Rock Quarry village there were only 5 or 6 people present. As we were about to begin people started coming, eventually we had over 60 people. We currently don’t have a resource center or a resource center coordinator at this village, but are looking diligently for both. In speaking to this group they were very much interested in having a resource center and said they would most definitely support it. This village was very involved in our program, probably one the most involved we had so far.

The day was hot and humid, not the best environment to work in, particularly with air conditioning, but the team worked through it. They thoroughly enjoyed meeting and working with all the wonderful people from the two villages.

Please pray the man from the Rock Quarry village that he may come to know the Lord. Pray for renewed energy and protection for the team as near the end of another week. Pray for the wonderful people of Myanmar.

Blessings,
Reed

Eighth Day

Hi Everyone,
Today was another busy day for the team. A few team members worked with the village coordinators in training for our new program. The remaining team ministered to the leprosy hospital and leprosy village.

The ministry to the Christian leprosy hospital and subsequent leprosy village is always an emotional experience for the team. Myanmar is one of the few countries in the world where leprosy is still growing, primarily in the rural villages of the country. The leprosy patient and all their family members are often ostracized from their village with nowhere to go. If they are lucky, they make it to the Christian leprosy hospital in Mawlamyine. The emotional and physical scar these patients endure is sad indeed. Our team objective was to bring a little happiness into their lives. We sang songs, played balloon volleyball, did a skit, told stories, handed out gifts, and tried to comfort their sorrow. We also had a chance to visit the patients who could not get out of their beds to come to our program. You could see glimpses of happiness on all their faces. For a brief few minutes they forgot about their sorrows. It’s something each team member will never forget.

Both team members that had stomach ailments yesterday are on the way to recovery. Please pray comfort for the leprosy patient and their families; the leprosy hospital can continue to provide care for these and future patients; strength and continued commitment for the Christian hospital staff; knowledge and commitment for our village coordinators and staff during and after their training program; and, continued protection for our team.

Blessings,
Reed

Seventh Day

Hi Everyone,
Today we traveled from Thaton to Mawlamyine where we will spend the rest of the week ministering to 5 villages and a leprosy hospital. Unlike the hotel in Thaton we now have internet access.

In the afternoon the majority of our team toured Mawlamyine including a visit to the Adoniram Judson church which has a small burial plot for some of his children.

While the team toured Mawlamyine it gave me the opportunity to meet with our teachers who run our village resource centers. To them we presented a radically different program for our four village resource centers. Following that meeting we met with the director, chief administrator and chief of staff from the leprosy hospital we help sponsor. At this meeting we presented to them a cash donation of $12,000 we received from our donors at home. They said they had been praying for such a donation for a very long time since their major donor decided to stop supporting them. It was a humbling experience for us to hear their story.

That evening at dinner we had a surprise birthday party for one of our team members Sherry Crockett.

We have been blessed so far with the good health of the entire team. Today, two team members came down with some minor stomach ailments. Please pray for full and quick recovery of these two team members, continued good health of the team, the effectiveness of our program to the predominately Buddhist villages, and safety as we begin to travel into some of the remote villages. A special prayer request for full and complete recovery for Gary Watkins, co-founder of Love For Myanmar who could not make the trip because of a lingering illness, and Pastor Moe Eh, pastor of the Austin Karen Baptist Church who was recently diagnosed with cancer.

Blessings,
Reed

Sixth Day

Hi Everyone,
Today we ministered to our first villages in the Mon State, Belin and Thaton. Our objective in all the villages in the Mon State is to build relationships with local villagers so we can begin to plant seeds for His word. Just after we left the hotel to travel to our first village in Belin our bus had trouble with an air leak to the brakes. As a result, we had to rent a very small open air truck to carry us the rest of the way. The team enjoyed the different way of travel, especially the looks we got from people as we passed by.

In the Belin village we had approximately 45 people present, most of whom were Buddhist. The children from this group have been participating in our ESL program for about a year. After a short introduction, the team sang a few songs, taught them a story, worked on a craft project with them, taught them the importance of clean water and gave them two water filtration systems to be used at our resource center. The villagers really appreciated our program we put on for them and wanted us to know how much the ESL program we have been doing for the children over the past year meant to them.

Our repaired bus finally arrived and took us to a very small house church in Thaton. Last year we had about 40 people that came to our event, so we were really surprised to find 120 people waiting for us packed into a very small space. Because of the small space, it was difficult to put on a program similar to the one we used in Belin. We managed nicely, and everyone including the team thoroughly enjoyed it.

The team felt it was a wonderful experience for both us and them. Many felt a genuine bond to these people, especially the children.

Just to let you know, the hotel we are staying at does not have internet so many on the team could not send emails to relatives and friends. We will have internet connections at our next hotel tomorrow.

Blessings,
Reed

Fifth Day

Hi Everyone,
Today we checked out of our Yangon hotel to travel to the Mon State where we will spend the week ministering to six villages and the Leprosy hospital.

The first stop along the way was to visit our non-profits Love For Myanmar’s 19.5 acre property. On this property we hope to build an orphanage, living quarters for those ministering with us, and a resource/meeting center. It took us over a year to purchase the property and we are still waiting for approval from local authorities to begin the building process. It’s a beautiful piece of property that is strategically located for our ministry in the Mon State.

Our final stop was to our hotel in the city of Thaton. The journey was only 120 miles but it took us approximately 7.5 hours to get there. Reed and Sherry had meetings with Gilbert and Waing to discuss our upcoming meetings and training. The rest of the team had the opportunity to do some sightseeing.

We begin our ministry tomorrow to 2 villages.

Blessings,
Reed

Fourth Day

Hi Everyone,
Today we worshipped with Elisha’s church and a small house church in the same area. Each church shortened their service since they wanted us to conduct part of it. They especially wanted to hear words of encouragement, and to pray for them. While each church is in a very poor neighborhood, the small house church in particular is located in a more vulnerable slum area. Since the road leading into this neighborhood wasn’t wide enough to accommodate any vehicles, we had to walk in which gave us a better perspective of the poverty they were living in.

We have been worshipping with Elisha’s church for quite some time. The church started in Elisha’s home and moved a few years ago to where they are located today. The growth they have experienced since we were there last year is simply amazing. They have more than doubled their size. In fact, as you can see from the photo there is standing room only. The credit for this growth goes to Elisha who is passionate about evangelism. For our part of the worship service we sang them songs, prayed over Elisha and his wife’s newly adopted baby, and Sherwood preached a short sermon.

The small house, about 400 square feet was not built well, and though the cracks in the floor you could see the polluted water below. There were approximately 35 people and children present at this service. Included in this number were a few invited Buddhist guests. For our part of the worship service we concentrated on the hardships of being Christian in a predominately Buddhist neighborhood. We also spent time on the gospel and what it meant to them.

For me one highlight of each mission trip is worshipping with these small churches. To see their passion for Jesus even though they are persecuted and ostracized by their neighbors for being Christian is emotionally uplifting. It was a highlight for many on our team as well.

Blessings,
Reed

Third Day

Hi Everyone,
The team is now well rested after a good night sleep, and is ready and anxious to get the day started.

Today we spent the entire day ministering to Love Bosom, one of the five Christian orphanages we sponsor. They have approximately 45 children between the ages of 6 to 15, which makes them our largest. The orphanage director and her husband are seminary graduates, and as a result conduct church services in their facility for their neighborhood. A number of our team members remarked how well behaved the children were, and how passionate they all were for Christ, which is indeed a true statement. This orphanage is by far the most musically inclined of the five we have. In fact they have made some Christian CD’s for evangelism purposes which are very, very good. They are so good that we would all have liked listening to them perform all day.

In addition to our 11 member team, we also brought along 5 of our Burmese friends and co-workers. The new members of our team were impressed how our Burmese friends/co-workers helped where ever they could, and being so passionate in making our ministry a success. The memories that were developed by all will last a lifetime.

Blessings,
Reed

Second Day

Hi Everyone,

Today was a very busy day for the team, especially since the team is still recovering from jet lag from the long airline flight.  Initially, we were to minister to one neighborhood school and one home orphanage, but last week we were asked to add another neighborhood school to our itinerary, which we did. 

We started out with a neighborhood school that is located in a small church.  There were approximately 32 students mostly between the ages of 8 and 12.  These children were primarily Buddhists.  They all thoroughly enjoyed the program that the team put on, and joined us in a couple of Christian songs that they learned in English.  They were wonderful, polite, and thoughtful children.

After the first neighborhood school we went to an orphanage run by Elisha and his wife Christina.  They recently adopted a baby that was just a few hours old since the mother was going to leave it in the streets to die since she couldn’t afford to feed it.  They named the baby boy Joshua. Joshua is now well taken care of and loved.  Their orphanage has approximately 12 children between the ages of 10 and 15, mostly older children.  They are all Christians and love to sing and play Christian music.  We had lunch with them and then put on a very short program since they had to get back to school.  You could tell the children were well raised and taught Christian values and beliefs.

 Our final ministry was to another neighborhood school that we have sponsored for the last 7 or 8 years.  They have a new couple that received their seminary degrees from a school in India.  Their primary objective is to start a church in the neighborhood while continuing to teach the students at the neighborhood school.  There were 10 students present between the ages of 8 and 13, 7 girls and 3 boys.  These children while all Buddhists knew the bible well, sang Christian songs, and prayed with us.  You could tell by their faces and actions that they were appreciative of us being there.

The team as a whole did very well.  They loved the interaction with the children and thoroughly enjoyed the day, even though it was very long.  During dinner some were trying to stay awake, so we left a little early and everyone went to bed for a good night sleep.

Blessings,

Reed

First Day

Hi Everyone,
After 35.5 hours we finally arrived in Yangon, Myanmar and checked into our hotel around 10:30 am. JFYI, Myanmar is 11.5 hours ahead of Austin, Texas. Except for the baggage issues we had at the Austin and Houston airports our trip went fine. Sherwood who came in from Japan arrived yesterday at 7:30 pm. All team members arrived safely and are looking forward to starting our mission trip tomorrow morning.

After checking into our hotel some of the team members went shopping for last minute program supplies and to get some of our money converted into Myanmar kyats. After they organized the program supply bags for the ministries for the next few days. While all this was going on, I met with Gilbert, Christopher, TiTi, the Burmese nationals who work with us, along with the Luther Law Firm on getting our organizations non governmental organization’s license. We have been working on this project for the past few years. I think we have found a law firm in Yangon that can help us achieve this objective.

That evening we had dinner with the team and some of our Burmese friends.

Tomorrow our ministry begins by visiting two neighborhood schools and Elisha’s orphanage.

Please pray that the team is rested and refreshed for tomorrow’s ministry, and the children tomorrow who are primarily Buddhists are receptive to our program.

Blessings,
Reed