How far would you travel to preach the Bible?

30 May 2017

In Myanmar, two Langham Preaching trainers push the limits.

 

Chris Wright reports on a visit in February.

It was a hot and sleepy afternoon. I had been teaching all morning, and to be honest, it would have been easy to doze off. But not when I started hearing what two of those in the room were planning to do.

Three happy MDiv graduates on MEGST Graduation Day.

I was in Yangon, Myanmar, spending a week at the Myanmar Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (MEGST), leading up to their Graduation Day. Each morning I was teaching on their “Mission Emphasis Week.”  But in the same week, Langham Preaching was holding a seminar of Training for Trainers with a group of men and women who have been through four years of Langham seminars and are now being trained to teach others at Level 1. I joined them on the Wednesday afternoon, shared a word of encouragement with them from Psalm 33, and then settled down to listen as each shared with the group what they were doing and planning in their training exercises. That’s when I sat up.

“I and my brother here will be leaving next month to conduct a Langham Preaching event for a week in the far north of the country,” said one of them.[1] “It is a very mountainous region, but there are Christian villages, and pastors from about 60 churches will be gathering. We will take two flights to the nearest city. Then we travel for two days on rented motorbikes (the roads can’t take four-wheelers). And then another two days hiking on foot (with the help, we hope, of porters if we can hire them).”  I was astounded, and asked a few questions to make sure I’d got those facts right.  After that they will teach for a week, and then make that journey home again. It felt like the journeys of the Apostle Paul in mountainous Turkey (well, without the planes and motorbikes). But for them, it just seemed very matter of fact. Those remote churches and pastors needed the Word of God as much as any city church, so they would go and teach them – and this would be their second visit.

Esther and Aung Htoo, Anna Hluan, Mary and Ronald Laldinsuah, Langham Scholars in Myanmar.

It had been ten years since my last visit to Myanmar. I visited each year from 2004-2007 to help establish a Langham Preaching movement in co-operation with Crosslinks’ School of Bible Teaching, at the HQ of the Anglican Church in Yangon. That work continues mainly supported by Crosslinks. Meanwhile, another Langham initiative has been running for the past several years with wider denominational participation and now under the national leadership of Country Co-ordinators Sein Kyi and his wife Ruby, whom I met. This is the group now training trainers for further encouraging multiplication, with the oversight of the new Regional Co-ordinator for Langham Preaching in Asia, Phil Nicholson.

Chris Wright with Esther and Aung Htoo

 Meanwhile, back at MEGST, more encouragements. In 2005 I met a young Pentecostal pastor at the second Langham Preaching seminar we held, Aung Htoo. He was a graduate of MEGST and very keen to do further study. He and his young wife Esther and their godly parents treated me to a very special meal in their little home. To cut a long story short, after helping him achieve his MTh in Korea, he was accepted as a Langham Scholar in New Zealand, and now, twelve years since I first met him, he has just submitted his PhD dissertation and awaits his viva. His research involved a biblical critique of the political philosophies of non-violence, comparing Martin Luther King and Aung San Su Kyi – the renowned lady who during those years was a prisoner in Myanmar but is now the President!  Aung Htoo is now teaching theology on the faculty of MEGST, having returned to Myanmar with Esther and three lovely children.

Two other remarkable Scholars are also there:  Ronald Laldinsuah, with his wife Mary, who did his PhD in Melbourne and has published his dissertation on Hosea as a Langham Monograph, and is now Academic Dean; and Anna Hluan, who also did her doctorate in New Zealand, and whose husband Henry, after entering politics, has been chosen by Aung San Su Kyi as Vice President of Myanmar – the first ever who is from an ethnic minority and a Christian.

We are well aware, of course, that the country still has major challenges and severe religious and ethnic unrest in places. But there is encouragement and hope in meeting such faithful teachers of the next generation of pastors and leaders in a city seminary, and in praying for men who will hike through the mountains to teach the Bible to remote rural pastors. The Word of God will do its work.

[1] Their names and photos and the specific region are withheld for their security.

Chris Wright with the Training for Trainers group in Myanmar.

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