Myanmar 2012

This is the "thank you" letter for the trip my mom and I made to Myanmar in October of 2012.  You can read more about the origin of the trip in the post "My Mother. Myanmar. Teddy Bears."

From Stephanie:

I would like to express my thanks to all of you who made the trip to Burma possible. This was both my first mission trip and my first visit to a third world country. The trip was rewarding and challenging in the same breath. In my head, I had one idea about the trip and what would be expected.

Before we left, I was asked to prepare a presentation on disease prevention and CPR for tribal leaders and people who were in charge of children's homes. Sounds simple enough for someone with a medical background and who teaches CPR (especially since I recently completed training in all of the recent changes for CPR). Disease prevention should be common sense, considering the major illnesses were either caused by contaminated food and water or by insects. So I had prepared to the best of my ability and was prepared to share what I knew.

The idea and the reality soon had a crash, more like a head on collision. It was not just the language barrier (I had a wonderful interpreter), but the understanding level and the culture in which they live. The homes in Myanmar are over water which is used for everything: fishing, drinking and bathing. They don't have the facilities or equipment to boil water and cook their food on a hot pan over coal. I was trying to bring them 21st century medicine but their cultural norm was more on the level of early 1800s'. So I found myself trying to give them the simplest ways to do simple things like reduce a high fever. But we did have interesting moments, including teaching them the Heimlich maneuver and how to find a pulse: show and tell works well in those times and Regina was a good mannequin and moral support.

Having said that, the people of Burma were wonderful and giving. Not only did they give their love to us, they also shared their lives and struggles with us. It's hard when you think you are going to give them something special and you are greeted with smiles, gifts and a meal simply because they were happy we were there to share the love of God with them. I was also surprised at how well they knew English. All I knew in Burmese was "hello" and "thank you" and poorly at that. Their joy was as contagious as was their smiles. This was true in both Yangon and Mandalay.

Mandalay is the first place that I've ever been to where I had to be careful on what I said about God and my faith. This was especially true when we went to the palace of the last king of Burma. We also had to be careful on where we went. The children who stayed on the grounds of the church in Mandalay were interesting in that the first day we would only catch glimpse of them running between the buildings. Toward the end of the week they were out playing with smiles on their faces and waving at us as we can and left the grounds.

There were people in both cities that I will never forget.

The team was made up of wonderful people from all across the US and India, and each member of the team made the trip memorable in special ways and I made friendships that will be kept for a long time. But the person I'm most grateful for is Regina. I was blessed to have her with me not just because she is my daughter, but also for the wonderfully gifted person she is. Her music and computer skills were put to very good use on more than one occasion. I always marvel at how much music she stores in her head.

So was it what I was expecting? Not at all. In some ways it was less than my expectations, but in it was bigger and better in others.

Would I go again given the time and money to do so? Absolutely.

So to all of you who made this a reality, “Thank you” from the bottom of my heart.

Blessings to all,

From Regina:

Words cannot express how grateful I am for the support you gave toward our Myanmar mission trip. Your overwhelming generosity not only provided for our expenses, but allowed us to give tangible blessings to the people of Myanmar as well.

Because of your giving, we were able to buy gifts for each of the places we visited: clothes, coloring books, colored pencils, and most importantly (to the kids) soccer balls! We were also able to give a direct financial blessing (the rough equivalent of a month’s salary) to each of the homes, and to the pastor who did all the leg work that made our visits possible. That amount will go a long way to providing for the needs of these children, and the amazing people who care for them. Thank you for investing in us and for making it possible for us to invest in others.

    Agape Children’s Home                   The Village of Dela

    May May Lwin’s Home                     New Life Children’s Home

    The Orphans of Paradise Church       The Village of Tuuchaung

    Pastor Robin Kung

Yet, for as much as we gave, we somehow got so much more. Forgive my geek-dom, but an exchange between Gandalf and Bilbo from the Hobbit comes to mind.

Gandalf: You'll have a tale or two to tell when you come back.
Bilbo: You can promise that I will come back?
Gandalf: ...No. And if you do, you will not be the same.

Oh how true that is! This trip was special not just because I got to share it with my mother, but because it touched my heart in a very deep way. I’ve heard that “the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.” I think I’ve discovered mine. I am profoundly grateful, and have been forever changed.

Humbly yours,

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