Pillars of the church

‘I’m in the Birmese church in Khon Kaen again. The number of members is always changing. Because of the bad labour conditions, people are leaving all the time. And quite regularly, new people are coming to the Lord. Right now, we have about twenty people in the church.

Building up leadership is a challenge with a shifting population. For me it is hard to contribute much. None of the Birmese Christians can speak English or Thai, so often I have to work with a Buddhist translater. This time however, two Birmese pastors are visiting. We try to find out who now are the central people in the church, who make sure that the church keeps meeting faithfully every Sunday.

It soon becomes apparent that two young women of twenty years of age, Mya and Nu, play an important role. They are quietly sitting in a corner on the floor. A girl of thirteen from a Buddhist family leans against their legs. Mya and Nu invited her to church, and on weekdays they tell her about Christ. They are visiting the other Christians in the factory and encourage them to go to church.

The first thing Mya and Nu do when they get their monthly salary of 120 Euro, for which they work 72 hours a week, is to put aside the tithe for the church. 12 Euro per person, every month again, even though the other Christians hardly contribute anything. Now they have saved so much that they can buy a TV and a DVD player for the church. On Sunday morning they now will be able to not just sing and read the Bible, but also watch a DVD with a Birmese sermon. The Birmese pastors have brought a whole stack of DVDs for them. Mya is relieved. She tell that she tries to share something from the Bible with the others, but that it is challenging to her.

Fellow missionary Reinout van Heiningen buys the TV and DVD player for them, because the Birmese hardly dare to leave the factory. It feels awkward to buy this with money that these poor people have saved bit by bit. But we decide it is better to allow them the joy to take care of themselves rather than to depend on our charity.

So they don’t get anything from me, Mya and Nu, except the assurance that the body of Christ outside the factory has not forgotten this small church. But I got a lot. Inspiration. An example. Two young women, girls almost, exploited migrant workers, show me what it means to love and serve the Lord.

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