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Wisdom & Grace: Asia Bound: Hong Kong and Myanmar


Last updated 3/2/2020 at 8:43am

Couertesy photo

People ride a scooter, common in Myanmar.

23,388 Miles

• Plus: 22 Days

• Plus: Six Airports

• Plus: 12 Planes

• Plus: 28 Amazing, Awesome Students

• Plus: Wonderful Co-worker and Four Astounding Professors

• Plus: No Sickness or Illness

• Plus: Answered Prayer upon Answered Prayer upon Answered Prayer

• Equals: One Old Lady's life that has been changed forever!

The above pretty much sums up my recent trip to Myanmar and Hong Kong. Truly my life has been changed. I am so grateful for those who supported me financially and prayerfully. I traveled to Hong Kong by myself and met up with 40-year veteran missionary Linda Gudahl Smyth. We taught "Christian Ethics" from 9 a.m. to noon, broke for lunch, and then taught again from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. for two weeks. The students were absolutely wonderful, so attentive, and so appreciative.

Faith Theological Seminary is located in Myitkyina, a city of 200,000 residents. It is about 600 miles north of the capital city of Yangon (population 7.36 million). Besides being located on the beautiful Irrawaddy River, Myitkynia is an amazing city. It is very clean; the food was delicious and our accommodations were excellent. The most amazing thing to me was the traffic. Scooters and motorcycles outnumbered cars 100:1 (or at least it seemed to me). As many as four people would squeeze onto the seat of a scooter, usually with the person in the back, sitting side saddle. What a sense of balance that must take!

During the time I was there, I never saw a stop light in the city of 200,000 residents. There were pedestrians crossing the streets everywhere. Despite the congestion and the speed, there were no accidents that I saw. I believe this is due to the nature of the Burmese: kind, gentle, considerate.

90 percent of the population is Buddhist. At least in Myitkyina, Christians are free to worship and practice their lifestyle and worship God.

The Wun Twap Hotel was our residence for the two weeks we were there. The Myanmar government does not allow visitors to stay in private homes. For whatever reason this is, it helps the economy. Breakfast was served at the Hotel and we always had a delicious lunch at Faith Theological Seminary. Most of the time, we just snacked in the evenings. A driver would pick us up each morning and return us to our hotel in the late afternoon. We spent the evenings preparing for next day's class including a daily test that was required by the university system.

We were treated to some sightseeing on the Saturday between our two weeks of classes. The first stop was the Irrawaddy River. It flows from north to south for 1,348 miles. It is long, wide and beautiful. Looking over the bridge we could see numerous boats with large hoses coming out of them. "The boats used to use the hoses to syphon up the river bed and were looking for gold. They are not allowed to do that anymore. The government says."

Next our Saturday sightseeing took us to the amber merchants where we found tables filling the area the size of a basketball court. Amber is a beautiful golden clear stone that is most often used in jewelry. For my daughters, I purchased four amber filled pillows that are supposed to help with pain and headaches. They were a hit.

From there we headed north about 25 miles to a beautiful spot closer to the mountains. Bamboo covered huts lined each side of the river where young and old people swam and rafted. Two of the college professors were our hosts. They ordered food from one of the many concessionaires which we would eat in one of the huts.

Soon groups of children came by trying to sell us the food their parents had made. They were persistent but we did not purchase anything primarily because their food was very, very spicy hot. Our hosts explained, "These children probably do not go to school and get an education. From the time they can walk and talk they are needed to sell the family's wares to tourists." They went on their way, obviously disappointed.

Then a boy probably about 6 or 7 years came by alone. "Please, please buy my food," he begged, "Please."

Our hosts tried to explain that we had already ordered. But the boy continued, "Please. My family needs money. My mother says I can't return home until I sell something. Please, please buy something. My family needs you to."

How do you say "No" to that? We couldn't and so we gave in. It was the most delicious thing I ate while in Myanmar. Not because of the taste but because it feels good when you do what is right. I will never forget that day ... or that boy.

It may not be on the mountain height

Or over the stormy sea

It may not be on the battle's front

My Lord will have need of me

But if, by a still, small voice he calls

To paths that I do not know

I'll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine

I'll where you want me to go

I'll go where you want me go, dear Lord

Over mountain or plain or sea

I'll say what you want me to say dear Lord

I'll be what you want me to be.


Ila McClenahan is a retired chaplain and activity director living north of Havre in the Amos Community where she was raised. She spends her time speaking for Christian events, volunteering for community organizations, and chauffeuring grandkids.


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