Here are a couple of my experiences/lessons over the past few weeks. I pray you are blessed. :)
I sat there on a mat behind a bench that is used as a desk, listening to a tale of joy and pain. The girl was small, not even coming to my shoulder. As she spoke and Hannah Steck translated, emotions flickered across her sweet face. She told of thankfulness to God and of a transformation in her life. Her smile could not be contained here.
Then K' Mwee Paw told of something else... Something deep, moving, that reached right down into my heart. She told of pain-a pain that obviously hurt very much, though she still managed a painful smile every now and then. What was this great hurt that she now spoke of? Home-going home for visits. Yes, that thing that should have been a joyous event was filled with sorrow and hurt. You see, she is one of many students who's parents are, or at least were at one time, against their children's new-found religion. They are Buddhist, as are many people in this country.
She told of how her mother would try to get her to take the offerings to the temple. She knew she shouldn't, and she didn't want to-but the pressure was great, and she gave in. On her way, she somehow tripped or dropped the gift, much to her relief. She told her mother it was a sign God did not want her to take it.
Another time, some monks came to their house while she was home. Her mother asked her to set out the mat for them and do some other things for them (the monks are worshiped by the people). She ignored her mother and did not do it, so her mother eventually did it herself. The girl went to her bedroom until the visitors had left. Her mother was not happy because of this.
Often when she disobeyed while trying to follow God at home, she would be punished. Her punishment? No food.
Her brother and mother would often say things that hurt her very much. There was a constant pressure to give in to temptation. She told of several times where she gave in, against her conscience.
As K' Mwee Paw spoke of her painful situations, she had to pause to hold back the tears more than once. My heart went out to her as I listened to her desire to do right, her temptations to do wrong, her desire for her family to love Jesus. I couldn't help but think, What do I face compared with this? How would I hold up under that kind of pressure? Would my love for my family get in the way of my love for Jesus?
This precious girl, so young and sensitive, has endured a lot for her faith already. And yet, every time I go to Grade 5 class, or meet her on a path, or see her washing laundry, etc. under our house, her cheery smile and "Good morning/wah lah ghay/good afternoon/hah lah ghay, Teacher," always brightens my day and brings a smile to my own face. My prayer is that I am as K' Mwee Paw through difficult, painful times. "Persecuted," but remembering I am "not forsaken. Cast down, but not destroyed." A cheerful light no matter what pain God has allowed or is allowing me to face. Thanking God for trials, for pain-for they are what help me grow in Christ.
It was a beautiful Sabbath. The sun was shining and the dying leaves turning brown and falling to the browning grass. Today was a special day. Not only because it was Sabbath, but because whoever was left at the school during the break between terms was going to the Mae Salit church not far from the school to take part in their communion service. We all piled into various vehicles and headed off to the church with wind blowing in our faces.
Once the car stopped, we walked the short distance up the hill from the car to the little church. The church service started with the loud ringing of a bell, and then hearty singing by nearly everyone but me (I still cannot read Karen well enough to sing with them). I sang the tune with them, singing the few words I remembered here and there. There was no breaking up for Sabbath School because of communion, and the sermon was not as long as others have been.
When the sermon was finished, we all filed outside for footwashing. The ladies did it first while the men sang, and then the ladies sang while the men had their turn. As I wondered who to be partners with, I looked at Chit Chit Win (pronounced 'Chee Chee Way'), a usually giggly girl who was standing near me. "You want to do with me?" I asked. She replied with a nod of agreement and a cheerful, "Yes."
We stood there with one arm around each other until there weren't so many people getting water. She got water in a basin, and we walked under the church, where I sat down and took my shoes off. We prayed together, then I watched as Chit Chit Win knelt in front of me and washed first one foot, then the other, probably better than anyone has ever washed my feet. How much more meaningful was this experience, as my feet were not as clean as they would be at a church in America. When she was finished, she went to get more water, not me. We prayed once more, and then I was the one who knelt to wash the dark feet in front of me.
Back inside the church, we finished the service with the bread and fake grape juice. It was a solemn, beautiful Sabbath that I hope to always remember. I pray I will at least remember the lesson of humbling myself in the sight of the Lord-that I am no more loved or important to God then anyone else-that to be a servant is real joy. Though we are all different, we are all equally loved by God.
I counted it a privilege to experience this with Chit Chit Win. Please keep her in your prayers. She looks down on herself a lot and is not really happy inside. She smiles, giggles, and jokes often, but she has said more than once that she is sad inside. She also hangs on me a lot and wants to be with me constantly. I pray I can reach her with Jesus' love and be patient with her.