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Ruminating on the mission to Myanmar

aoa 04bVery often, overseas mission participants encounter skeptics who say, "What can you do in a one week mission?" Some mission participants may also have such self-doubts. I think it is necessary for me to clarify and reassure everyone that even in a short one week mission, we, as a body of Christ have touched the lives of many, bringing them joy, happiness, hope and encouragement, through our interaction with the girls in the homes, the kindergarten children, the tuition children, Fr Charles' street children from the slums, the many parents and kids who received medical attention, the families whose houses we rebuilt, the families whom we visited and distributed love parcels, etc.

In tangible terms, we imparted new skills and knowledge to the girls in the homes during English lessons, Ready-For-Work preparation, computer lessons, Catechism sessions, sewing lessons, baking classes and the human trafficking video. It may be only a week of learning but the girls would have been exposed to new possibilities that they can leverage on for continued learning.

Our tangible efforts are also seen in the homes that we have rebuilt or repaired for poor families. You can see the gratitude and joy in their faces when their homes were rebuilt. One family lived in a makeshift shelter nearby while the home was being built and even after the new home was completed, they would not move into it, saying that they must have the house blessed by the priest before moving in. The village home visits and distribution of food and essentials is another tangible effort in improving the lives of needy families. What about the several hundred children and adults whom our doctors attended to, many of whom are Buddhist, including a Buddhist monk?

"This poor man called and the Lord heard him"(Psalm 34:6) Fr Cyril (the old priest who celebrated mass for us) called, on behalf of the poor he was ministering to. Fr Charles called, on behalf of the street children who need to be cared for and educated. Re San, the girl who needed heart surgery called, in the hope of recovery and a better life. Htet-Htet, a girl from a poor family called, in her hope of going to medical school so that she can be a doctor one day. The Lord heard them and led us to respond by raising funds to support their needs. Your love and generosity have fulfilled the words of Scripture.

Is our mission humanitarian or evangelical? The church's mission as spelt out in the Great Commission (Matt 28:16-20) is to spread the Good News and "make disciples of all the nations and baptize them...." Even in the encyclicals on mission, written by the Popes, the mission of the church is clearly evangelical. We may be hampered by culture and language in communicating with the Burmese people but our efforts to support the Sisters and enhance their mission and outreach has been seen by the surrounding communities. In the 2014 mission, Buddhist villagers were passing through the home and saw our participants painting the wall. They remarked to Sr. Margaret that they were surprised that people from a rich country like Singapore would bother to come and help out in this manner. Sr. Margaret shared that she felt so proud of her faith upon hearing that. In 2014, our doctors treated mainly the girls from the homes, kindergarten children and some villagers but seeing this, so many more Buddhist villagers clamored to be attended to by our doctors in 2015. Regardless of their reasons for coming, we are drawing Buddhists into "Christian space", so that they may gradually discover the love of Almighty God. This year, we were told that the children asked Sr. Filo why did we come and whether she paid us to be there? Almost similar questions are being asked by many children in the Cambodia mission – “why would these strangers come from so far away to spend time with me and do all these things to make me happy?“ The sisters would tell them - it is because we care for them and God loves them.

We are encouraged by the words of Mother Teresa - "Not all of us can do great things but we can do small things with great love". Each of us has contributed our small part in the mission but as a Body of Christ, we are like the fruitful vine that has borne much good fruits.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
Gabriel Ong
ACTS Mission Myanmar 2015