I am so excited for you all to read this blog post today! You are about to be graced with the story of a woman who I am honoured to call one of my dearest friends! I am so grateful that Anicka agreed to write a post for Beauty in the Storm about the opportunity she got to go to Myanmar in Southeast Asia. Even while she was there, and we communicated, my heart was once again stirred with a longing for the world to see and know Jesus, her joy and enthusiasm are contagious! Anicka is a absolute born writer and I love reading her work. I hope you all are as blessed and challenged by this post as I was when I read through it. Open your heart and enjoy the story that is to come!
I️ lay on my bed in the hotel room, my thoughts swirling. This isn’t how it was supposed to be. I️ wasn’t supposed to feel this way. So unsettled and unsure and scattered. Here I️ was, literally as far away from home as someone can get, and how I️ felt it! I️ was ashamed. All my life I️ had proudly told people, “I️ want to be a missionary when I’m older.” I was confident. Overseas? Of course, anything for the Kingdom.
I️ felt like I️ was eating those words as I️ ended my first day in the city of Yangon, Myanmar. The food, the oppressive heat, the crowded streets, the poverty and pagan worship, the smells. It all repulsed me. I️ wondered if I️ would be able to even eat anything on this trip. Outside our hotel window, a chorus of chanting monks played over the loudspeakers. We had arrived in the middle of a three-day Buddhist festival, it went on and on and on. Through the night- how was anyone within a mile able to sleep I️ wondered? I️ felt like the Lord brought me low that night. “Culture shock” became a real thing to me. I️n pride I️ thought that I️ was strong enough spiritually to gracefully undergo any change in my environment. But now- I️ despaired of even being useful to the mission team. How would I️ be able to overcome such distractions and actually enter into effective ministry?
I know this is all a little melodramatic but bear with me. I️ managed to sleep that night (although jet lag had me wide awake at 4:30 in the morning) and I️ tried to put on a brave face. We had cold eggs and stir-fry for breakfast (compliments of the continental break downstairs) and stepped out into the scathing humidity.
We arrived at the seminar, located in an old church with soaring ceilings and a velvet-curtained stage. It had seen better days, probably had its prime when the British still ruled. The paint was peeling and there was moss crawling up the outer walls. We climbed out of the van and immediately I was struck by the music I️ could hear pounding out the windows and down the sidewalk. A handful of students took our baggage and escorted us to the sanctuary. Inside we were greeted by the sight of hundreds of beautiful young adults worshipping God in their mother tongue. In that instant, I️ was overcome. Their voices, raw and abandoned somehow caused the discomfort and strangeness of my surroundings to melt away. It sounded like heaven. Tears sprung to my eyes and I️ was caught up in the divine fellowship of the Spirit and the Bride worshiping Jesus. I️ worshipped as best I️ could (not knowing any of the songs or melodies) and felt so much gratitude and awe springing up in my soul. My heart change was so drastic that day that my dad took direct notice. It was night and day difference.
No longer was I️ unnerved by the disparity between this country and my own, instead, I️ grew to appreciate that which made us different. I️ looked for beauty in the crowded streets and messy sidewalks. I️ saw that the believers were my family, even though I️ could not speak their language and our love had to be expressed through simple conversational English and a warm smile. I️ felt at home because the Spirit in them was the same in me. I️ have never been so welcomed or honoured as I️ was in that country. What they lack in wealth they easily make up for in hospitality. They are a people rich in generosity. It might be unoriginal to say so; almost everyone who goes on a missions trip comes back declaring the same things:
“They worship so powerfully.”
“They’re so poor but they give freely.”
“They have no material possessions but they are so joyful.”
I️ know, I️ know. You’ve heard it before. And I️ understand that you have to actually experience it personally to really feel the full effect. But in all reality, there’s a reason people keep commenting the same things about foreign Christians. It’s truly remarkable how the things we deem important in North America become petty and hollow when you discover genuine contentment in the midst of poverty.
It was such an honour to bring the word of God to these precious believers. They had incredible zeal and passion for the Lord but limited resources and training left them lacking in biblical knowledge. We imparted the truths we knew and they shared the fire they possessed and it was such a time of filling each other up. And when words ran dry on our part, the Holy Spirit made up the difference.
I️ remember one sweltering Sunday evening we were sitting in the upper room of a bible college. The windows were wide open but there was no breeze to bring relief. I️ was sitting in the back of the room (I️ admit I️ was checked out, totally not paying attention to the speaker) when suddenly the leader gets up and I️ assume he’s going to close the service. Instead, he says, “sister Anicka, would you please come and share with us?” I️ was stunned. I️ stayed glued to my seat for a moment, my thoughts had been a million miles away- I️ wasn’t even close to being focused on the Lord or his word! I️ got up slowly and walked down the aisle, all eyes were on me. I was totally stalling for time. I️ cast a glance at my dad and mouthed, “I️ don’t know what I’m doing!” No sympathy. His amused look seemed to say, “Get up there and do it!” So I️ stepped onto the stage and began.
Thank God for translators because everything takes twice as long to say and my brain had time to think in between the opening greetings. It was a little shaky at the start, I️ flipped through my bible on the pulpit and told them how blessed I️ was to be there and all that, desperately trying to think of something, anything to say. And somehow the Holy Spirit picked up where I️ left off and I️ actually wound up preaching a sermon on spiritual warfare and the tactics of the enemy. This is not to brag about myself. Believe me, in my own strength I’d have been completely frozen and wouldn’t have gotten two sentences out. But He is so gracious to me and enabled me to remember and speak out of my own history and experiences with Him! There were many other times on the trip when my precious best friend, the Spirit of God, came to my rescue. He’s so kind and compassionate. He doesn’t merely tolerate us in our weakness and immaturity, he delights in us and rejoices over us!
I️ guess there’s too much to share for this little blog post. Of all the encouragement, the new experiences, the laughter, the tears- what would be an adequate way to summarize my time in Myanmar? I’m just so thankful that the same God who broods over that nation, with a heart of fiery zeal and tenderness is the one who dwells in the inside of me. He is the same Father, the same Friend. I pray that his love would always be the driving force that compels us to works of justice and compassion. And that no matter where we go we would find the fellowship of the Spirit and the body.
Grace and peace to all y’all.