Little by little (hurry up and wait), we made our way to Myanmar (Burma) once again. It was surely worth the long flights for we were met with a world class welcoming party! Many of the DMin students based at MIT as well as their faculty director met us at the airport—complete with a sign. It was a lovely gesture, and we are grateful to be among colleagues in ministry who are becoming friends.
It always amazes me that we can circumnavigate the globe as efficiently as we do, arriving not too far apart from Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Boston, and Kansas City, of course. Some of us came through Hong Kong; others flew through Seoul; and one made a stop in Bangkok. We are all here, thankfully.
I am always mindful of how dark it seems when we come into the Yangon International Airport. While the airport is modern and quite functional, we are reminded that Myanmar lags behind in the economic development that makes cities shimmer with light—for good or for bad. Poised on the threshold of greater democracy and economic improvement, this country is expecting tourism to explode in the near future.
Today (Thursday) will be a full schedule, starting early. [I am writing about 4:30 am]. We will visit various Buddhist sites, which helps orient us to the challenges to Christian witness in this land. We will visit a monastic school as well as the Shwedagon Pagoda, the beautiful and historic religious shrine in the heart of the city. No shoes are allowed, so we will begin to toughen our feet a bit. [You recall President Obama’s recent visit there—he was barefoot, also.] With temperatures projected to hover around 100, the thoughts of lingering piles of snow are far from our minds.
In the afternoon we will hear a lecture on Buddhism and visit a meditation center. Our MIT hosts are eager for us to observe with them what shapes so much of life here. Monks are ubiquitous and remain voices of conscience. Without formal political power, they demonstrate moral courage and concern for the dignity of all.
Se we begin our pilgrimage with grateful hearts. Your prayers will sustain us through our days here.
Molly T. Marshall