I was happy to return to the Ywama Baptist Church today, a generative and hospitable congregation. The church is considering making me an honorary member, and the membership secretary promises to let Prairie Baptist know that I really am in church when away.
Ywama is the hosting church for the medical clinic that does remarkable ministry. They see between 8 and 10 thousand people a year and the annual budget is $16,400. The doctors and nurses are volunteers; only the persons who clean up the clinic receive compensation. As you may recall, they can treat a person for approximately a dollar, which is why friends and churches always send some money with me to share in this ministry. It has been duly delivered.
The clinic director, Dr. Chitwee, had a few minutes between patients to talk about the role of personal care in medical treatment. When patients sense a deep empathy from doctors or nurses, there is an enhanced therapeutic effect. His gentle ways and capacity to enter into the suffering of others is a significant part of his treatment, and many come to this clinic simply because of the dignity they are afforded. Approximately 100 persons are seen each Sunday.
When I participate in worship that is not my mother tongue, I am always interested in the forms and dimensions I can enter. Singing old familiar hymns is one way, and I find myself dredging up hymns sung in my childhood at my home church. It is a good exercise to remember those old beloved gospel songs with their familiar refrains. I cannot remember the last time I sang “Take the Name of Jesus with You” or “Hear Ye the Master Say, Give Me Thy Best.” With orchestral accompaniment, we sang with fervor and joy.
As the congregation prays the Lord’s Prayer, I can voice the English version, although I get through much more quickly than the more lengthy Burmese. Their words seem to be much longer. For instance to say “hi” is Ming-el-e-ba, a much lengthier greeting! When pastoral prayers are offered, I can bring to mind those persons for whom I am interceding as well as pour out thanks for the opportunity to share in the life of this congregation on regular occasions.
The offering becomes even more important as I join with the members to sustain the ministry of the church. At least I feel more confident of my participation. This morning there were two offerings, however, and for what purposes I did not understand. Thankfully I had saved some kyat for the second round. (Once in a second cycle of offering at an African-American church, I had to put in an IOU).
It seemed fitting on this International Women’s Day to share Sunday lunch with Dr. Mary Thein, a Kayin woman. Calling herself a “rebel” in keeping with her ethnic heritage, she was the visionary founder of the clinic and its first medical director. A revered elder in the congregation, she remains an eager learner of the ways of Christ. She rightly knows that healing in all its forms is ingredient to faithful witness.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.