Last evening we said goodbye to the create students, and they began their long journey home. They have been “encountering the world” with empathetic eyes, and the imprint of this pilgrimage will stamp their lives in significant ways. They have kept up an arduous schedule without complaint—at least not to me.
I asked for a time of debriefing with them prior to their departure. In good schoolmarm fashion, I posed questions for their reflection:
1. How do you think you have cultivated respect for the lived religion of others?
2. Where have you sensed the holy?
3. Have you gained any intercultural competency?
4. What has the Spirit stirred in you?
5. What chief insight will you carry back with you?
Their responses were deep and thoughtful as they sought to process religious difference, common humanity, and the wrenching poverty that cannot be kept out of view in Myanmar. They were most impressed by those initiatives in churches as well as monastic communities that were oriented to service.
Our visit to Wai Lu Wun Monastic Education School, which resides in a remote area outside of Bago, was deeply moving. Here a highly educated Buddhist monk has founded a school that educates toward literacy, sustainable farming, ecological practices, and personal responsibility for the future of Myanmar. (They even line up their shoes with precision!) He does this without government assistance; rather, the school depends upon aggressive fundraising and the cooperation of other faith traditions. It is an interfaith pursuit, for they know that big challenges require collaboration.
The monk refers to himself as a gardener, and the children are his flowers. He is making a beautiful garden with young lives entrusted to his care. Not surprising the school is growing rapidly. Our students marveled at the village he had created and saw him as a channel of God’s mercy.
Another aspect of his work is planting a “peaceful monastic forest.” It is a reforestation project, for trees will heal the land, he observes. It is truly peaceful--except for one noisy rooster.
An immersion course like this reminds us all of the importance of opening our hearts to the varied ways God is at work in the world and the unlikely instruments God uses, as some of our preconceptions might conclude. As always, I am grateful for new learning as we encounter the world.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.