2015 Myanmar – Jane Cho

Freedom and Joy Await

The joy of the Lord is my strength – Nehemiah 8:10

New Philadelphia Church commissioned 11 people to serve the Lord in Myanmar from January 30 through February 6. I was one of the 11, and had the honor of serving as the team leader. With three months of preparatory training, our team saw God’s faithfulness in every city we travelled and every service we led. For most of us, our understanding of Myanmar came in broad strokes from articles, books, and documentaries without any previous understanding of the Burmese people. But God faithfully revealed areas of need and highlighted areas of hope wherever we went. Our team worked in sync day and night; in laughter we spent our days, and in love we saw the sun set. An afternoon didn’t pass where we weren’t connecting with God’s heart in collective ways, and with the community of my team, I experienced heavenly joy in Myanmar.

Our team went from Yangon, the captial city, to Mandalay, a quieter city via a domestic flight. Immediate changes in the team members’ health woke us up to the difference in spiritual atmosphere. We geared up our spiritual tongues to warfare, and as we did, God refocused our attention to simply worship Him. Furthermore, we could sense that God desired for our team to remain fully unified. That evening in Mandalay, I shared my personal testimony. I spoke about creating a love with my father and the difficulties of initiating it. I had written out the lyrics to a song that had significantly spoken to me, and nearing the end of my testimony, I contemplated singing the song. I kept the idea open until the very end, but lost the confidence, and decided to close with a “thank you for listening.” I felt a pain of regret knowing I had missed a special opportunity. Oddly, no one clapped afterwards, and our team preacher didn’t accept my ending. She mouthed to me, “That’s it? You’re not done.” I immediately took this second window of opportunity, and boldly started to sing, excusing myself with the disclaimer of not being a good vocalist. My voice was trembling, but my team members who were all scattered in the pews began to sing with me. I felt extremely supported, and went into the next verse dancing with the mic in hand. I was having so much fun doing something that I had never dared before. Before I knew it, I needed to wrap up the song, except I didn’t know how the tune ended! I kept singing, trusting that I would land it, but my voice abruptly went from in-tune to completely out of tune, surprising myself and giving everyone a good laugh! I hurried to my seat, but rather than feeling fully embarrassed, I instead felt so free! I, for once, didn’t care about what was at personally stake, but cared more about bringing joy and freedom.

That evening, our team preacher delivered a message on Isaiah 43: 18-19, which exhorts us to forget the former things because God is doing a new thing! Pastor Myunghwa said, “You are who you worship.” For me, I was worshipping safety in my identity and not freedom in Christ. Many people in the congregation responded to the message and experienced the Holy Spirit’s fire and joy. A woman was rolling on the ground laughing, and later said God was showing her a vision of the future of Myanmar. There was nothing particularly funny about the vision, but where there is freedom for a nation, it cannot help but be coupled with joy and laughing! Our team saw tangible oneness in the congregation and significant progress from New Philadelphia’s last missions trip to this area in 2009.

At the end of the evening on our van ride back to the hotel, and for the duration of the trip, my team poked fun at my song, and we laughed and laughed at the expense of my horrible singing skills. I was reminded of a time when I was young and loved to perform in front of people, but how family brokenness and fear entered, leaving me very introspective and self-conscious. I had been governed by my emotional scars and lived only in partial freedom because I had tolerated the presence of pain. In a similar light, idols prevail in Myanmar and churches are accepting partial freedom by tolerating its prevalence. It was in this way that our team preacher was challenging to the people with Isaiah’s cry. With regards to their (former) idol worship: Will you believe for a Myanmar that is new in Jesus Christ?

God desires to bring full freedom to Myanmar. For decades, Myanmar has been filled with idols, in nearly every direction. Spirituality is engrained in their culture, so whether they are worshipping Buddha or generic spirits, people are accustomed to praying and believing in higher realms. The danger of this is that Jesus can likewise be mistaken for another spiritual sensation amidst all their concurrent beliefs. I went to Myanmar knowing the Truth of the gospel, because Jesus had set me free, and because He continues to do so. The people of Myanmar cannot merely apply spirituality onto Jesus, otherwise Jesus will be made into a mere religion. I ask you to join me in praying for our fellow believers in Myanmar to stand on solid Truth, to exemplify faith in Jesus as Life rather than a religious remedy. God loves the people of Myanmar, and He is doing a new thing in this nation!

I experienced freedom in Myanmar while sharing my testimony, and immense joy with my team’s community. God brought us 11 strangers together and we bonded in our prayers, our support, and our laughter. Up until this trip, I hadn’t fully realized I was not walking in full freedom, but rather wondered why I didn’t have substantial joy in my spirit. But I realize now that I was looking for a solitary joy, thinking it was just between God and me. But God faithfully came through for our team, for Myanmar, and specifically for me in one moment. From an out-of-tune performance, I let go of my need to control my security, in exchange for a faith that never fails. I was able to see the same freedom and joy breaking out in the congregation we had ministered to that same evening. An entire congregation and all of my team members witnessed my freedom, followed with days of joyous unity. God desires many things for us, and sometimes it happens quietly one by one, but other times, multiple breakthroughs occur simultaneously with people around to celebrate with you! Now, I hold firm to the word in Nehemiah 8:10: The joy of the Lord is my strength.

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