Buka Ball

Like most junior high boys forced to sit through a school assembly, I usually did not pay much attention. Instead, I was usually busy thinking about that girl I was too scared to talk to or the homework assignment I should have done the night before. However, for some reason, there is one assembly I remember.

A group had come to demonstrate a sport they were hoping to make big in the United States. It involved kicking a ball woven out of bamboo over a net. It was like volleyball using the feet. It was called Buka Ball.

Although I was never coordinated enough to actually play the game, I remember thinking how cool the ball was.

Two days ago I was walking through a staging market in Bagan. In the midst of feeling overwhelmed by the hundreds of vendors, something caught my eye. It was a ball woven out of bamboo. It was a Buka Ball!

I had to buy it. And, after a little bartering, I became the proud owner of the ball I had first seen sixteen years ago.

I hurried back to the bus, put away my bag, and set out to take revenge of my formerly uncoordinated self. It was time to show eighth-grade Chris how it’s done.

Unfortunately, I am still clumsy. My Buka Ball skills have not improved. In fact, might even be worse. But something far more exciting happened. Something far more inspiring…

As I began kicking the ball around, one of my classmates joined me. Then two guys from the market joined in. Then two cute children joined in. Within minutes we were playing…

We smiled. We laughed. We played.

It was beautiful. All the barriers fell down. We don’t speak the same language. We don’t follow the same customs. We live on opposites sides of the globe. But we knew exactly what to do. We knew how to play.

I have seen a lot of amazing things this week. I have stood at the foot of a fifty-foot gold statue. I have climbed up the side of a mountain to a 900-year old temple. I have seen some of the world’s wonders. Maybe it is the new father in me, but this was the most beautiful of them all.

God used a Buka Ball to connect his children.

Who knew a junior high school assembly in Illinois could create such a moment in Myanmar?

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My Experience:

Thawng Hnin Zam


My name is Thawng Hnin Zam. I come from Chin State in the most western part of Myanmar, near the border with India. Presently, I am serving as the Principal of the Union Theological College, a member of the Association for Theological Education in South East Asia. I received a B.Th. degree in Madras, India, as well as a B.D. (Bachelors of Divinity) from Serampore University, also in India.

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