Driving a long haul in Myanmar is an arduous process. The driver has many fellow travelers, and making space for one another is a delicate balance of aggression and giving way. The horn is a very useful tool in announcing presence and intention. One who understands what is really at stake in the weaving traffic best navigates the rules of the road. I am very content to be a passenger!
Alongside the road are grazing water buffaloes, children walking in their bright school uniforms, small shops teeming with water melons and other local produce, shrines with blaring music inviting devotees to worship, and numerous bus stops. The traveler observes fish farms and duck farms, rice in its many stages from planting to harvest, working bullocks pulling carts, winnowing with ancient tools in process, and the occasional gathering of villagers in the fields, consulting about progress or weather, no doubt.
On the road itself is no less interesting; it is filled with an amazing array of things with wheels. There are logging trucks hauling teak or bamboo, motorcycles hauling strips of rubber from the numerous rubber plantations, small trucks crammed full of huge bags of rice, often with folk riding on top, bicycles in every form, with more occupants than one can imagine, huge busses, cars in various states of repair, and then comfortable vans, like ours. Given the competition for space, our travel from Yangon to Mawlamyine took all day. We arrived well after sunset, spent from the harrowing near misses while grateful for our safety.
Today we will travel further south and visit the graves of Ann Judson and the short-lived daughter, Maria, in Amherst. Burying children and spouses was a chief heartache for early missionaries. Even learning of the death of family or colleagues often took at least a month, as was the case when Adoniram learned of his beloved Ann’s death.
The Central pilgrims marvel at the courage and commitment of these Baptist forebears. As we trace their movement around this country they so loved, we give thanks for this heritage. Their life commitment to offering witness to the Gospel in a culture imbued with other religious practices and understanding required an irrevocable sense of calling. Theirs did not waver.
We reflected last evening on their remarkable audacity in founding missionary societies, learning language and customs, and forging enduring alliances with supporters and colleagues. If travel today proves challenging, it is hard to imagine the logistics they faced in making their varied journeys throughout Burma.
Molly T. Marshall