Tomorrow we will visit the Ywama Medical Clinic, housed at the Ywama Baptist Church. In operation for nearly a decade, it is an important outpost for treating a number of continuing health challenges in Myanmar—TB, AIDS, hypertension, diabetes, and prenatal care. Many other conditions are treated there, as well.
On a small sign in the reception area we read: “We treat, but God heals.” In that inscription is contained a wealth of perceptive theology. God works through human instruments to accomplish the divine will on earth. One could almost argue, thus, “if we are not treating, then God is not healing.” God has invited humanity to be a partner in God’s redeeming and healing mission.
Respected women doctors in the church, Dr. Mary and Dr. Lillian, professors and practitioners, dreamed of starting a clinic in their church compound. At first the congregation was resistant, and the church council (comprised of mostly if not all men) said no. Their wives and the good doctors began a quiet but persuasive and compelling case for the clinic. As the story goes, the next time the council met, everybody was for it! Apparently those conversations at home were quite effective, for the clinic started soon thereafter.
The clinic is open on Sunday and Thursday each week, and the medical personnel see approximately 100 people during those timeframes. The phenomenal reality is that they can treat one patient for one dollar. Such a concrete equation is a good incentive for others to help fund their work. Several home churches of our pilgrims have sent money to give this worthy mission. It will be a high honor to represent our congregations in presenting these gifts.
The celebration of the bicentennial of Baptist mission in Burma/Myanmar concludes on Sunday evening with a communion service. A mass choir of 2000 will sing, and I can imagine that the sound levels will further amplify. Singing is a vital part of worship, and I have found the music of the gathering vibrant and edifying.
Later in the evening, we will begin our long journey home. Our group will travel together to Hong Kong and then catch different flights back to the US. All should be home by late Monday; hopefully it will be a good day since we get to live it twice!
With time, I will be able to put into further words the depth of this experience. I am still reflecting on the history that ties Baptists in America with Baptists in Myanmar, and I envision renewed collaboration between them. I pray that the power differential that marked early forays into mission here has ebbed and that we see how interdependent we are in a global context. Even though colonialism is long past, both sides continue to struggle to function as equal partners in Christ’s service.
Molly T. Marshall