There are over 18 inches of snow on the ground, and I'm braving the slushy winter elements on the hunt for “summer weight” pants. The retail stores have not quite anticipated my demand for the lightest khaki material I can find to modestly cover my knees in the 100 degree climate of Yangon. The slovenly American garb of cargo shorts has been discouraged among our Burmese hosts.
As I have been preparing a list and checking it twice before packing for every medical and digestive contingency on our trek to Myanmar, planning to weigh my “American Tourister” suitcase ahead of time in order to keep it just light enough to avoid additional travel fees, I am reminded of Jesus' words in Luke 9:3: “Take nothing for the journey, no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic...” Along a similar vein encouraging faith and trust, Matthew 6:25-26, “... do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear...” I wonder if Adoniram Judson packed protein supplements in his steamer trunk 200 years ago!
Could we, (could I?), ever be so bold as the pioneering missionary, who more than two centuries ago sensed God's call to proclaim the gospel to a people who had never heard of Christ in a faraway place? Judson's first trip to Burma was as audacious and exotic as a journey beyond the moon. Could we now be so strong and courageous, to enter into relationship with people in new ways, opening ourselves to God's Spirit, trusting not in our technology or any of the comforts we can fit into a backpack, but instead trusting in God leading the way, and in the hospitality of the stranger? Perhaps it isn't for the journey around the globe that I need strength and courage for; perhaps it is for the steps toward neighbors and strangers right here that I could be in relationship with, could be sharing and living faith, hope and love with, if only I took the first step.
I am looking forward to the adventure, excited for the itinerary, hopeful for productive and revelatory dialogue with our Burmese peers in the classroom. I am concerned about my family while I am gone, including the church as it continues to journey toward Palm Sunday and Holy Week in my absence.
I am thankful for those who have made it financially possible to participate in this trip, including friends and family as well as Journey Community, First Baptist of Topeka, First Baptist of North Platte, and the Luce Foundation grant to Central. I am ready to go to a place I have never been, and I am ready to return changed, renewed, and transformed by the experience.
And God is with us on the journey...
Rev. Wallace Smith