Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Missionaries in the history of my refugee friends..

Chin Tribe Women SingingA few weeks back I went to visit the first refugee family I worked with, Chan and Tum and their little daughter Van. For a little background, here's the rundown on refugees in Dallas (I also wrote about this here and here). It's been over a year since I saw them last. They moved apartments and got new phone numbers and I couldn't get in touch with them.

Last month I got a rather garbled phone message and managed to figure out that it was Chan. I called him back and we set up a meeting. It was great to see them again! They've been in the country a few years now. They still have the same jobs but their standard of living has risen. Their apartment is now clean and pretty well set up compared to the barren first apartment I used to visit. They now have TWO cars, both nicer than my own. They've figured out how to buy things on credit, despite my initial strong discouragement about such things.

Their daugther Van (or Boi Hnem, I still haven't figured out what the deal is with the two names) is in public school now and is learning and is great with English. She's also a totally stubborn and spoiled only child! :) Chan and Tum's English is improving and I remembered just how much I love Tum - she's such a sweet and confident woman. I wish I could communicate with her a little better!

I was looking at some enlarged framed photos on their wall and it turns out one of them is from their Chin church here in Dallas. I started asking questions about the church and it sounds great. The pastor has been in the US for years - he first came when he was granted asylum after being in danger in Burma. When Chan and Tum arrived they had a church of under 100 people, mostly new refugees. Just a few years later they said their church is about 600 people! All Chin people from Myanmar. I was amazed to hear that, and to know that there are two other congregations of Chin people in the metroplex (see some photos here). What a great community for new refugees to have! And it really seems like the pastor is great and that this community has really revitalized Chan and Tum's faith.

After I left I googled Chin churches in Dallas and in my research I found a few articles about the death of Robert Johnson, the last of the foreign missionaries to the Chin people. I read Rev. Johnson's story with interest. Born in 1915 and a graduate of Wheaton College, he and his wife went to Burma and worked there for 20 years. They planted churches, translated the Bible, started a Bible school, ran a clinic...

That is a classic old-school missionary story, but what struck me was the description of the funeral, at which Chin hymns were sung and much of the funeral was led and attended by Chin leaders from around the world, including the pastors of the Chin Baptist church here in Dallas that Chan and Tum go to.

I was just so impressed. Here's some American guy who did the classic missionary thing in Myanmar and a tribe of people becomes Christians because of it. Now, years later and after his death, political strife has scattered that tribe across the world as refugees, and the pastors that Rev. Johnson mentored are now discipling my refugee friends. Seeing the generational affect of faith is truly amazing.

AND just as one more cool and crazy thing, it turns out one of the children of the Johnson family (that is featured in the video below) actually worked alongside my family when we were in Indonesia. I remember her from when I was a little girl and recently ran into her and her family at a wedding. I'd never known she was a missionary kid herself.

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