The alarm rang at a harrowing 4:00 am following a 10-hour bus ride the day before on poorly kept roads that got us into Bagan. This was preceded by a 36-hour journey on four airplanes starting in Pittsburgh with stops in Washington, D.C., Tokyo, Singapore, and finally Yangon.
A year earlier, Chung Nung (director of Myanmar Acts Mission) had asked me if SEAPC could bring a prayer team to Bagan to walk and pray with our friends in Myanmar. He explained to me the spiritual significance of Bagan. It was the ancient capital of Myanmar, where between the 11th and 13th centuries over 10,000 Buddhist temples were built in an area that is about 40 square miles. The original name of the city was Pagan; I don’t think there is any coincidence there. Chung Nung shared that “Bagan became a center for Buddhism, attracting monks from far away countries. Theravada Buddhism quickly spread throughout Myanmar and numerous countries from Bagan.” Of course, after hearing the significance of the request from my brother, I happily obliged and began praying and asking the Lord to bring people of prayer for this incredible opportunity to walk and pray as the unified body of Christ. Who would He bring to us to be on the team?
In response, the Lord put together the most incredible team. We had 12 local Myanmar leaders from many different aspects of ministry—including a Bible school leader, church planters, university students, a worship leader, and a children’s home leader. From the USA side, it was very diverse. We had a former prosecutor from Florida, a Christian rap duo, a pastor, a few incredible entrepreneurs, and a retiree. Nine incredible friends that if you put them in a picture together in the natural would have very little in common. Realistically, they would probably never even be in a picture together, to begin with. But with Jesus, the unity amongst the team was incredible. We were a small family that I would go anywhere with at any time and do anything for. It was undoubtedly one of the best teams I had the honor of serving with. Much like the gathering in the upper room, it was an unlikely bunch, to say the least.
Back to the alarm going off at 4:00. The 21 of us groggily piled into the short bus ride to go to one of the taller temples to pray and worship as the sun rose over the land. We arrived and climbed I’d say close to 400 steps to get to the top of the temple in the pitch black of the early morning. These weren’t your normal steps. They were much taller and some were even crumbling. Looking back, as a team leader it probably wasn’t the wisest decision to climb the stairs in the darkness, but it sure was worth it.
We eventually made it to the top of the temples and situated ourselves towards the direction of the sunrise and prayed and worshipped amongst ourselves for about 30 minutes. About 5 minutes before sunrise we came together and read Psalm 24 over the land, believing that everything and everyone in the earth belong to the Lord.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty—
he is the King of glory.
We stood there reading, praying, and worshipping believing that the center of the Buddhist stronghold in Myanmar would be destroyed and that the kingdom of God in Myanmar would go forth from this very spot.
Shortly after reading Psalm 24 the sun rose over the land and we could see for miles in every direction. Countless temples for as far as your eye could see but we knew in our hearts that total victory and freedom from Buddhism’s oppression was going to come forth from this spot. Praise God.
After a few hours at the top of the temple, we made our journey back down and into the bus for our ride back to the hotel. Upon arrival at the hotel, we got changed and gathered for breakfast at the hotel’s buffet in an outdoor courtyard. We worshipped as a team before we ate and prayed together for the much-anticipated meal. As we each made our way to the different buffet stations Chung Nung and I went to the omelet station where the man cooking eggs pointed at my shoulder and said “Christian” in broken English. I exclaimed “yes!” Then he and Chung Nung began speaking in Burmese. It turns out that the brother cooking was a Christian and heard our worship and saw my tattoos of Jesus and asked us if we wanted “to meet the church in Bagan.”
I should explain that when he said “the church” he literally meant the one and only above-ground church in old Bagan. Before our trip, Chung Nung had tried through his extensive network to find a church in the area that we could pray with in Bagan but to his knowledge and his connections’ knowledge, there was no established church in Bagan. So of course immediately after breakfast we piled back on the bus and went to visit this small church tucked away on a dirt road just outside the temples zone.
Long story short is that the church had been praying for encouragement and that the Lord would surround them with fellow believers. We spent a few hours with them praying together and were able to bless them so that they could do a medical outreach. The plan is to go back to Bagan and visit the church next November and we will bring the bilingual children’s Bible My Precious Book to them for a Christmas outreach they will do during the Christmas season.
Looking back at that trip a year later I’m so grateful for the opportunity we had to go to Bagan. It was a trip that I will certainly remember for the rest of my life. It’s incredible to see how the Lord meets us as we step out in faith.
Thank you to everyone who has prayed, gone, and given to the Lord’s work in Myanmar.
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