I’m going to stray a bit from the usual politics. This week I’m traveling to Myanmar and Thailand. In a 2005 Condoleezza Rice called Myanmar one of the outposts of tyranny. These governments are oppressive and show contempt for democracy and human rights. Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a military dictatorship that has had its duly elected president, Aung San Suu Kyi (a Nobel Prize winner), under house arrest since 1990. She is the daughter of Myanmar’s George Washington. Her story is interesting but not the one I’ll tell you today.
This is the story of Pastor P.
Pastor P is a pastor from Myanmar. A few years ago he moved his family across the country from their comfortable home in a mostly Christian western state to become a missionary in a state where people are either Buddhist or tribal. In three years he started an orphanage, a college, and a church. From that base his students have started dozens of churches.
The first two times I visit Pastor P bribes were taken while I watched wandering what was going on. I learned later. The local ‘officials’ see that foreigners are visiting and they figure Pastor P is flush with money. If he refuses to pay he risks going to jail. Now, to keep the government from stealing it, when we offer support for the orphans he either puts the money in deposit in the local rice store as soon as he can or we buy other needed supplies.
In 2005 my wife and I visited with a dozen Pullman teens and adults and 12 boxes of books. The following week another group came and did a large ‘rally’. That combination was just too much. On the second day of the rally the police closed it down, telling everyone to go home and foreigners to leave the country. A few days later his college was closed down and Pastor P was arrested. In jail he was tortured daily (not the Guantanamo kind.) They didn’t ask him a single question. After 2 weeks, and some intervention by his denomination, they released him. On our 4th trip we sent only 2 people and empty handed. We gave finances to neighboring Asians who can visit without drawing the attention of the police or military. This Sunday I’ll cross the border by myself.
Since 2005 I never list his name or city on web pages or Emails because Google makes it too easy for his government to spy. It is such an incredible honor for me to work with someone who has been tortured for his faith. I am humbled to know and work with him.
A trip like this reminds me of our liberties and that most Americans don’t understand or appreciate them.