cherry is a petite Asian 59-year-old lady. her brown eyes are bright but they shimmer the sorrow that is buried deep in her heart. having lived unde the long years of the military oppression has deepened creases and wrinkles on her kind face. cherry’s family runs a small Shan-Indian restaurant, where scrumptious fresh tea leaf salad, or “la pat tho”, is served with a glass of hot tea; and where you can dip the home-made “dosa”, the rice flour cake, into the bean soup and refreshing tamarind leaf sauce. one fine afternoon, i had a chance to sit down across from her and listened to her story.
“we have run the business for about ten years now. in the past our house was much smaller, but it was homely with flower beds and plants in front of the house. in my childhood, everything was beautiful.”
cherry’s little shop is located on a quiet street, just 50 meters away from the main street light. the road is paved with cement, and like the usual Burma, it is dusty and can barely find a tree shade. the result of this is from the government’s “nationalizing” policy.
“i am a fruit of a mission school. that is why i can speak good English. but when the British left, and the military had ruled, everything…EVERYTHING…had to be turned in to the government,” said cherry.
“i remember how we had to line up to get our rice portion, and text books to go to school, when i was in the fourth standard (grade four). it was a desperate time.”
it is no wonder that most streets of Burma are consisted of big compounds: hospitals, universities, government offices,etc, most of them are under the government’s name. simple enjoyment like gardening at cherry’s house had been uprooted, and instead, replaced with hard cement. the nation needed order. and what would be a better way to bring order than to rid the citizens with joy and instill fear in order to polarize power?
under the close scrutiny and tight grip of the government, people in Burma struggle to thrive. the majority of its citizens work for meager wages despite the wealth of buddhist pagodas and temples on every street corner. as a biographer of adoniram judson, rosalie hall hunt, described in her book “bless God and take courage”,
“the size of that giant monument of gold must have stunned the judsons, for it reaches nearly as high as the great pyramids of Egypt. legend takes its founding back 2,500 years. this incredible mass contains over sixty tons of gold, more than is housed in the bank of england. the spire is covered with more than 13,000 gold plates, the vane at the top studded with 1,400 precious rubies and sapphires and crowned by 5,000 diamonds weighing 2,000 carats. one enormous 76-carat diamond is positioned to catch the first light of the morning sun. there is nothing of poverty about Shwe Dagon, buddhism’s most sacred shrine. yet it looms over a city and country so impoverished by a military regime that, in spite of rich natural resources of teak and precious gem, Burma ranks among the world’s ten poorest nations.”
recently, there seems to be a ray of hope in Burma. the news of ceasefire with multiple tribal groups have been all over the front pages of newspapers and broadcasted it on television. and because of the current south east asian games (SEA Games) and the upcoming ASEAN, the unification of countries in south east asia, the country has begun to open its door to foreigners. even though my friends have to report to “the office” of my visit, i have been allowed to stay at their houses, which would be impossible had it been five or ten years ago. but ask any Burmese, and you would be surprised to hear the similar response of uncertainty.
cherry tilted her head a little as she pondered her answer,
“things definitely look better these days. but we can never know what’s in the mind of our leaders. it is like…we are at a theater watching a movie with pictures flash by on the screen. but we cannot change anything. just watch.”
her smile is then glazed with sorrow again – the kind that does not come from the years of living under the oppression only but also of the uncertain destiny of her future, and her soul. as i wrote in the previous post, the town of pyay oo lwin is diverse with cultural background, races and religions. within two-mile walk, i ran into a buddhist temple, a chinese temple, a hindu temple, an islam mosque and an anglican church.
cherry and her family are muslims. her remark to me when i told her that i will go to the bible school next year is, “i hope you are lucky with your choice. because if you are unlucky, your life will be bad”, to which i reply, “auntie, i am a Christian. and i believe that whatever circumstances i fall in, God will always be with me. and that in itself is already a blessing.”
i was not trying to be indignant or overly zealous. but i had prayed that God would allow me a chance to speak of His name, even just a mention of His beautiful name to His beautiful people here. and how He has been faithful. my presence or my speech may not be as significant as to bring any souls to Christ. but my prayer is that one day the government will not only realize that their people are suffering but that they will also move forward in transforming Burma into a nation rid of political pollution forever. i pray that the seeds that have already been planted in Burma through sacrificial missionaries and faithful christians will continue to be watered and nurtured so that the people of Burma will get a chance to be redeemed, to freely live and to make their own choices and to be a part in creating this country the true “golden land” – full of lush nature, exotic culture, creative minds and Christ-devoted souls…and that, eventually, the Burman souls will be set free from the oppression of godlessness; and we will see more church steeples mingle with the spires of pagodas in this land.