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Ukraine: Hope of Extinction – Trip to Myanmar

Update from Bruce Alvord
Irpin Biblical Seminary
November 27, 2013

Rarely have I come away with such deep impressions from visiting another country. Recently I was teaching in Myanmar (formerly Burma), which is predominantly Buddhist. This was evident simply when walking down the street in the capital city of Yangon– I often saw monks in red robes, held by the public in high regard. I saw huge, ornate pagodas with people bowing to dozens of Buddha statues.


Buddha worship in Yangon

While observing all this false worship, my friend and fellow missionary asked the Buddhist guide showing us a temple: “So is your ultimate goal to control your desires to the point that one day you will stop being reborn and cease to exist?” She puzzled for a moment at how to answer the question, but agreed that that was indeed what they were trying to do – reach Nirvana and become non-existent. She seemed to realize how silly it sounded, especially considering this hoped-for annihilation she was striving for was to be accomplished by her own self, on purpose.


The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar.

While teaching and meeting the students there, I was convicted about how rarely I have thanked the Lord for the absence of war in my country. In Myanmar, there are large tribal states that have been at war for many years with the Burmese government. I spent much of my time in one of those states where 235 church leaders had gathered for the conference. During the question and answer time on the last day, the last two questions I was asked were: “How can we love our enemies when they have killed and tortured our loved ones?” and then, “What will the Lord do to me if I don’t forgive?”

I also realized that I tend to underestimate how wealthy I really am. The average Myanmarian lives on less than ONE dollar a day. The seminary there (below) was a large, one-room hut with a thatched roof and dirt floor. Even though many of them have just enough to subsist, none of the believers I talked with seemed to be any less happy than we are who live in more economically developed countries.


The Myanmar seminary.

Changing the scene back to Ukraine, Irpin Seminary where I normally teach has started a totally new program to train full-time pastors who have never had the chance for any kind of formal Bible training. The normal student schedule of traveling to Irpin and staying for 2-week class modules requires the pastors to miss quite a few Sundays at their churches each school year. This new program teaches a seperate group the basic fundamentals in six-day sessions so that they don’t miss any Sundays at their church. The response has been overwhelming and many more pastors applied than could be taken in. The 35 men who started the program are thrilled to get their first crack at Bible training. After each session they have expressed much appreciation and joy to be a part of this new track. Most of the men are older, with much experience in ministry. In fact, the oldest student in this class is 61 years old.

Irpin Seminary’s deaf translator program has had a huge spike in students. There is an unusually large Ukrainian deaf population, and many workers desiring to be trained in sign language to help them understand the Word of God. So many applied for this program that instead of taking in one group of 35 people, the seminary took in two for a total of 70! This was done by faith since the seminary doesn’t have the funds to cover the expenses of the extra 35 students.

With this increase in attendance, our usual student body average of around 300 students has swelled to a new high of 376. For this privilege of training even more workers for the harvest we praise the Lord and feel additional responsibility.

Please continue to pray for the work in Myanmar,
as well as for the Irpin Biblical Seminary.