Last week, a seminary classmate sent an email to a group of six of us who had travelled to Myanmar on a mission trip while in seminary. The trip was a powerful, multiple week trip – for us as individuals, for us as a team (one of our members passed away a couple of years after seminary), and, when we returned, for our relationships with the Burmese students at the seminary. The experience of that trip forever changed the dynamics between us – there are inside jokes that lead to ribbing; we know each other in ways that only fellow travelers can, leading to belly-laughs and understanding sighs too deep for words; and our connection to the Anglican Church in Myanmar and our spiritual experiences there created a brotherhood and sisterhood that is difficult to articulate.
So, when the toughly-won democracy crumbled a few weeks ago in Myanmar, we all watched in horror. The call to gather from my classmate was certainly an opportunity for us to catch up, but more importantly for us to pray – to pray for our Burmese classmates, the brothers and sisters in Christ we met there, and the countless people who simply want to live their lives free of the brutality of a military junta. Over the course of this year, I have complained more times than I can count about the amount of time I spent on Zoom. But as the six of us gathered virtually from around the country to tell stories, to laugh, to mourn, and to pray, I confess to you, I have never been more grateful for a technological tool. Even in that virtual space, we were able to find the rhythm of a group established fourteen years ago, and slow down enough to put the needs of Myanmar above our own.
As we work to vaccinate our country and as churches begin to regather again, I find myself once again grateful for the ways God has made a way in the wilderness. And although I will be thrilled to see people in person again, I am glad we will still have technological advances available to us – to facilitate community, care, and compassion. Not once in the years since we left seminary has our mission team managed to get together in person. But with technology, we were able to create a virtual space of real connection between us, and, perhaps more importantly, a place where God could move among us and beyond us. I would never wish this pandemic on any of us, but I remain astounded at the way God has used the gifts God has given us to facilitate the spreading of the Good News.
One year into this pandemic, I give thanks for the ways in which technology has facilitated fellowship, formation, worship, and pastoral care. I wonder what graces this pandemic has gifted you over this last year. What ways has necessity inspired blessedness? As you reflect this week, I invite you to join me in offering gratitude for God’s grace in the midst of a very dark year.
Please continue to keep Myanmar in your prayers as they struggle for the restoration of democracy, for the safety of innocent people being brutalized and disappeared, and for the encouragement and protection to keep fighting for justice.