Following my roots - Reflection by Canon Val
Read Canon Val's reflection for Tuesday, 2 March, 2021.
As we begin to move slowly out of Lockdown, we can look back on the past 12 months and reflect on how we have used the time given to us. When we were first told to stay at home, I had a spurt of energy and cleared out cupboards and drawers quite ruthlessly. It felt good to be doing something useful. I set a pattern for daily walks building it up slowly until it came to a point where I felt I had missed something if I hadn’t gone out for my daily exercise. One of the challenges I set myself was to tidy up all the files that I had covering my Family History research.
My father was born in Burma, now Myanmar. As a child I was never really interested in a place so far away and my dad never spoke much about his childhood. It wasn’t until he was coming near to the end of his life that he began to talk about his life in Burma. It became an ambition for me to travel to Burma one day and through the Liverpool Diocesan Mothers’ Union Link with Burma this became more than a dream. I talked with some of the Trustees who had visited Burma and learnt more about our link. We had a visit From Bishop Barnabas from Burma to a Diocesan meeting. He needed an interpreter and a young Burmese priest from London came up to help. Rev David Haokip. David and I have kept in touch and he is now a priest in the Southwark Diocese. In 2001 I was able to join a tour group visiting Burma. We were an interesting mix of people; some had been born in Burma when their fathers were in the British Army. Others had fought in Burma during WW2. It was fascinating learning from their stories and different experiences. I had taken with me gifts from Mother’s Union and was able to meet with Daw Rhody, The wife of the Bishop of Rangoon and the President of Mothers’ Union in Rangoon. We were able to exchange greetings, visit together and meet with the staff of Holy Cross Theological College. This was where I met Saw Maung Doe who was on the staff of the college, and his wife Joanna. We became very good friends. Doe came over to Oxford several times during the next few years to complete his studies and he was able to visit Liverpool. He came to the Cathedral and my own church whilst staying with me.
In 2006, I was able to return to Burma as a guest of Saw Maung Doe and his wife Joanna. I spent two weeks visiting various church communities and experiencing the work that the churches and especially Mothers’ Union were doing round the country. It was humbling to see how committed families were to their Bible studies and church groups. The Mothers’ Union had a full programme of activities for the young women covering, Health Care, Food management, Bible studies. The women travelled across Rangoon to take part in these groups. We visited schools and community groups and were able to share in their activities and worship.
On this visit I was able to see places connected to my family. On some occasions this was quite difficult as we were straying on to areas that were guarded by the Military, so we simply had to drive past and not stop.
At all times during my visit I felt very safe and well cared for. God was with us wherever we went and shone through in the lives of these very special people who have remained a big part of my life. They people of Myanmar are always in my thoughts and prayers and especially now at this time of unrest.
We have found these times of lockdown difficult, but we know that it will come to an end soon and there will be no violence. In many ways our worship has grown with all the advantages of technology we can access. I pray for the church and its leaders in Myanmar and hope that they can continue to worship in church or at home as they wait to see what the future holds. This Lent we should think about all those Christians around the world who are tortured for their faith or must worship in secret. We give thanks for our freedom to worship and pray for disadvantaged and isolated Christians throughout the world.
Lord God, we pray for the world we inhabit, for those who lead and make the important decisions; for those who follow and those who have no voice. We pray for mercy and justice, compassion and integrity. Lord we want to pray about all the conflict in the world especially at this time we pray for the people of Myanmar, remembering Bishop Mark Doe and Joanna, Marilyn and Rachel and all our friends in Mothers’ Union. Keep them safe at this time of unrest in their country. In Jesus name we pray. Amen
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