Sometimes the gift of ‘being’ outweighs what we ‘do’ for others – Phil Fairbrass

Our love affair with the Myanmar people really began when in 2005 Anthea saw an email from Leadership Development International inviting volunteers to apply to teach English language and study skills at MEGST (Myanmar Evangelical Graduate School of Theology) in Yangon, one of LeaDev-Langham’s Partner Schools

She went for four weeks and was hooked. Her appeals for me, a pastor, to join her in teaching English (“Come on, Anthea, how in the world could I teach English?”) finally persuaded me to volunteer, and thus began a total of ten years of annual trips between us to teach English and study skills to students who were preparing for their master’s degrees in theology.

I know we helped in the English department. But I think the real purpose we were there was revealed when more than one person said to us, “We are so happy you are here, because we feel forgotten by the rest of the world.” I think just being there – listening, empathising (in a limited way) praying and loving – was worth far more that what we ever did. We tried to spend personal time with each student we taught, listening to their stories which often included hardship and persecution.

I think just being there – listening, empathising, praying and loving – was worth far more that what we ever did

Three years ago, while in Yangon, we felt the Spirit gently urging us to leave teaching English and look for ways where perhaps our pastoral background might be more useful. This was the prompting that resulted in us to become involved with the Langham Preaching program in Myanmar.

From 29 Oct to 2 Nov last year we were invited to attend as observers at a combined level 1 and 2 seminar being taught by Sein Kyi (pictured) and his team of teachers in a place not far from Mandalay. Several of the teachers are former MEGST students of ours with whom we have formed lasting friendships.

It was a joy to observe this team of competent teachers now teaching others what they themselves have been taught, with enthusiasm and lots of class participation. Joy and laughter often filled the classrooms. Testimonies at the end of the week were positive.

It was a joy to observe this team of competent teachers now teaching others what they themselves have been taught

But what really impacted me were comments from two of the teachers we have known for some years. One sat with me at lunch one day and said, “It is so encouraging to have you here.” When I asked him why, he said, “Well, just your being here encourages us.” How humbling is that?!

The other told me that when I taught him English at MEGST he was astounded that I was kind to him. His schooling had been extremely harsh to say the least, and he couldn’t get over how nice I was! What a reminder that our “being” is perhaps far more valuable in God’s economy that our “doing.”

How wonderful it was to see that, after after several years of being taught the Langham principles of preaching by Westerners, the Myanmar team have now taken up the responsibility of teaching others what they have learned. This is a huge challenge for this fledgling team of teachers. And how refreshing to be reminded that being listeners, friends and occasional advisors is perhaps the best gift we can offer to our Myanmar pastors and friends at this time.

Volunteer your skills to help train Christian leaders in Asia-Pacific.

Here’s How