More Precious Than Diamonds

 In Loving our Neighbour

Alison reflects on a recent trip to Myanmar where she was confronted with the poverty of the nation. Whilst visiting OM Myanmar’s kindergarten ministry with her son Jesse. Alison felt the conviction: “show me how to love, like you have loved me.”

If you go to church, you may have sung a song with this line in it: ‘Break my heart for what breaks yours’. I’ve sung it so many times and have sung it with conviction, believing in my heart that I really am laying down everything I am for His kingdom’s cause, or so I thought. And then you realise that God still has work to do in your heart.

This realisation came to me on the dusty, dry, rubbish filled streets of Myanmar. In a way, Yangon is a city that has been left behind. The sexualisation and tourism of places like Thailand seems to not exist here; if it does, it’s not out in the open for all to see.

We walk down the ramp to the river below, being careful not to let a foot slip through the gaps. When you ’re holding the dead weight of a sleeping 11 kg baby, each step is important. This boat would take us to the other side of the river. It is filled with children and adults selling everything from watermelon to cigarette lighters to bubble machines. Two girls, about 10 years old, take a particular interest in my sleeping baby. They stare, smile and point him out to others so they can do the same. Soon there is quite a crowd but it doesn’t last long as they need to get back to work.

We arrive at the other side and make our way up another rickety ramp. There are six of us. We pile onto three tri-shaws and start the next leg of our trip. By this time my son Jesse is awake and wondering where on earth he is. Every time he wakes up from a sleep he’s in a different place. I praise God for a flexible baby. He takes it in his stride as we weave our way around cars, bikes and dogs. It’s not hard to notice that this side of the river is different. Every road is dirt, the people are poorer, there are no ‘shops’. It’s only about a 10 minute ride but I am ready  for it to be over. Suspension does not exist. Our bikes stop and we get off in front of a rundown, two-storey building covered in flakey remnants of blue paint. From the outside it seems to be forgotten, but behind its exterior is a beautiful combination of life and hope.

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Soe* greets us. She has light in her eyes. She ushers us into a small room. Crammed onto a small 3×4 meter mat are 30 beautiful faces. Aged between three and five, these children (unlike many in their town) get to attend kindergarten everyday. It is one of the only places where English is taught. Parents pay $ 3 a week for their children to attend. Even this seemingly small amount is a stretch for them. As we sit, perched on seats in front of these beautiful children, my first thoughts and feelings are overwhelming. I’ve done this type of thing before. I’ve visited orphanages and seen poverty, but now, holding Jesse in front of these kids in their uniforms so eager to learn, makes me indescribably grateful. Grateful for the opportunities that I have as a mother to give Jesse.

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Statistically, these children have a high chance of not making it to their fifth birthday. That’s just not fair.

There is another line in the song I mentioned earlier: ‘show me how to love,  like you have loved me’. What a hard thing to grasp. I saw it that day in Soe and her team. They get what it is to be loved by God and in turn He has shown them, with great clarity, what it is to truly love.

I took my camera that day. As we rode away, the faces from my viewfinder were and still are burnt into my mind. Faces of hope. This is the beginning for them. They will learn English which will help them break the cycle of poverty in their families but there is another gift, something even greater, something eternal: the gift of Faith.

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These children will be the first generation of Christians in their families. That fills my heart with a song of great Joy. A song of praise for what God is doing. This world would say they are insignificant. My God would say that they are significant beyond measure. More precious than diamonds.

Break my heart for what breaks yours and show me how to love, like you have loved me.

 

Alison Sharma

* name changed

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