Our time in country has absolutely flown by. When our team has not
been recovering from the massive time difference, we have worked hard
to prepare for our next lessons. Of course, we have also enjoyed lots
of time bonding together as we ate with our incredibly gracious hosts
and pondered over the differences between this culture and our own. I
now have a new definition of hospitality, and it blows everything I
have seen and experienced in America out of the water.
God gave all of the teachers on our team much grace to walk the
pastors here through the Gospel of Mark with much clarity and
humility. God also gave the pastors much grace to listen diligently
and humbly. I felt particularly in need of grace while teaching these
men, because most of them could easily be my father, and perhaps even
my grandfather. God was kind to us in all of our efforts to further
train these pastors.
These last two days of the trip include some of my favorite memories
from our time here.Yesterday, I went with Dr. Andy Naselli to the Kachin Baptist Theological College andSeminary and enjoyed four specific aspects of my time at the seminary.
First, I enjoyed seeing the students diligently take notes while Dr.
Naselli taught. It was a gift to see so many other young believers
seriously study God’s Word.
Second, I greatly enjoyed our meal with our host professor, Nawdin Dum
Daw, just as I have greatly enjoyed every other meal here... Only this
time, the cousins of the food we ate squawked and waddled around us
(there were chickens hanging out with us in the ‘canteen,’ or small
cafe, as we ate). The food was delicious and our company was
Third, I enjoyed hearing the students ask Dr. Naselli a variety of
questions during an extended time of Q&A, because many of their
questions were similar to common questions asked in America. These
included: How do we understand God’s sovereignty and man’s
responsibility? How should Christians feel about people going to
hell? What happens to people who have never heard the gospel? How
does the gospel apply to ____ (a certain cultural issue)? How should
I think about my culture as a Christian?
Lastly, I enjoyed the students' mad dash for pictures with Dr. Naselli
and I after class. We took countless pictures with the group as a
whole and with a majority of the students individually. It was also
not uncommon to take pictures with different strangers while out and
about with Professor Nawdin. Perhaps it was the fact we were with
Nawdin, a pretty amazing guy. Perhaps it was our height and
whiteness, as we stood heads above the average person. Perhaps it was
because I greeted people with a simple phrase I learned that means
“how are you?,” because that always resulted in a chuckle. Or perhaps
it was our dashing good looks (just kidding). Regardless, it was
entertaining to take a bunch of pictures with a bunch of people.
Today, I praise God for the encouragement I received in hearing
several of these pastors preach during our last class period together.
They all tried to deliver expository sermons, walking us through their
passage verse by verse. Not all of them nailed the main point, but
they certainly tried to faithfully preach their text. Those who
missed the main point were generally off by only a few degrees,
teaching precious truths found within or near their text and were carefully directed to the main point by Mark Kernan. All in all, our team walked away greatly encouraged that these pastors received and applied our instruction.
After we finished our final class together, our team and all of the
pastors went on an hour and a half drive on some sketchy roads to the headwaters of the Irrawaddy river (the confluence of the N'mai and Mali rivers). I can certainly say that laughter is a universal language because we shared in many jokes and much laughter. We also took a lot of pictures, something that seems to have become a trend these final days of the trip.
God has been so kind to us during our time here, and I thank him for the sweet time we have had with our brothers and sisters here in country.
Update for Thursday, January 14, 2016
On Thursday morning I taught the Kachin pastors for my fourth and
final day with them. We surveyed the doctrine of the end times. Then
John Supica very ably taught on the Gospel of Mark again. The pastors
listen intently and ask good questions (many of them ask the same sort
of questions that are common in the states). It’s an honor to teach
On Wednesday night a student from the Theological College &
Seminary was in a motorcycle accident and then died on Wednesday
morning. Please pray for the students and families.
On Thursday it was a pleasure to spend time with Dumdaw Naw Din and his
family for about four hours. Naw Din has translated for me every time
I’ve taught the pastors or the MDiv students, and I’ve loved spending
time with him. He’s an excellent translator because he knows English
well and knows exegesis and theology well (he has a ThM from The
Master’s Seminary in California). He doesn’t miss a beat. Nawdim is
Head of the Biblical Department at the Theological College &
Seminary, where he is also serving as Dean of Students. He is also
Associate Pastor of Jaw Masat Baptist Church, and he regularly leads
Bible studies for other churches in the area on Saturdays. And on top
of all that—and this is what amazes me most—he is Founder and
President of Kachin Agape Children's Home. Naw Din and his wife and
some volunteers care for twenty orphans at their home. We got to
worship with them all in their home on Thursday evening, and it was
the highlight of the trip for me.
Please pray for us. The rest of the team plans to keep teaching the
pastors how to exegete and preach the Gospel of Mark, and all day
Friday I plan to teach MDiv students at Kachin Theological College &
Seminary—about 100 students in the morning and 100 others in the
One other anecdote: Naw Dim gave us a tour of his school’s library. The
books in their own language take up barely two bookcases. They have a
decent number of English books, but the students generally can
comprehend about 70% of what they read in them. This further motivates
me to write in an English style that is as clear as possible so that
people who know English as a second language can better understand
what I write.
God’s work in the world is so much bigger than any one of us can
grasp. It’s sweet to see a few ways he is working in Myanmar and to
play a small part in that.
Update Day 3:
God is so good. The team is still in good health and the students are asking excellent questions in class as we teach the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and expository preaching through the Gospel of Mark.
I found it interesting that, for the most part, questions relating to spiritual gifts in Myanmar are very similar to the questions we hear in America. People want to know if certain gifts continue to the present day, especially because of the profound abuses we see on every continent. They want to know if Spirit baptism occurs at conversion or a subsequent second blessing or crisis. And they want to know how to think about the Spirit’s role of guidance and illumination without undermining God’s revelation in Scripture. I praise God for allowing Dr. Naselli from Bethlehem College & Seminary to come on this trip because he addressed each question with clarity and consistently returned to the Scriptures to explain his answers (instead of appealing to a theological system). In the afternoon Dr. Naselli traveled out to the Kachin Theological College and Seminary for a short lecture on eschatology and an open Q&A with over 100 students. It was evident when he returned for dinner that he thoroughly enjoyed his time with the students.
The afternoon session that Todd taught in Mark was particularly special.As we teach Biblical exposition we begin by explaining the process through four questions.
1. What did the author intend to communicate?
2. How does this text relate to the rest of the book it is in?
3. How does this text relate to the rest of the Bible (Redemptive history)?
4. How can we apply this to our churches?
Then we demonstrate the process through a number of examples. And finally we break the students down into small groups to work through the process together so they can bring their findings to the class. Well, today was the day that we broke the pastors up into groups to apply the process. When they came back together to present their findings it was obvious they were getting the process. And when we reached the fourth question of application it was obvious these men are experienced pastors, and they saw that a solid understanding of the text paves the way to substantial application. At the end of Todd's session one of the pastors stood up and said, “Thank you for letting us do this ourselves, we need to learn this process.” I was so delighted to hear this response because it is exactly what we want to accomplish at Training Leaders International.
Mark Kernan (TLI)
As I sit down to write this, the majority of our team is sitting in
the back of a classroom while one member of our team
teaches twenty pastors about the doctrine of the Holy
Spirit. This is our second day teaching; three more to go. Yesterday,
we overviewed expository preaching, introduced the Gospel of Mark, and
discussed theological method. The time has been sweet; the fellowship
with our brothers and sisters has been joy filled; God has been
Everyday, we take a break from teaching and they cook us lunch
that rivals any five star restaurant in the states. The food is
outstanding. We gather around tables with pastors and hear about their
ministries. Yesterday, our translator (who is also a pastor and
professor) shared how the Lord led him to begin an orphanage, where he
now cares for 20 children from around the country. It was a beautiful
testimony of God’s grace and a picture of the kingdom breaking into
this broken world. Enjoying these brother’s company is better than the
I have never taught in such a context and tomorrow afternoon will be
my first day. I must confess that I am nervous and feel insufficient
for the task. But I am reminded of God’s precious promises as I
continue to prepare. Though I am insufficient, his Word is sufficient.
My task is to work as hard as I can to be faithful to his word,
trusting in his Spirit to do the work that I could never
accomplish—the spiritual encouragement of these dear brothers and the
fruitful ministries of their churches.
Please pray for us to that end. May we rest in his grace, utter his
words, and serve in the power that he supplies that in everything God
might receive the glory through Jesus Christ (1 Pet 4:11).
January 10th, 2015
We waned to get a quick note out while we have temporary access to Wi-Fi to let everyone know that we arrived safe and sound in Myitkyina after 45 hours travel. The team is in good health and adjusting well to the 12.5-hour time difference.
This morning we attended church at an IDP camp (internally displaced people) that provides housing and food for 2,300 people affected by the long-standing civil war in Myanmar. I (Mark) shared three reasons Christians can have joy and hope in the midst of suffering from 1 Peter 1.
We will begin teaching the Gospel of Mark and systematic theology tomorrow morning.
Sorrowful but always rejoicing,