Yangon: “Hanoi 20 years ago”

This was the line I heard several times during my visit to Yangon, Myanmar. Because of the nation’s recent opening up of international commerce and foreign aid, expatriates are flocking by the thousands to the ancient capital of Burma. A city of six million, Yangon is on the verge of modern development and an attractive place to make a difference or a profit.

First impressions were: the city is open and green, lush with trees and wide boulevards, somewhat like Chiang Mai; there is only car traffic with motorbikes being outlawed and bicycles forbidden to ride on major roads; cars drive on the right side but the steers are also on the right, being imported from used car dealers in Japan, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia; the people are diverse with over 200 ethnic groups and a melting pot of Indian, Chinese, Burmese and other regional descent; there is a small but growing middle class, some new shopping malls, but no foreign fast-food chains; the poor have it difficult without the ability to purchase a car, ride motorbikes, or limited bicycle access; some parts look like Hanoi with densely populated trade streets, but mostly it reminded me of Thailand, Cambodia and Laos with the temples, architecture (or lack thereof) and culture.

For my two-day visit, I was hosted by Pastor Hideki and his wife Yumi of New Life International Fellowship (NLIF). Former residents of Ho Chi Minh City, we were able to catch up after not meeting for eight years. Over dinner, I met with several council members of the church, which was mutually encouraging. On Sunday it was my privilege to share the message during service, presenting The Antioch Model of an international missional church from Acts 11 and 13. It was great to share our “Love Hanoi” vision and challenge the congregation to come up with their own ideas during small group discussions. The message and vision was well received!

The Luchtenburg family and Rohan, previous members of HIF Westlake, send their love and greetings to all. A number of people had traveled to Hanoi and visited HIF, something we’d love to see more of!

This brief visit was part of an effort to network international churches in our region and globally. As lead facilitator of the Missional International Church Network (www.micn.org), it is my mission to connect, inspire and engage int’l church leaders to be missional in theology, vision and action. Following my trip, the MICN leadership gathered in Bangkok for three days to pray and plan. MICN has begun its second decade with big dreams. Our next conference will take place in Beijing the end of April, 2014. HIF has benefited greatly by being part of this network and it gives us an opportunity to impact int’l churches across the globe!

By Jacob Bloemberg

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