Generation shall praise your works unto generation, and declare your power.
Ps 145:4, Geneva Bible 1560.
Rain was spitting from gray clouds overhead. It was not supposed to be raining, but it was. I adjusted the angle of my small black umbrella. “It is the dry and cold season, not a time for rain!” I thought. We were walking around the old mission facilities where my grandad and great grandads worked in Kengtung, Myanmar. I could pick out the old buildings by the tangerine hue of their rough brick walls. Many of the newer buildings sat large and silent, their windows like dark empty eyes. I wondered if the money for these buildings came from local donations tied to the drug trade.
As I framed a picture from my camera of a manual wooden crank on a hand dug well, a man emerged from a building in the foreground and made his way towards us. He wore multicolored attire and cautious smile. As he stepped up he introduced himself as a leader of the Akha ethnic group. I was friendly but not overly so, not having much time left there. As we chatted I could tell his interest was waining. Then, although I wasn’t going to say it myself, one member of our party mentioned I was a descendent of William Marcus Young, the missionary who first introduced many of the surrounding tribes to the amazing story of Jesus.
The man’s face immediately lit up and he asked, “Can we do pictures?” After we took some pictures he turned to me and insisted, “Please come in and have some tea,” They already had tea served in glass cups and purple fried sticky rice strips waiting for us just a short walk away at a children’s hostel. Then there was an almost ancient Shan leader waiting for us to pray at his spacious house. Our schedule was pretty full so I responded, “I very sorry, maybe next time we come. We are already leaving town and still have people waiting to see us!”
As he held my hand in his, his next words caught me by surprise, “all through the hills I have heard the stories of your grandad and great grandad among our people. They told us how he promised his sons and grandsons and even great grandsons would follow after him.” I had heard this from the Wa tribe many years back, now I was hearing it from the Akha too.
My great grandad had a faith that stretched down through generations so that his family could follow the path he pioneered. This is generational alignment and something we as God’s people should value. This is something we should claim for ourselves.
It doesn’t mean we all do the same thing. There are different gifts and callings over individuals and generations. We all build on the shoulders of those who have gone before, and families are special that way. They steward blessing and spiritual inheritance. They also often carry brokenness and stories of pain. God knows how to take all this and construct something beautiful if we will trust him.
A good purpose in life is always bigger than us. It is God-sized. Purposes aren’t just crafted for us, we are crafted for them. A God-sized purpose should own us like we own a nice pair of shoes for events or special hobbies like hiking. We are the humble shoes, fitted perfectly for God’s purpose. This doesn’t mean the purpose isn’t also our own, but that God is the creator of our best and highest reasons for being here. He is the first owner, even though he is ultra loving and accepts us as sons and daughters. Allowing the purposes of God to own us and take us places is part of finding alignment.
I remember praying in Kengtung, Myanmar years earlier. I was in the old mission chapel and it was 1996. The chapel’s spire still stands out now, tall against the only remaining massive shade tree whose branches reach out like arms 3 times too long. However, now it’s walls are warn smooth and painted a local shade of pink. It was repaired from the shallow earthquake in 2008 that split roads and destroyed water sources. In 1996, the original brick walls still showed. Standing inside at the pulpit on the wooden plank floor, worn to a shine, I prayed. It seemed I was in the shadow of great men. I felt awkward there as a young man. My prayers felt earnest but misshapen. I spoke with God the best I could.
Maybe a day or so later I was sitting on a bamboo front porch of an indigenous tribal home, looking out over the Kengtung Valley. A patchwork of rice paddies stretched out from the towering dark hills surrounding the valley, the vivid greens of new rice crops below and sky-tones scattered with white billows above. I could have gazed at this for a year!
We were working on starting a kid’s home nearby and this was our first step towards gaining access to some of the child combatants that are serving among the many insurgent (non-state) armed groups. It came to me then: I had a call to help children in desperate situations, to help the church be a vivid expression of who our Father really is, to help good leaders be great leaders by loving children, to be a different kind of voice and an apostolic builder. It was a purpose that not only aligned with and but also built generationally. But this was not hidden in the shadow of the accomplishments of pioneer missionaries, it was a unique purpose of God, with the smile of heaven over it.
Fast forward to the present. We sat in this same village, 20 years later. Many years ago, we had moved this work further into a conflict area. That new home became very successful in helping us rescue and protect children from child soldiering. However, now it is being shut down because of the the extreme persecution of the church by the indigenous insurgents. In the middle of the upheaval, there are children now in hiding, hoping to escape military conscription. So it is time to act. We are looking at reopening that children’s home on land we already own in a safer area.
God’s heart doesn’t change. He doesn’t tire of doing good like I sometimes do. These are children we need to serve, to raise as the peacemakers of a very dark and difficult region. Hundreds and maybe even thousands of kids have been conscripted in the past months. We need to raise a generation that knows how to say “NO!” to the violence and the loss of innocence.
To do this, we need to build a safe home for 30 children. To build that home, we need to raise at least $50,000. This home will be in a strategic location and will be served by some of our existing and trusted leaders. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or donate online as God directs your heart as a partner in serving the least of these among the worst of these.