If there is one thing I will remember most from my trip to Myanmar it is the sound of laughter. While language barriers may prevent deep conversation, laughter is universally recognizable and communicates a clear message. The message of joy, happiness, enjoyment, acceptance. It fills a void where words are absent. And it communicates a sense of hope. Where laughter abounds, hope also abounds.
As I spent time in our orphanages, I was amazed at the hope that hung in the air. You could feel it. You could also hear it. All across our various campuses the sounds that filled the air were joyful squeals and laughter from children playing, teenagers teasing, and adults chatting.
If you took a few minutes to listen to the story of a child or teenager, they were heartbreaking. The tragedy they have overcome in their short lives many of us will never experience. The limited resources they have, the few outfits, and small bed were all reminders to me of how blessed I am. And yet, most days I struggle to have the joy I saw in so many of the children. I struggle to love others with such abandon, with such loyalty, and with such ferocity. I do not have such strong trust in my God to provide, to save, and to work miracles. It was a challenge each and every day of the trip for me to get out of my comfort zone, to let the kids sit on my lap, hang on my arms, and borrow my camera. To hold less closely to my material possessions, my personal space, and my ideas of how time should be spent.
As hopeful as the children inside the walls of our orphanages are, those outside are perhaps equally as hopeless. You do not hear the sound of laughter as you walk through the markets, the temple, and the streets. As you watch groups of monks perhaps no more than 7 or 8 walk solemnly down the crowded streets, I was once again reminded of the great needs in this small country. We sat with leaders and talked about the vast issue of human trafficking and little laughter was heard around the table. It is a serious subject with grave consequences. The loss of innocence, hope, and ability to be a child. The loss of laughter, joy, and freedom. It is my prayer today and each day that God would use our orphanages to spread hope, laughter, and freedom in a country so marked with bondage you can feel it in the air.
I will never forget the sound of laughter that resonated loudly from within the walls of our 11 orphanages. I will also never forget the absence of that sound from so much of the country. It is a reminder of hope and of the call to continue to work, fight, and equip leaders to spread the message of the gospel and the joy of Christ in a country on the brink of a revolution.