Friday, March 22, was World Water Day. Rev. Bekah Krevens shares a reflection on a recent delegation to Myanmar.
In our part of the world, the Northern Hemisphere, Lent coincides with the season when birds gather twigs and fallen leaves for new nests. Meanwhile, trees slowly uncurl fresh new leaves. The promise of new life is all around as the Church prepares for Easter.
Not long ago, I found myself in another kind of preparation: I was preparing for a Week of Compassion delegation to Myanmar; our group was going to visit several sustainable development projects that are bringing new life to villages on the other side of the world.
After flying into Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, we took a bus for a few hours down bumpy roads. As we drove past crumbling colonial buildings and congested high rise apartments, the landscape revealed some of the socio-political changes that have taken place over the years.
Once in Maubin, a smaller town towards the Southwest, we boarded three small fishing boats. With umbrellas in our hands and the constant vibration of the boat engine all around us, we floated past villages where families attended to their fishing nets along the water’s edge.
A small but striking pagoda appeared on the horizon as we pulled into Ma Su. We were warmly greeted by local leaders who ushered us to a meeting room in their local monastery, situated up on stilts like all of the buildings there. While we sipped tea and ate snacks that had been carefully prepared for us, different villagers took turns sharing stories about their lives.
Not long ago their entire small village had been destroyed by a strong cyclone. That compounds the challenges they already face each year during the rainy season, when life is interrupted as dry ravines are transformed into swift tributaries. When the water rises, the village’s livelihood dries up–children are unable to get to school, families can’t make it to the market, and no one is able access emergency medical care if the need arises.
These challenges can be alleviated by simple types of infrastructure that we often take for granted.
Thanks to your generosity, Week of Compassion was able to build a bridge, and also install water pumps to provide safe, clean water throughout the year. Access to safe clean water affects all aspects of life, and these projects allow the village to flourish in new ways. Each water pump benefits the health and wellness of the community and frees up time that can be spent for education and economic opportunities.
We walked through fields of okra to visit the bridge, and then back into the village where a handful of water pumps dotted the walking path. After a full day immersed in hospitality-- and stories marked by resilience-- we once again climbed into fishing boat taxis and headed to the next stop on our itinerary. I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to travel to Myanmar and even more grateful for the life changing work of Week of Compassion.