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by Major Seth Le Leu
The boys were lined up at the Yangon Boys’ Home, Myanmar. From the smallest to the largest they were arranged in height order, waiting to welcome the guests. Frustration vied against a vague interest in the visitors. The frustration was that this was the weekend and there were so many things to do.
All the boys had homework for school or university. The housework had been done and the old colonial building was as clean as it could be. But most of all the weekend was for games and having fun – and this had to wait for guests who were now late.
The watchful eyes of the superintendent were on all the boys, keeping them in line, and they knew the score. All except the newest boy. He refused to stand with all the others but sat in the doorway, crying. Even when the guests were giving their welcome speeches his whimpering could be heard in the background.
Why was he so upset?
He was only seven years old but poverty and loss of his parents forced him to be the newest member of the boys’ home. He had only been there for four days and he was scared. He didn’t understand the language of the home or even why he was there. In time he will adjust and one day he will realise that he is one of the fortunate ones.
The alternative for him could have been hunger, ill-treatment by strangers, even premature death. Today there is a vital ministry of caring for the abandoned children of the world. More than 10,000 children worldwide are cared for in Salvation Army homes like this one in Yangon. The children are looked after, they attend school and are given a chance in life that is not available for millions of other abandoned children.
Bago, a small town in central Myanmar, is renowned for its beautiful pagodas. What’s not so well known is the dire poverty found there.
In one of the suburbs The Salvation Army has a poverty alleviation programme. Boys and girls go each evening to the Salvation Army centre for extra tuition. The children are helped with their homework and this assistance can make a big difference, allowing them to progress to secondary education and have a chance to break out of the poverty trap in which the majority of Bago’s inhabitants find themselves.
The Army’s programme also involves a micro-finance scheme for 30 local women. They have varied businesses, from a very successful lending library to small shops and simple bamboo processing. These small efforts enable families to look after their children at home, with their parents, rather than having some small crisis destroy the family structure, which would mean the children end up with no means of support. This local solution to families staying together is needed in all the 10,000 communities of the developing world where The Salvation Army has a presence.
In Aung Ywa, another community in Myanmar, another boy was in a doorway – the entrance to the new Salvation Army hall. No one noticed him. He was just one of the local children and this was a day of great excitement.
Feverish preparations had been made to finish the new hall and house for the hoped-for Salvation Army officer who would lead the church there.
The hall stood there, resplendently new, the door carefully locked, ready for the visitors to officially open the building. The new house for the officers was just finished, the creosote that preserved the walls still leaving a pungent smell.
The whole village wanted to know – when would they get a leader to live in the house? Everyone had been told they must make a good impression on the visitors. Last-minute work was carried out and, finally, all was ready. When it all started, the guests and important people lined up outside the hall, the visitor from London cut the tape, prayers were made and the door was opened. All the important people filled the hall. They listened to the songs sung by the choir and heard all the speeches. Photos were taken.
The little boy in the door stood there, observing it all. He was not dressed for the occasion. He didn’t belong to any of the big people. He was just passing and yet something drew him to stand and to listen. He wasn’t considered particularly important to anyone in the room – except to God, whose unseen presence filled the place. He was at the edge of mission – the place where the gospel reaches out its transforming power. He is not just the future, he is the emerging present.
The success of the Aung Ywah church’s mission is about those two or three vital steps that get boys like this one inside the door. Those few precious feet are the most contested in the mission of the church. It is vital that all churches, like this one in Myanmar, have wide-open doors, places where passers-by can linger and where they will hear the divine through the friendly invitation to go inside.
Two different boys in two different doorways – and in different ways, The Salvation Army can help transform both of their lives.
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All the World
Tell a Friend
© 2013 The Salvation Army