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  • Preparing for Myanmar

    Leave the familiar for a while. Let your senses and bodies stretch out
    Like a welcomed season
    Onto the meadows and shores and hills.
    Open up to the Roof. Make a new water-mark on your excitement
    And love.
    Change rooms in your mind for a day.
    All the hemispheres in existence lie beside an equator
    In your heart.
    Greet Yourself in your thousand other forms
    As you mount the hidden tide and travel
    Back home.

    —from All the Hemispheres by Hafez, 14th Century Persian poet

    I am sitting at my desk, enjoying the glow of a beautiful Advent season at our church and preparing for our Christmas services. For me, it is a rich time of waiting—preparing for the birth of the Holy Child. But I am blessed with another kind of waiting too—one that is a little more human. I am preparing for one more trip to Myanmar: special trip insurance, visa, endless vaccinations, packing lists, educational materials, music scores and more. The cold of winter has arrived here this year, and I am far from ready for the extreme heat and humidity of Yangon.

    As one traveler in a faithful band of eight, I am pleased to tell you that our little group has finally grown up. From a ragtag grassroots team, we have named ourselves—Metta Partners in Myanmar—and have secured a fiscal sponsor, the Cetana Educational Foundation in New York City. As I write this letter, we have just gone live with a new website—one that I hope relays, in simple and straightforward terms, our overarching mission and operating principles. Here you will find our projects, our goals, our team and our dreams.

    I depart for Myanmar on December 29, 2016, and will be back with you in worship on Sunday, January 29, 2017. The time away is a true gift, and I am grateful to this congregation for affording me the opportunity to deliver the transforming power of our faith to people whose lives look nothing like our own. First Congregational Church has been an important part of my trips—pilgrimages, if you will—because of steady and faithful generosity—generosity of spirit, money and time. This year, the Outreach and Service Ministry has generously awarded another grant that will substantially impact the lives of children and youth in a poverty-stricken population. Your generosity is infectious! The First Church of Wenham and the Trinitarian Congregational Church of Concord have also contributed to Metta Partners in Myanmar.

    Our work has evolved over time, and trust me, we have made plenty of mistakes. But we have also learned a great deal—gaining deeper respect for the culture and ways of communities; attempting to re-connect families; bringing education that makes a difference. While at first, we delivered money, food and goods (which we still supply), we are now, through our current partnership with Cetana Educational Foundation, giving residents of Kanpetlet, Chin Hills, an opportunity to learn English in order to improve their employment prospects, especially in the tourism industry. Young people in Myanmar can only secure a job if they pass the rigorous National Matriculation Examination, which includes a thorough and complete understanding of English, even though most teachers in the country are unable to pass the exam themselves. We are bringing teachers who speak fluent Burmese and English to teach the country’s teachers, AND the government is supporting our efforts, by allowing the government school teachers to participate in our programs.

    My time away will again be divided between three institutions: Gitameit Music Centre and Sanda Rama Monastery School, both located in Yangon and Metta Geha Children’s Home, located in Kanpetlet. As always, I leave with a mixture of trepidation and determination. It is hard to leave home, to leave my family and my comfortable life. But it is you, all of you at First Congregational Church, who bolster me as I go on another journey. I welcome your prayers, and I look forward to being with you once again, as I mount the “hidden tide and travel/Back home.”

    In faith and with gratitude, (and on behalf of the Ministerial Team),

    —Jane Ring Frank, Minister of Music and Worship Arts