Myanmar has a population of about 56 million, of which over 80% consider themselves Buddhists and 8,98% Christian (5% Evangelical). OM works in Myanmar in partnership with MTI and ACT.Read More
We take the morning after our arrival to rest and sort our equipment and then head to the OM office to interview a mother and daughter who have come to know Jesus through OM-run English classes. They are from a Buddhist background but fearlessly share their stories even though it’s not permitted to convert in Myanmar.
As the sun sets, we head to Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Myanmar. The temple complex is massive, populated by a sprinkling of tourists and throngs of locals performing rituals and praying in front of golden Buddhas. Buddhist monks chanting prayers adds a surreal quality to the scene.
We’re up bright and early with our cameras and lighting gear in tow. Today we’re visiting an OM-run kindergarten in a poor community. The crowded ferry crossing the river assaults the senses—the smell of sewage and fish, mingling with the clamor of vendors old and young hawking fruit, quail eggs and food for the swooping sea gulls. It’s tradition to feed the gulls, as locals believe they host the spirits of their ancestors.
At the dock we pile ourselves and our gear onto a small fleet of tricycle taxis and take a short ride through an area the locals call the “Cursed Land”. The Burmese government is loosening restrictions after years of military dictatorship, leading to change and development in Yangon, but the poor in rural areas are even worse off.
A bright spot in this struggling community is the kindergarten, where we’re filming today. The children are friendly, well-behaved and eager to learn English words, play games and sing Bible songs. Most are from Buddhist or non-Christian families, so the impact of the loving education from the kindergarten teachers extends into the community.
We’re filming at another OM kindergarten today, but this time we drive out of Yangon past rush houses built on stilts and the occasional cow or donkey curiously watching us pass.
We get footage of the children playing and performing their songs, as well as interview the woman who runs the kindergarten. It’s a challenge to do the interview in Burmese through an interpreter, but it’s a challenge our team is used to facing.
On our way out of town we detour through a local market teaming with life. Young and old weave between stalls selling chicken feet, tiny squid and a vast assortment of vegetables. We start a conversation with a female Buddhist monk collecting alms. Though usually it’s not permitted to photograph Buddhist monks, she graciously allows us to take a few photos.
It’s a four-hour drive in the car for us today, dodging trucks, bicycles and pedestrians as we travel to and from one of six OM-sponsored orphanages. This orphanage is in a very rural area, so we traverse many winding, bumpy dirt roads before we drive through the gate.
OM workers and short-term teams visit the orphanages, singing songs and playing Bible quiz games with the children. Many of the children still have a remaining parent or relative, yet they have been abandoned or brought to the orphanage because their parent could not afford to care for them or pay school fees.
Life can be very difficult for orphans aging out of the programme and trying to find work in the cities without skills or family connections. OM wants to create a more sustainable model, using agriculture to provide for the orphanage and doing skills training in sewing, welding and other vocations so the orphans have a way to build a life.
It’s a long day in the OM office today, interviewing OM workers and local partners about several ministries, including English classes and HIV and AIDS awareness events. We’re also interviewing a very special guest—a man who used to be a Buddhist monk but became a Christian through conversations with a local pastor. Now he labours to plant churches of Buddhist-background believers and educate the church in Myanmar about how to contextualise the Gospel. Myanmar is over 95 per cent Buddhist.
Running into unforeseen obstacles is normal when filming in Third World countries, and today is no exception. On the street outside the office where we’re filming there’s great commotion as shopkeepers and residents prepare for a Buddhist monk to come speak. Music blares over the loudspeakers and at five-minute intervals someone speaks into a megaphone. OM workers tell us this has never happened in the 10 years they’ve been working in this office.
We resort to pausing every few sentences during the interviews, waiting for the speaker to pause and take a breath before we continue the interview. It makes for a long day and a very slow process.
We’re filming mostly b-roll today, which is a media term for atmospheric shots that convey a sense of place and lend some cultural flavor. So we hit the street-side markets in Yangon, chatting it up with toothless old ladies and taking in the colorful variety of life.
As the sun begins to set, lending us that magical time period photographers call “golden hour” for its beautiful light, we grab our equipment and run to the top of a pedestrian overpass to get shots of yet another pagoda in downtown Yangon. It’s the site of many of the riots and political demonstrations that continue to cause unrest in Myanmar.
Sitting down to watch a football (soccer) match isn’t normally on our list for filming trips, but today we’re at the football stadium in Myanmar interviewing an OM partner about sports ministry. Sports camps have opened so many doors for the Gospel already and allowed Christians from the football team to minister to typhoon victims before outside relief agencies were allowed in the country.
Our last night in Myanmar calls for a night out eating delicious hot pot. Then it’s back to the hotel room to repack everything, break down equipment, back up footage and try to get a few hours of sleep before the long flights back to England.
Are you interested in becoming a media missionary with OM? Visit the OMNIvision website (www.omnivision.om.org) to learn more about opportunities to use your skills in video production to serve God.
Published: Friday, 22 May 2015
Credit: Katie Morford