Myanmar

Picture I found from worldtravelconnector.com

It has come to my awareness that some of my readers are not familiar with terms that we, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, use. One term is “Need Greating”. This is the term we use when one provides their volunteer services of our public ministry to lands and locations where there is a need for it. It’s lands and area where there is a lot of interest and not as many Witnesses to fulfill the public interest, so “the need there is great”. This is often seen as missionary work from the world’s perspective, but we take the missionary work to a whole new level and don’t really call ourselves missionaries loosely, Need Greaters does just well. I recommend you look up this term at our online website, jw(dot)org and feel free to read all about it on there.

When I decided to Need Great, it was a big deal to me. Before then, I felt so aimless and this lead to a lot of negative feelings towards myself. It seemed that everyone else had a goal they were passionately working towards and I couldn’t even pick one. Need Greating was the perfect goal for me because it involved traveling, immersing yourself in another culture and also being able to share the good news of the future. Not only is this goal full of experiences and adventure (two things I love), it made me feel more useful and fulfilled the sense of purpose that I craved.

Before moving to New York, I was trying to move to Myanmar. I was learning the Myanmar Language and had a good amount of savings. I was researching places to rent and calculating how much I could live off in a month. I watched so many videos and read many articles and also ways I could maintain my plant-based diet (which seems surprisingly doable). I was planning my life there. The next chapter! It felt so real to me. I even had dreams about the day I would fly out and say my farewells to my family. I was daydreaming about arriving and smearing on some of that Thanaka paste on my cheeks, and riding a bike through the buzzing downtown Yangon to a cute coffee shop. It was the next big thing for me to do after all the previous years of traveling. My heart was pulling me in that direction and I fell in love with everything I learned about Myanmar. It was the dream that kept me going during the pandemic; It fueled my zeal.

The way I came to pick Myanmar was pretty cool: I made some specific prayers and Jehovah answered them. Before the pandemic hit, I even called the service department in Myanmar and was encouraged to make the jump! My friend also joined me on this journey and it was no doubt that Jehovah was approving our decision to go there and it felt so dear and so special to me. I found out that there was a congregation not far from me on zoom. My friend and I started to visit virtually. I met a nice group of friends there and ended up meeting a tutor. Every week, we had our Myanmar lessons, we would do double meetings so we could do the Myanmar meetings. Whenever we were able to, we’d connect to meetings in the Myanmar country. It was a nice way to virtually explore and forget about the pandemic. This went on for a couple of months.

February 2021 came. The Myanmar military took over and the whole country was overtaken. Things there only got worse and worse, and have been since.

After some time, my friend decided to stop her lessons and re-direct her focus elsewhere. I understood why and supported her decision; she had other valuable things to focus on. It wasn’t so easy for me to re-direct, and the thought of doing so was still painful to me. I was still in denial and believed that things could get better and I could still go, so I kept going with my lessons and continued to connect to the meetings (ahhh, idealism) for some time. Deep down, however, I knew I had to face the facts (uughh, reality). After praying a couple of times, it was obvious that there was no way I would be able to go to Myanmar anytime soon. The foreigners who were there were starting to leave and return home. Things continued to get more and more intense. It was not going to be a good place for me to go, not now at least.

This, unfortunately, contributed to the depression I was already dealing with at that time in early 2021. Once again I felt aimless and I was trying to fight the negative feelings. I was teetering into hopelessness. I had to pray because that was not the right attitude to have and, I WASN’T THE ONLY ONE (self-pity, get outta here! we don’t need you!) I prayed for a better attitude and I prayed for the desire to do something, anything else. I started to focus on what I could control. I wanted to feel genuinely happy in doing whatever it is that Jehovah wants me to do. This took a couple of months.

During this time, there was a lot of hype with the upcoming Ramapo project. My original plan was to serve in Myanmar for a year or two, then maybe move to New York once the project was already up and running. I was also considering staying in Myanmar and applying to SKE there so I could become a field missionary. New York was the last stop I was really thinking about, but taking part of the Ramapo project surely would be a huge blessing. I started to wonder if maybe my last stop should then become my first stop. I told Jehovah that if I needed to move to New York, something very specific needed to happen. A friend would need to tell me that she’s moving and she would need to invite me to just go. Meanwhile, I would work on myself and change the attitude I had from what I thought was best, to what He thinks is best. While I was at it, I also decided to try and purchase an old School Bus so I can convert it and live in it (which has always been another dream of mine; that, or build a tiny house).

Two months later, I was talking to a friend and she casually tells me “by the way, did I tell you? I’m moving to New York!”

The conversation went something similar to this:
Me: No way! Take me with you!… haha just kidding.
Her: Why not? Have you thought about it?
Me: New York? I guess, but I can’t right know, you know.
Her: Why not?
Me: I want to build my Skoolie.
Her: Why?
Me: So I can live in it and go anywhere Jehovah needs me.
Her: Like, New York?
Me: uuuhh… I suppose so?
Her: forget the bus! What else is holding you back? Really? Is there something here holding you back?
Me: (panic) I.. I… I don’t know!

Then I remembered my prayer. She was inviting me to join her on her cross-country trip to scope out New York and see if it could be a good fit for me. There was my answer and the rest is history.

I never made it to Myanmar, physically, but what many valuable people in my life have told me over and over again “you still got to need great there virtually”. It has taken me a while to accept that, but I believe it now too. This Myanmar goal was also a spiritual lifeline. In a funny way, it served me because it kept me focused and motivated on something greater. It nourished my imagination and love for the ministry. I got to need great with my heart.

Another interesting side point, every time I try to go to Asia, Jehovah sends me somewhere else. The first time I tried to go to Asia (I was aiming for Thailand), I ended up in Florida in 2017. The second time I was trying to go to Asia, I ended up in Ecuador in 2018. For the third time, I tried to go to Asia again to move there, and instead I have moved to New York. I still have to acknowledge that I am thoroughly satisfied with the outcomes of each try. I really love my life and everyone I’ve met in each re-direct.

Maybe it’s about time I start thinking about giving Asia another try.

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