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What a journey! After leaving the big city on the coast we took an early morning flight at the crack of dawn up to a large city in the center of the country called M*nd*l*y. We took a taxi into the center of the city and had a long lunch there. Around midday we began a six hour taxi ride up into Sh*n St*te.
Averaging 60 mph without seat-belts we were barreling through country roads and windy mountain passes to get to our destination. For those of us who are motion sensitive it's really quite an adventure sort of like a nauseating roller coaster without the safety features. And it's worth every second!
Around every corner there is another gorgeous vista expressing the tremendous beauty of God's creation in this forgotten corner of Southeast Asia. Because of the country's bad reputation, not many tourists brave this land. Those that do are witness to breathtaking landscapes and the hospitality of these courageous people.
Along the way we also stopped to record the sun setting over the mountains. Any chance to use a video camera to capture the glory of God's creation is a good one by my estimation.
It's also good to stretch the legs and answer “nature's call.” This country lacks convenient services such as rest stops, so you get to make your own as needed!
Soon we were barreling full-speed into Hsip*w, our new home for the next few days. The next two days would be very full running around the countryside getting as many shots as we could get during the time we had. I was often heard saying “I love this job! This is what I signed up for.”
Here are some examples of where the Sh*n people of this area live. These homes have no electricity and little furniture, but they still have plenty of charm. You can imagine how having one of these delightful homes burned to the ground would be a great loss to the families that live here.
And here is where the Sh*n people work. Their economy is largely agrarian so their livelihood is based on what they can grow or raise. We heard the stories of many Sh*n people who had survived attacks by the military who had robbed them of their food. It is not uncommon for armies to come through and appropriate everything in the area for their troops leaving the people of this land destitute in their wake.
And here is where the people worship. The Sh*n people are known for being devoutly Buddhist, yet their rituals add a lot from animism and astrology. These people live in fear not only of their government but a whole host of spirits that keep them in bondage year round in an endless cycle of hopelessness and despair. Our desire is to sow seeds of hope into these communities with a message of freedom through Christ.
The spiritual poverty of these oppressed people contrasts with the abundant beauty of their setting and I'm reminded of Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Pray with me that these people will come to know their Creator in the fullness of His truth and beauty.
Coming next: an up close look at the Sh*n people.