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Roots of Our Faith

ja  

“I am a creature of God, and he has an undoubted right to do with me, as seemeth good in his sight. I rejoice that I am in his hands.” Anne Hasseltine Judson penned these words years before she would marry and leave for Burma. However unintended, these words would become the exact sentiment of Burmese students who would two centuries later study at a college named in her honor. 

 The arrival of Burmese students to Judson is a fairly recent event. To date there have been four such women who have uprooted themselves from their home and made the journey to America. The most recent of the four are Sau Nam and Ja Htoi. Amidst the echoes of another lively day at Judson, Dr. David Potts paused for a few moments to speak of the college’s founding and the Burmese students who remind us of that.  “We don’t comprehend the reverence which the Burmese people have for the Judsons”, he said. “Though Anne Judson was one of the most talked about women of her time by the early 20th century, the story of the Judsons was fading from the history of those who could benefit greatly from the knowledge. However, in Burma people will tell you that they trace their faith to them.” Nam came to Judson in 2010 and Ja joined her this fall. Both Sau and Ja attended the Myanmar Institute of Theology (MIT) in the state of Kachin where they earned bachelor’s degrees in religious studies. Both are teachers of English at Kachin Theological College and are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in English at Judson.   Sau Nam, 27, is a middle child with an older brother and a younger sister. She graduated high school at 15 and began college a year later. During the day she attended a government school and during the night she attended MIT. Later Sau would quit government school and tutor people in English in order to help support her family.  When asked about first studying English, Sau admitted that she wasn’t a very good student.  “I knew that English was really important to my education and I knew I wanted to teach.  I feel that it is the best way to contribute to my people.  This was my light. When we commit our light to God, he will shine our life like the dawn.” As she committed herself to her studies, the more she learned and the more she taught.  “I fell in love day by day with learning English. Learning different languages is like an adventure,” she said. Sau knew she wanted to study abroad but she didn’t know if that was God’s plan. “I put my passport and a map in my Bible and every time I prayed I held the map,” she said. Obstacles where placed in her way that would have disabled her from traveling, things like a failed exam required to study abroad.  “I put myself back into my teaching and served the people I taught.” Later Sau was offered the chance to study at Judson by Dr. Saga Hkyen Naw president of Kachin Theological College. Dr. Naw is the father of the first Burmese student to Judson, Ruth Aung Ra Saga, who graduated in 2005.  When asked about coming to Judson, Sau replied, “I was so glad, since we were young we learned about the Judsons. They translated the Bible. I’ve been to their memorial and her (Anne’s) grave not knowing what God had fated--that I would be attending the school she was named after. I can’t give enough thanks.” After graduation Sau looks forward to returning to Burma and teaching English at Kachin Theological College and working in the library there. When asked about her future “job” Sau patiently shook her head and replied, “for you Americans this is a job.  For me this is a challenge.  It’s me serving my purpose.” Ja Htoi, 25, is the youngest child with an older brother and sister. After high school she studied at both government school and MIT, intending to go into business.  “I had ambition; I wanted to be a businesswoman. I wanted to support my family. While I worked at the international school (teaching music and art) I would pray for my purpose.”  Ja began tutoring in English because she didn’t want to be a burden on her family who were  also putting her brother through school at the same time. When asked about learning English, Ja replied, “English was the key is the knowledge I sought. I wanted to read science books like biology.” Later Dr. Naw offered Ja a chance to come to Judson and study English. She accepted, honored to go to the place named after Anne Judson. Ja faced many obstacles while trying to arrive at Judson. Test results were lost in the mail and appointments for the embassy were last minute. However things worked out and Ja arrived just in time for new student orientation. After graduation, Ja will also be returning to Burma to teach English at Kachin Theological College.  When asked about being here at the same time Ja is, Sau replied,“She has me, I have her, and it’s a present from God.” For the average college student being a few hours away from home can make a person homesick.  These two brave women won’t see home for at least two more years. It gives a new perspective to the whole idea of being homesick. When faced with the question of adapting to the American culture and being away from home, the two where reminded of the Judsons.  “I understand more of the life of the Judson.  They must have felt just like me,” said Ja Sau added, “They (the Judsons) said goodbye forever and I know one day I’m going home. When we came, we knew a little English. They knew nothing and translated the Bible. I look to them for encouragement.”

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