This is the story of how a small act of kindness paved the way for the opening of a Seventh-day Adventist school in a hostile village in Myanmar.
A group of 32 student missionaries arrived on the Thailand-Myanmar border for a one-week visit in January 2016. The young people — from Hong Kong Adventist College and the Korean Advanced Preparatory Academy in South Korea — came to teach music to schoolchildren, install a cement floor in a kindergarten, and find other ways to help refugees at the border.
At the beginning of the visit, a student missionary from Hong Kong joined two missionaries from Thailand and their photographer for a one-hour motorcycle trek into Myanmar. The four people wanted to access the needs of a small village of 14 families, said Tranqui Vergara, one of the Thai missionaries who went on the trip.
At the village, the visitors witnessed a daily struggle for drinking water. The nearest source of water was a reservoir located 1 mile (1 kilometer) away, and the villagers walked back and forth with buckets.
The student missionary, Janiz Shuk Ching Li, felt compassion for the families.
“She really pitied them, and her heart was touched by their condition,” Tranqui said.
When Janiz returned to the refugee camp on the border, she told the other student missionaries about what she had seen. The students decided to donate 50,000 baht (about U.S.$1,500) to lay a simple water pipeline from the reservoir to the village. The money was what remained from the funds that the students had raised through bake sales and other fundraisers for the mission trip.
The students were back home in Hong Kong and South Korea when work finished on the water pipeline a month later. Tranqui e-mailed photos of the pipeline to the delighted students.
But the pipeline ended up providing more than water. It opened the way for the village children to receive the Water of Life, Tranqui said.
“The villagers weren’t Christians, and they didn’t want anything to do with Christianity,” Tranqui said. “But when they saw this simple act of kindness by Christians, they wanted a school for their children.”
At the invitation of the villagers, the Seventh-day Adventist Church opened a school in the village in June 2016. The school now has 40 students — every school-age child in the village attends, as do several children from neighboring villages.
“Now this village is so happy,” Tranqui said. “They have a water system and an Adventist school through the kindness of those students.”
Tranqui Vergara, 44, does regular mission work on the Thailand-Myanmar border. He also is the physical education and art teacher at Adventist International Mission School – Korat, a K-9 school in Thailand that will receive part of the fourth quarter 2018 Thirteenth Sabbath Offering.