from Emily Luttrull

Yangon, Myanmar is roughly 8,649 miles from my front door in Newburgh, Indiana. It’s not exactly as far from home as possible, but it’s pretty close. After about 30 hours of airports and traveling, I stepped off the last plane and was immediately surrounded by humidity. That humidity never goes away. It’s your welcome to Southeast Asia, your constant reminder that you aren’t in Kansas anymore.

Everything about Myanmar should be foreign to me, in every sense of the word. The language, food, culture, climate. There is no traffic regulation or central air conditioning or reliable internet. And yet when I was there, it felt familiar. I traveled for days to get somewhere that didn’t feel very far away after all.

I went to Myanmar to film people telling their stories, interviewing those who lived and ministered there. I talked to a man who grew up in an orphanage and later started his own. I heard the stories of a church planter in Rakhine State, living in the middle of the current humanitarian crisis. I talked to a teenage girl who escaped human trafficking by stealing a motorcycle in the middle of the night.

I’ve been back for a month, and these stories are still playing in my head. Editing videos can be tedious and time-consuming; I have listened to some of these voices over and over again while trying to pair the right visuals with the narrative. Parts of them I have memorized.  And as I’ve been thinking about these stories so much, the word that keeps coming back to me is requirement. What am I required to do, now that I’ve been equipped with these stories? What does God require of me, in my faith and in my life? Luckily, a verse in Micah answers these questions: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

That is exactly what the church planters, orphanage leaders, and survivors are doing, and what I’m meant to do here as well. Our stories are different, but they all share an underlying theme. My safe life in Midwest America could hardly be more different than a girl who was trafficked in Myanmar, but God asks the same thing of both of us. We are both called to act justly, even though our environments are vastly different. We are both called to love mercy, even though we won’t have the same choices. And we’re both called to do those things with humility.

When I left for Myanmar, I don’t think I expected to recognize anything. Instead, I found more similarities than differences. They people I met simply loved their communities and helped their neighbors. The work they were doing in Yangon isn’t much different than what my church is doing in Indiana. Culture, language and geography may divide us, but faith and purpose unite us.

It can be easy to hear these stories and fail to see beyond the unfamiliarity. It can be easy to fixate on those 8,700 miles that separate us. But we are more similar than not. We share the same calling.

Emily Luttrull