It’s not who you are or what you have. It’s who you know that counts in this Southeast Asian country.
But connections didn’t seem to be working for local Seventh-day Adventist leaders who needed authorization to build a larger school in Myanmar’s capital, Yangon. Enrollment had reached 650 children in two small buildings used since 1975, and teachers had no choice but to turn away new students.
Church leaders approached Yangon city authorities for permission to construct a brand-new building, but no one seemed to want to sign off on the paperwork. The leaders reached out to their personal acquaintances in the city government for help, but again nothing happened.
In the United States, the General Conference, the administrative body of the Adventist world church, recognized the need for the new school building and approved a request from the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, whose territory includes Myanmar, to allocate part of a 2012 Thirteenth Sabbath Offering for its construction.
The money was collected, but local church leaders still couldn’t find connections in the city government to approve the project. Three years passed.
Then new church leadership was chosen during regular elections. The new leaders didn’t have any connections in the city government, and they threw up their hands in dismay. The situation seemed impossible.
Samuel Saw, president of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division and a Myanmar native, gently reproached the church leaders.
“Yes, you don’t have the connections and don’t know the right people,” he said. “But we have God. If we ask Him, He will get us through.”
He suggested that the leaders pray and file a new request for a city building permit.
The leaders prayed and went to the city office, where a woman greeted them at the front desk. Her face lit up when she heard that they represented Yangon Adventist Seminary, as the grade 1-10 school is known.