Reverend Crow's Life's Work
woke up in a Myskyina hotel sore and relieved to be away from the rhythmic
thumping of the train. He skipped breakfast and go find the Methodist Church
where William Lewis Crow preached. Not knowing what might happen, he brought
his big backpack instead of his small one just in case he did find something
big, like a stone tablet. He also brought his dop kit that contained some
its remoteness, Myskyina was much more industrious than the south. Noticeably
more multicultural than anywhere he had seen in Burma so far with Burmese,
Chinese, Indian, Kachin and many other hill tribes making up the population, it
was the Chinese who ruled the roost in town. The Chinese revealed their true
colors here, showing him they were truly a class apart with their porcelain
skin and industrious disposition. After all, the border was less than 65km
walked towards the church and was overwhelmed by the fresh air and the smell of
pine. As a Canadian who grew up among pines and maples, it brought him back to
the hefty lure of Canadiana. Rocky hills and morning fog obscured the trees
giving it a fairy tale ambiance that had no sign of the presence of man, like
an untouched oasis nestled in the eastern flank of the Himalayan Range. Only
the pagodas that pierced through the low-hanging fog were of man's hand. The
jungle, like a growing, moving organism of vines and green wood that twisted
and snowballed up to three-hundred feet high, made any bushwhacking a task of
near impossibility. He couldn't fathom how soldiers during World War Two
slashed their way through such thick vegetation under the obscene height of
teak trees that dwarfed the severity of the underbrush. The richness in the air
left his palette wanting more, not unlike a candy to a child. It tickled and
satisfied, unlike the air of most of Asia that tasted of motorcycle exhaust.
The fullness of the oxygen-rich air also lacked the industrial residue of
southern China; It was a feast for the senses.
streets busy with Chinese working on their tradecrafts and passing outdoor
teashops full with Burmese discussing business or their motorcycles, Thomas
eventually found Crow's Myskina Methodist Church at the end of a block. Near
its entrance, forgotten and overgrown with weeds, there was a tombstone for the
2nd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, the inscription barely legible
in the weathered stone:
WENT SIY NE ON
LOST THEIR LIVES IN THE ANNEXATION OF
BURMA DURING THE PERIOD NOVEMBER 1885-MARCH 1887
WHO ARE BURIED IN THIS CEMETARY
IN MEMORY OF
C. DANIEL LYSONS
FIFTY N.C.O.S AND MEN
LOST THEIR LIVES DURING
WHO ARE BURIED ELSEWHERE
DIFFERENT PARTS OF BURMA
MEMORIAL IS ERECTED BY
2ND BATTALION ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS
It was a reminder of lives
lost in the forgotten corners of the British Empire that no one knew about
except for the families of the fallen men, historians and rare prophecy seekers
like Thomas Robertson.
feeling a connection to the church when he aarived, it was different from other
American-missionary protestant churches. Crow's church was built with both
stone and cement but the red stone dominated its façade that emitted a soft
vermillion hue and enhanced the wooden windows painted red. The front entrance
was designed as a turret with crenellated edges and classic window-shaped
openings on all four sides. But the most striking aspect of Reverend Crow's
church are three thirty-foot crosses on the front wall carved into the stone,
each cross filled with turquoise stained glass that created a very unique
impression to the eye. The dozens of bright orange coconuts under the bib of
drooping palm leaves hanging off tall palm trees behind the church, with the
ochre red of the windows and the sublte red hue of rain-worn stone with the
turquoise shining from the three crosses on the front wall, all create an image
no one around that he could see, he approached the closed front doors that were
locked so he walked around to the back where he found what looked like a small
school for kids.
he said. A woman appeared ain the doorway of the school, causing Thomas to stop
dead in his tracks. Standing in front of him was a classic looking Red Indian
with aquiline nose, wide cheekbones and angular face but with lighter skin. He
stood there looking foolish just staring at her completely unaware,
mouth open as if he had seen her before.
English pagoda you have here," he said, using the local terminology for
I think so too."
this a school?" he asked, pointing at the adjascent building. She put her hand
through her hair and smiled.
used to be. We still conduct classes but there's no set schedule right now." He
must be seeing reflections of the turquoise crosses and stained-glass windows
because for a second he saw turquoise in her eyes.
do you do here, if you don't mind me asking. Teach?"
help out whenever I can. But yes. I'm a teacher." Her eyes glittered like
jewels and hair shined like black silk. Different from the people he had seen
in Burma yet somehow right at home here in the north, Thomas didn't know why he
was stripped of words or even capable of a meaningful grunt, as if his head was
splintered in the melee of his mind. Here is living proof of Reverend Crow's
life work, he thought to himself.
you here to see Reverend Thu?"
here to see the church," he said, voice weak in the face of such beauty. "I'm
sorry, what I mean to say is that I have traveled a very long way to find your
church and am overwhelmed that I'm finally here."
flew from Rangoon?"
1500km from my calculations. And it's gradually become colder. This morning
when I arrived I was freezing." Inadvertently shivering, the cold still deep in
"Would you like some tea or
something? It's a bit cold today." She lifted her collar a bit.
sounds perfect. Hot tea would hit the spot."
can go inside to the school. There's a common room."
because I have a few questions about the church."
I can help you. I've lived here all my life," she said. "My name's Hanna Crow."