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Chapter Twenty-five 


 

Reverend Crow's Life's Work

۞

Thomas 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 tools.

Despite 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 away.

He 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.

Crossing 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:

SACRED TO THE
MEMORY
OF
I WENT SIY NE ON
AND MEN OF
1ST BATTALION
ROYAL WELSH
FUSILIERS
WHO LOST THEIR LIVES IN THE ANNEXATION OF
UPPER BURMA DURING THE PERIOD NOVEMBER 1885-MARCH 1887
AND WHO ARE BURIED IN THIS CEMETARY
ALSO IN MEMORY OF
LIEUT, C. DANIEL LYSONS
AND FIFTY N.C.O.S AND MEN
WHO LOST THEIR LIVES DURING
THE ABOVE PERIOD
AND WHO ARE BURIED ELSEWHERE
IN DIFFERENT PARTS OF BURMA
X
THIS MEMORIAL IS ERECTED BY
THE 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.

Immediately 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 that glowed.

With 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.

"Hello?" 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.

"Beautiful English pagoda you have here," he said, using the local terminology for church.

"Yes, I think so too."

"Is this a school?" he asked, pointing at the adjascent building. She put her hand through her hair and smiled.

"It 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.

"What do you do here, if you don't mind me asking. Teach?"

"I 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.

"Are you here to see Reverend Thu?"

"I'm 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."

"You flew from Rangoon?"

"Train actually."

"Train!"

"About 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 his bones.

"Would you like some tea or something? It's a bit cold today." She lifted her collar a bit.

"That sounds perfect. Hot tea would hit the spot."

"We can go inside to the school. There's a common room."

"Great, because I have a few questions about the church."

"Maybe I can help you. I've lived here all my life," she said. "My name's Hanna Crow."

  

 
 
 
 
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Part One - Canada
1.      The Twin From the East Returns  
2.      The Sundancer  
3.      Waxing Gibbous 
4.      The Second Coming of the Messiah 
5.      The Sacred Twin Story 
6.      The Sign of the Pahana 
7.      Palongawhoya and Poqanghoya 
8.      Rainbow Thunderbird and Red Phoenix 
9.      The True White Brother 
10.    The Lost Louis Riel Notebooks 
 
Part Two - Hong Kong
11.    A Mixture of Revulsion and Pity 
12.    A Classroom of Scallywags 
13.    Illegitimati non Carborundum 
14.    The Distant Fire of Empyrean
 
Part Three - Burma
15.    The Monastery of Sacred Tablets 
16.    The Outpost of Tyranny 
17.    When the 12th Moon Comes 
18.    The Pigeon Left & the Crow Took His Place 
19.    Go North and Find Your People 
20.    Finding Orwell 
21.    Though the Monkey is in a Hurry, the Tree Branch is Not 
22.    The Castle at God's Toes 
23.    The General and Sergeant Betel Nut 
24.    The Tattooed Station Master 
25.    Reverend Crow's Life's Work 
26.    Yield Not to Adversity, But Press on More Bravely 
27.    A Bitter Cuppa Tea 
28.    The Thirteenth Tribe 
29.    When a Lamp is Lit You Must Expect Insects 
30.    John the Christian 
31.    A Guardian Angel Named Hanna 
32.    The Bar Car & Betel Nut 
33.    The Son of Light 
34.    Slipping the Karmic Knot
 
Part Four - Hong Kong
35.    The Tonsure Warning 
36.    The Phoenix Reborn 
37.    Touching the Empyrean 
38.    Joshua the Gatekeeper 
 
Part Five - Canada
39.    Lapsit Exillis 
40.    Thunderstones 
41.    The Time of Great Purification  
         
 
 
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