Feast of St. Francis: A Burmese Farmer’s Tale
As we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis today, we bring you a story about one of our program participants and his family in Myanmar, Southeast Asia. Field photographer Lar Thu recounts his experience following the footsteps of herder Saw Moo Le and his family.
Earlier this year I accompanied the archbishop to St. Mary’s Church Day in Shwe Bon Village, 84 miles north of Yangon, the capital of the region. Being a photographer, I love capturing the beauty of village life and its natural surroundings. On a Sunday morning before communion service I was introduced to a family who were happy to show me around and talk about their start in small-scale livestock farming.
Saw Moo Le, the father of the family, is a 40-year-old Baptist Christian who grew up in Shwe Bon, just like his wife Naw Dora, a 35-year-old Anglican housewife. When they were first married, they recall struggling while building their growing family.
Moo Le was earning his living as a seasonal farmer during dry season. During the rainy season from June to September, the water levels would be so high that farming would have to be suspended. People in the region could only travel by boat from village to village, so Moo Le worked as a boat driver shuttling people back and forth during this period of year.
Eventually, the Saws’ family grew, they had three sons and two daughters, between the ages of one and 11. It was a difficult time, daily expenses rose even as there were more mouths to feed. When it felt like things couldn’t get better, Reverend Philip arrived to their village and introduced a livestock program through the Church’s Development Department. Shortly after, Moo Le received a cow from the program, signifying a new challenge and opportunity: that of starting his own business.
A newborn calf with its mother
Before this gift, Moo Le recalls a similar attempt with a single pig, but unfortunately it had died within a week. So he was skeptical at first, but by God’s grace, it not only survived but prospered and multiplied. After 10 years, the Saw family have four generations descended from that bovinely matriarch!
Nowadays, the Saw family are able to sell cows every year from their humble herd of cattle. Thanks to their husbandry income, the Saws are also able to invest in other types of livestock, like pigs and chickens.
“I will never sell the first cow I got from the development program,” Moo Le said. “Even if she is now old and past the age of being milked, I will look after her until the day she dies.”
Saw Moo Le’s children at their homestead
The Feast of St. Francis, patron saint of animals and the environment, is celebrated on October 4 every year. Episcopalians are called on this day to emulate the way St. Francis of Assisi lived: in simplicity and of service to others.
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O, God, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Looking to make a concrete impact on the lives of program participants like Moo Le? You can gift a goat, cow, pig or flock of chickens through our Gifts For Life catalogue. Each gift you send will give people worldwide the chance to transform their lives in lasting ways.
Also read: St. Francis’ Day: Animals as Blessings
Nagulan Nesiah is the Senior Program Officer for Disaster Response and Risk Reduction.