Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Remembering Uncle Penn

Uncle Spencer Zan, affectionately known by everyone as Uncle Penn, was one of the founding fathers of Philadelphia Burmese Baptist Church. From the inception of PA-NJ Burmese Christian Fellowship to the day this Fellowship became Philadelphia Burmese Baptist Church, Uncle Penn had always supported it wholeheartedly. He had never failed to be present at all monthly prayer meetings of the Fellowship.

Even though Uncle Penn was there at every meeting when PBBC was at its embryo stage, guiding and giving valuable advice, it is sad for us that he did not live to witness PBBC officially become a church in November 2008 as he went to be with the Lord in February that year.

Although he is not with us today, he is always remembered by all founding members of PBBC who will carry on his legacy to generations to come.

In remembrance of him, a tribute by his family is reproduced below.

Spencer Zan – A Family’s Tribute

Spencer Zan, an ethnic Karen, was born in Burma in 1923 during the British administration. He was a devoted son, dependable brother, loving husband and eventually a doting father. In the latter part of his life, he became an uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather. Through all his roles in life, his greatest love and the one he drew his inspiration and strength from was his Heavenly Father. In everything he said or did, Spencer tried to honor and bring glory to God, and much of it was manifested in his passion to help those who were helpless. Where there was someone in need, Spencer was there. Where there was a crisis to be resolved, Spencer was there. In all these things, he looked first and foremost to God.

As his life unfolded it became clear that he was destined to do great things. He was a polarizing force against a brutal military regime, so much so that he had to escape to another country for the sake of his family. He planned their exodus from Burma like a military commander, but that of God’s army. In all these things, he looked first and foremost to God.

While in neighboring Thailand, Spencer continued to help those in Burma who were persecuted for their political beliefs. Using the long arm of his influence he was able to help countless people looking for safety and asylum. His work bore fruit, not in the context of fame or wealth but in the context of witnessing to others on the saving grace of God and enabling others to do His work. In all these things, he looked first and foremost to God.

At the end of his days, Spencer knew in his heart that he had woven a tapestry of love, faith and hope throughout his family tree and that his legacy would be carried on by his children and his children’s children.

He had his memoirs published to be read by generations that never knew their own history. Spencer touched and shaped many lives, especially those of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The dawn of 2008 saw Spencer ailing and growing weaker each day. It has become evident to us now that Spencer knew his time on this earth was coming to a close and that his earthly body was giving way to time and hardship. In the final days, he must have suffered greatly but did much of it privately and silently in the still of the night. He never wanted to be a burden to anyone, especially his family.

We shall miss him deeply, but it is great comfort and joy to know that he has his final reward for a job well done and is walking in the presence of his Heavenly Father. There is a peace in our hearts to know that in his most difficult time, he looked first and foremost to God.