UK missionary Brian Ellis has sent this report by Peter Ci Thang of a recent visit to the Irrawaddy delta, in Myanmar. Peter is a student of Grace Ministerial Academy, in Metro-Manila, Philippines.
In early June I visited a number of island villages in Myanmar to help victims of the May cyclone. Two pastors and some village headmen were waiting to meet me on arrival. We spent the first day planning for the tasks ahead. I met church members and Bible students from Yangon Reformed Baptist Church and planned ahead with two medical doctors (my cousins).
My mother and doctor-cousins bought medicines. My eldest sister bought masks, mosquito nets and other equipment. We visited the Islands of Pinsalu and Haigyi.
Leaving Yangon on the morning of 5 June, we came to Laputta City late that evening. The next day we bought such badly needed supplies as rice, cooking oil, yellow beans, drinking water and tarpaulins. When we arrived at Pinsalu we found that nobody had received any help; they had survived by drinking coconut milk. They hadn’t been able to travel because their boats had been damaged by the cyclone.
The headmen announced that we would dispense medical help, and for two whole nights they brought their sick and injured, some in a very serious condition. We had no time to rest as we treated them. The worst cases were sent to Laputta.
Conditions in the villages were very bad, with humans and animal corpses strewn all around. There were swarms of flies on the bodies, and the wells supplying water had been contaminated by the corpses.
The intense trauma they had suffered had left the people in a terribly depressed condition. Overwhelmed by sorrow and hunger, they hadn’t even begun cleaning up the mess, but were just sitting around waiting for death to take them too.
We wasted no time in bringing help. We began by burying the dead. At first people just stared at us, but then they began to join in. That first day we buried forty decomposing human bodies and thirty animals. The local folk witnessed Christian love and compassion and were encouraged to come to the worship services the coming Lord’s Day.
Four worship services took place then in the different villages we ministered to. The folk invited us into their broken houses to pray for their strength and health, for their farms, and for the rebuilding of their homes and church.
We worshipped together with them at the village of Kunggyi. There was no roof on the church building and we comforted them from God’s Word in wet clothes. One hundred people who had sheltered from the cyclone in one Baptist church were entombed when it collapsed at the height of the storm. The pastor and his wife were buried under the rubble of their church.
At Ahwaga village, only six survived out of a population of 400, including the pastor who has gone mad. His wife and children had all died.
So we, their brethren from Yangon, called a meeting of those left from the three congregations, including the surviving Kunggyi pastor, and suggested that for the time being they organise themselves into one fellowship. They agreed and decided to call themselves the Pinsalu Christian Fellowship.
All the village buildings had been extensively damaged by the storm. Those who survived the cyclone were dwelling in the few houses that remained upright because of their relatively stable walls. But these houses were all roofless. The people had no shelter from the weather, hardly any clothes to wear, and were at risk from exposure and disease.
We were able to bring help to thirteen villages in Pinsalu, two in Haigyi and three in Bogale. All these places (and many others) desperately need follow-up programmes over the next six months. There is an urgent need for temporary housing, medicines – for typhoid, pneumonia, malaria and dysentery – clothes, blankets, mosquito nets, soap, cleaning materials and food.
All their farm animals are dead and the villagers need at least one tractor per village so that they can get on with ploughing. Some villages need fishing nets and boats. There is also a great need for volunteer workers, especially Christians.