Reaching out to Myanmar
We believe that our lives are in the hands of our sovereign God, yet often this cannot readily be seen until one looks back.
I served God in Kos (Greece) for four years. During that time, I met a young man called David*. He is a pastor involved in church planting in Myanmar (Burma), with a great zeal for winning souls for Christ.
Over five years our friendship deepened, and we had weekly email correspondence. Little did I realise that each email cost David a return journey of four hours to the nearest internet cafe.
As it became clear in 2009 that we would have to return from Kos to the UK, and since David was party to our prayers, there came this request from him — Would I be prepared to visit Myanmar to teach the Bible to his congregation?
I felt inadequate for such a task. However, he insisted. So, in early July, I travelled via Thai Airways to Rangoon(Yangon) for ten days of Bible ministry.
Although capital city Yangon is starting to experience satellite TV, mobile phones and computers, the rest of Myanmar is years behind. Roads are limited and housing very basic, especially in the villages. And even though not all Christians feel persecuted, they do feel watched.
On the first Sunday the local authorities said I would not be permitted to go to the church. However, when David visited the hotel, he said it would be possible for me to go for 10-15 minutes.
Church is a downstairs room in his house, where they sing, worship, pray and hear the Word of God expounded. Many stand out in the street or front garden and listen. These include Buddhists, Hindus and animists, as well as Muslims probably.
All seem interested as to what is going on, yet, says David, they are afraid to come in. However, many who stood outside in the past are now regular worshippers.
The church that David has planted there has grown from 3-4 to more than 50 in the last five years, even though he has been forced to move on seven occasions during those years.
Benjamin* is David’s younger brother. Benjamin was converted five years ago. He is educated to a grade 10 standard (classed elsewhere as a university graduate).
Like his elder brother he has given up his career since all university graduates find jobs within the military or Government. For a number of years, Benjamin lived with his brother, as he was orphaned at 12 years old. Not too many Burmese live beyond their late 50s.
Since Benjamin’s conversion, his great aim is to win souls for Christ. It was a joy to meet him. He had come south from Shan state where he is currently working in the city of David Tanunggyi.
Already he is renting part of a house there and holding regular services on Sundays, as well as Bible studies around that city. He has a desire to reach out into the countryside too.
How different the young church in Myanmaris to the church of the West! David’s weekly Bible study is on a Saturday from 9am to 2pm (evenings are difficult, as electricity is limited). Imagine Bible studies of this length in the UK!
So I should not have been surprised at the length of time David expected my seminars to last — 9.00am-noon each morning, with three five minute breaks, to cover the book of Genesis; then 1.00pm-3.00pm in the afternoon, with two five minute breaks!
David’s comment was, ‘Teach them Genesis. They need to understand how it all started. Then they will have a better understanding of why Jesus the Saviour was needed’.
In spite of all the obstacles, from the authorities and from difficult living circumstances, thechurchofJesus ChristinMyanmaris flourishing. David is expecting converts and looking to see, as soon as they are converted, how they can be used. Can you imagine such an outlook inBritain?
A young couple recently married, and only converted two years ago, are already preparing to go to the south west of the country to church plant. David is preparing to send a recent convert, a young man, toChinState, north ofYangon.
Things have changed from the days of Adoniram Judson. Missionaries are no longer needed, but what is needed is western biblical knowledge, together with practical support.
I would like, in the coming days, to try to bring together those that have an interest in Myanmar and see how we can best serve our brothers and sisters there.
In the future, Pastor David sees a need for regular visits to teach church members and bring pastors together, where possible. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01638 712069.
* Not their real names