Missions Insider Report :: Missions Insider
Indigenous Missionaries Reaching Cyclone Victims In Remote Areas in Burma
June 24, 2008
During the very first days of the cyclone disaster a ministry supported by Christian Aid reported that a sister ministry located in Thailand was able to travel to and fro, bringing goods into Burma without incident. (This sister ministry is an outreach to persecuted Burmese who have fled to Thailand.) While help from foreign agencies was constantly thwarted by the government, indigenous missionaries were able to start work immediately because of their status as "locals," and because of the timely gifts from Christian Aid donors.
The Irrawaddy Delta
Indigenous missionaries feeding cyclone victims
One ministry leader described their efforts in the flooded delta area: "We traveled 12 hours by truck over very bad roadways and then two more hours by rented boat to reach victims in SaaCin village and Cia Nay Kan, places hit hard by the cyclone. We were able to distribute very basic needs, such food and water, but we told them on the next trip we planned to bring more food, plus a lot of other useful items such as mosquito netting, blankets, medicine, surgical masks and clothing. When I asked them what else would be helpful, they replied, 'We only need food!' They are really starving." Any gift at this time could work wonders for a people who have never heard the name of Christ.
Strategies for the Distribution of Aid
The government is generally accepting of the Buddhist monks, but the monks have a jaundiced view of the government and its “military” (junta) ever since the protests led by monks last fall which ended in riots and the junta subduing them with violence. So it is because of these already strained relationships and the current revelation of the government’s contemptible behavior towards its citizens throughout the crisis that many Buddhists and even monks are receptive to the kindness of Christians.
Cyclone victims reading gospel tracts given them by missionaries
A pastor working through a ministry in Rangoon offered some practical advice regarding the distribution of aid: If assistance is given to the government agencies, the distribution is limited to those staying in temporary shelters, such as schools, monasteries and camps run by the government.
Furthermore, the government will give aid to Buddhists, but discriminate against Christians. However, if aid from outside sources is able to reach the local churches in Rangoon, native workers will make sure it is given to all who are destitute – whether believers or Buddhists. This pastor also informed Christian Aid that most goods that were initially available in Rangoon came in through China. Now other nations have sent in more aid.
It is Feared the Worst is Yet to Come
Cyclone victims cling to life, but the death toll will keep rising due to hunger, a lack of water and squalid living conditions. Disease will ultimately kill these victims, if medical attention is not given.
Indigenous missionaries traveling to assist cyclone victims
Day-to-day survival of the 2.5 million displaced people has taken precedence over all else. It is estimated that it will take at least six months before even minimal restoration can be made to the massive physical destruction.
But the spiritual crisis and the restoration of lives will take much longer to heal. A ministry leader described the desolation soon after the cyclone hit: “Everything looks so dark. We are stunned from the shock, in a stupor – numb.” Native missionaries are praying that they will have the means to be able reach more people with God’s love and give them hope.
Native Missionaries are Making a Difference
A team of young Christian workers that went to Bogale was asked to bury the dead, so a ministry supported by Christian Aid responded and provided special masks for these young workers, as well as more manpower to help them. “We were so honored to hear this report regarding our youth. Forty bodies have to be buried in one grave, but funeral services and special prayers are being offered at each gravesite by the youth. This is a great witness among the local people and even to the authorities.”
And in Rangoon Bible school students have been gaining “hands-on” ministry experience, as they distribute rice and give out gospel booklets. One ministry gave out 800 copies on one trip, but that was not enough.
Urgent and Ongoing Needs
The urgent needs consist of mosquito nets, clean clothing, personal hygiene products, surgical masks, medicine, plastic sheeting, portable toilets, water purifiers, and food. The ongoing needs will, of course, include all of the aforementioned, plus materials to restore buildings and build new homes, dig wells, and build outhouses or other toilet facilities.
A Special Request
"And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it." 1 Corinthians 12:26
Christian brethren who have been laboring so long amid so much tragedy need prayers and support more than ever. Prayers and financial support are being accepted by Christian Aid. Gifts will be used by indigenous ministries to help those in need and to reach more souls for His kingdom.
Other Stories about Disaster Relief in Burma