“Now I Have a Burden for Lost Souls”
August 22, 2013
Facing poverty and persecution in Burma, some two million refugees are seeking a better life in Thailand.
Refugee crises in the Middle East and Africa dominate the headlines, overshadowing a lesser-known but longstanding human drama along the Burmese-Thai border. For 25 years an estimated two million Burmese tribal people have fled their country’s ruthless military regime. They sought sanctuary in Thailand, only to find themselves in even more hard-pressed conditions.
Some eventually obtain official refugee status, but the vast majority are non-registered and thus are treated as illegal aliens. Finding jobs and basic health services creates challenges. If caught by the authorities, they face deportation.
Eleos Ministries reaches out to Burmese tribals in Thailand, demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by supplying food, clothing, and medicine to those in need. Workers also provide education for refugee children and teach them Bible stories in the Burmese, Thai, and English languages.
Evangelism is a key component of their work, and every year over 2,000 men, women, and children commit their hearts to Christ after attending gospel crusades and youth events. Bibles studies conducted at refugee camps typically draw between 200 and 300 people.
New believers desiring to enter Christian ministry have the opportunity to attend three-month discipleship training programs. About 30 students enroll in each session.
Yonna (name changed) came with a friend to Thailand in 1999. Her life took a new turn when she received Christ as her Savior five years later. In 2011 she graduated from the discipleship training course offered by Eleos, and now she is a gospel worker for the ministry.
The young woman recently shared her testimony:
Students attend discipleship training
I am Yonna from the Union of Myanmar. I am the firstborn of five siblings from Pwo Karen parents. My parents and grandparents were well known among the Buddhist community, as they were staunch in religion. I was brought up in a tightly-disciplined Buddhist family. I practiced meditation since I was a teenager. I did all the things that I had to do as a Buddhist. We moved from our hometown in Karen State to Pegu State in 1996. That was because of my parents, who followed a religious person whom they really respected and worshiped like a god. It caused them to sell the house they owned since the beginning of their marriage.
From there, I came to Bangkok with a friend in 1999. I lost my hope in 2000. I was overwhelmed with sorrow. I had tried to cure it with Buddhist verses that I had memorized and meditated on, but those did not help at all. I was far away from peace. I contacted a Christian friend and went to church with her. That was in 2003. I went to church and sang praise and worship songs with others. I continued singing at home and felt waves of happiness inside. Unconsciously, I accepted that Jesus Christ is the Lord Who is in heaven.
One day the minister preached that believers have joy because they are guaranteed eternal life. They have a safe place to go after death. I was so curious to know that place. I wanted to know about Jesus Christ, such as where did He come from, what He did, and where He is now. My friend gave me a Bible, but I did not read it. I took a rest for my health and joined three months of discipleship training at the church in Bangkok in 2004. I could catch only the last one and a half months, but I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and was baptized on August 1, 2004, at the church in Bangkok.
I now know more of the Word of God. I went along with those who were witnessing and telling the good news and I now have a burden for lost souls. Together with friends we brought 20 people to the church’s indoor evangelistic crusade in December 2010. By His mercy they all confessed that they were sinners and accepted Jesus Christ as personal Savior.
I was concerned for them because I was not able to do follow-up. God spoke to me during three days of summer Bible studies during the Songkran holidays. I felt I needed to follow-up with the new believers. So I took a three-month leave from work and attended discipleship training at the church in Bangkok in 2011. I was going to return to work after three months, but I heard the calling of God through Ezekiel 7:4-6. Then I heard again from Matthew 28:19-20, but I did not feel sure of it and asked for confirmation from God. Then it came! Isaiah 60:1, right after the three months of training. It made me bravely decide to resign the job and do follow-up of the new believers full-time.
Ministry workers distributed tarps and building materials to survivors of the 2011 earthquake.
By the grace of God my youngest sibling, a sister, accepted Jesus Christ in 2007, and the second one, a brother, accepted Jesus Christ in December 2010. He has had water baptism and is walking with God. He also has a burden for lost souls and telling the good news of salvation to friends and neighbors at work.
All in all, I praise the Lord for His mercy and strongly believe that He will lift me up until the end of the journey.
Eleos Ministries works with indigenous Burmese ethnic groups like the Pwo Karen, who still continue the Buddhist or animist practices of their ancestors. Missionaries are blessed to see the fruit of their labors, as these once isolated tribes embrace the truth of God’s Word and become faithful witnesses for Christ.
To assist Eleos in their outreach efforts, Bibles are needed in the Burmese and Karen languages. A Burmese Bible costs $4; Karen Bibles are $7 each. Other Christian materials needed include tracts that can be purchased for $100 per 5,000 pieces.