No Need to Fear the Darkness
December 05, 2013
Myanmar Indigenous Ministries establishes churches and a Christian witness in tribal settlements where people practice traditional animist rituals.
Daw Kyi (name changed) lived in a constant state of fear. The Asho Chin woman worried herself sick wondering if her next move might anger the spirits of her ancestors. She fretted that the slightest offense might bring harm to her or her adult children. To try to appease the spirits, she offered sacrifices of animals or food.
When her son went hunting in the woods, Daw Kyi left a meat sacrifice at the base of a tree to consecrate his efforts. Before her family broke ground to plant spring crops, they customarily sprinkled blood from a pig on the soil. And additional sacrifices might be required later in the year to guarantee the spirits’ blessing of a fruitful harvest.
One night Daw Kyi accepted the invitation to attend the first in a series of three community events at a church near their village in Myanmar. Daw Kyi had never participated in a Christian religious gathering, but she was told it was a Christmas celebration for everyone and she decided to go. Watching the JESUS film left her with many unanswered questions. She returned the following night.
This time the pastor spoke of freedom from fear, from sin, and from judgment through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on a cross 2,000 years ago. He described Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb of God who brings deliverance and salvation. After the service Daw Kyi asked the pastor to explain how this lamb could help her live without fear.
“Without Christ we are the object of God’s wrath because of our sins. But God loves us so much that He sent His own Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for us on the cross,” the pastor began. “If you commit your life to Him, Jesus will stand on your behalf. You will put on His righteousness. He has power over the evil spirits.”
The woman, in her late 40s, broke down in tears. All of her life she had been enslaved by fear. “Why had she not heard of this Savior before?” she wondered. The next evening she was once again present for the service. On this occasion, however, she came forward and asked the pastor if she could address the crowd.
Daw Kyi encouraged the people to stop making useless sacrifices to the spirits. “Jesus Christ already made the final sacrifice with His blood to overcome all darkness and death. Only He can save us,” she said. “Jesus takes away our sins, and we no longer have to live in fear. We become children of God.”
The audience was astonished. Many of them knew Daw Kyi. Her testimony convicted their own hearts, and that night others committed their lives to Jesus.
The Asho Chin, numbering about 1.4 million people, are members of the Chin race who live primarily in Myanmar and India. Most remain animists, even though many of the other Chin groups in Myanmar have embraced Christianity, according to the Joshua Project.
Children join in prayer at a village school operated by the ministry.
Daw Kyi’s terror of vengeful spirits is common among the Asho Chin. They offer sacrifices of pigs, goats, cows, chickens, and other animals in hopes the spirits will not curse them.
Missionaries with Myanmar Indigenous Ministries (MIM) want the Asho Chin to know the good news of freedom they can enjoy through Jesus Christ. They travel to hard-to-reach settlements in the central region of the country, sharing the gospel and planting small churches.
The battle for souls is difficult. Living without Christ, the Asho Chin for generations have allowed forces of darkness to sway their thoughts and actions. Sometimes the consequences can be severe.
Three years ago a woman who villagers claimed was demon-possessed beheaded her own daughter, said the ministry director of MIM. Later that same day she killed two boys. When the woman “came to her senses” and realized what she had done, she took her own life.
But the light of God’s love breaks through the darkness. A gospel worker with MIM reached out to the stunned and grieving community. A church was constructed, and now there are 45 believers providing a strong Christian witness in the village.
“A church building is a visible place of worship for believers, so that unbelievers will see that there is a Christian witness in their midst. It’s also a statement that we are here long term,” said MIM’s director. “In the past, the believers used to meet in the elder’s house, but as the congregation grew, they needed more space.”
Although this village has a primary school, as well as a high school within walking distance, neighboring communities do not have educational facilities and have requested help from MIM. With the new church building, MIM has been able to open a preschool and provide a boarding place for children coming from other villages. Accommodations have been set aside for the preschool teachers as well, who are graduates of MIM’s Christian ministry training center.
The building is in almost constant use with preschool classes held Monday through Friday, tutorial sessions offered in the evenings, and church events on Wednesday nights and weekends.
In the past Christian Aid has assisted the work of MIM church planters by providing funds for much-needed solar panels. Since there is no electricity in rural areas, villagers go to bed shortly after sunset. This means gospel workers cannot visit families or hold Bible studies at night. The lightweight, portable panels have resolved those issues and opened up many ministry opportunities.
“Since having a solar panel, we stay up until as late as 11 p.m. People see a light on in our house, and they just drop in for a conversation. That often ends with a discussion about the Word of God,” said one worker. “This is really a blessing!”
Solar panels make it possible for missionaries to hold worship activities at night in places that lack electricity.
The ministry currently has a need for 20 sets of solar panels ($100 per set). The panels fit in a small suitcase, making it easy for the workers to carry them by hand as they travel from village to village. The panels can light up an entire room of 20 ft. x 20 ft., the average size of a house church.
Stationary panels are also needed for church congregations that meet in permanent facilities. The cost for those panels is $500-$700.
MIM church planters have established fellowships in 11 Asho Chin communities. The churches are flourishing, as some 250 former animists committed their hearts to Christ and were baptized.
As a former animist, Daw Kyi’s changed life proclaims a powerful message of the freedom found only in Christ. This past spring her family began a new tradition when it came time to plant crops. Instead of sprinkling pig’s blood on the ground, they invited the pastor of their church to come and pray for God to bless their fields.
“We asked God for health and strength to do the work,” she said. “We thank Him for taking care of us.”
New believers like Daw Kyi have turned from fear to faith, placing their trust in Jesus Who defeated all the powers of darkness through His resurrection. Terror need not hold them hostage, for as the Bible says, “I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16b, NKJV).