Christmas Celebrations Make Lasting Impact in Myanmar
January 9, 2014
As part of its community Christmas celebrations, a Myanmar ministry gave blankets to needy children and their families.
Reaching the diverse cultures of Myanmar with the good news of Jesus Christ poses numerous challenges, even for native missionaries who speak the language and follow some of the traditions of their forefathers. The Christmas season, however, offers a prime opportunity to tell their Buddhist and animist neighbors about the Savior.
In December a ministry assisted by Christian Aid Mission held “celebrations” in six villages and an orphanage. The programs included gospel presentations, gift-giving, and a traditional Burmese feast. Over 1,350 children, as well as hundreds of adults, attended the events.
In the following report, the ministry leader describes the excitement generated by the Christmas programs and the impetus they have sparked for long-term evangelistic outreach in these communities:
“Christmas is a special season for Christians in Myanmar. It is a time when they have more freedom to go about sharing the story of the Savior. Most everyone knows Christmas as a religious holiday, but few understand the reason for the season. Myanmar Center for Church Planting (MCCP) was able to organize Christmas celebrations in six communities in three regions of the country.
“Children from each community were invited to participate in the activities. We also taught Bible lessons. Some of the children who came attend our regular weekend outreach program. For others, it was the first time they and their parents heard the gospel. The events were well attended, with 250 or more people present in each location.
“The programs included games, Bible memory and storytelling competitions, evangelism time, and the preaching/sharing of the gospel. Gifts were given to all the participants. Special gifts were also given to selected people who were deemed to be in desperate situations. Blankets were provided to people to keep them warm when the temperature drops at night. Backpacks were also handed out to students in communities where we operate preschools.
Children who attended the outreach programs learned the true “reason for the season” through Bible stories and games.
“In Chin Suh, one of our Christian brothers went to preach the gospel. In this town we have graduates of MCCP who planted a church and a preschool. They hosted the celebration. Some 300 people from five villages came to participate in this meeting. There were games, drama, singing, etc. A traditional rice-noodle meal was served to all the people who came. A loudspeaker was placed high up in a coconut palm so that people in the area who stayed home could hear the gospel being preached. The majority of the people who came are Buddhist, and for some, it was their first time hearing the gospel.
“Dainsuh is a slum area in Yangon where a Christmas celebration was held. Some 250 children and over 50 adults came. This is a poor community where most adults earn about $2 a day. Most people live in bamboo huts on a rented piece of land. In this community, we are planting a church, as well as running a preschool. The Christmas celebration will enable us to speak to the community more effectively.
“Here in Dainsuh, blankets were given to 30 families. Backpacks were given to all the students at the preschool. Prayers were also offered for the homes in the neighborhood. A traditional rice-noodle meal was also served here. An attendee said, ‘I thoroughly enjoyed our fellowship today. We were given the physical food, as well as the spiritual food. Thank you for organizing this kind of Christmas celebration. It is important because most people do not know anything about Christmas.’
“We also hosted a celebration at our MCCP campus, where 380 children came. One of our workers said, ‘We couldn’t host all the children, so it was first-come, first-served. We closed the gate at a certain time and, sad to say, there were still many more children outside, waiting to be let in.’
“The program on the campus was a whole day affair. Children were divided into smaller groups and students from MCCP taught Bible lessons and memory verses. At the end all the groups were summoned into the chapel and there was a group competition. Each winning team received a special award. Christmas gifts were also handed out to all the children who came. The meal consisted of buttered rice with chicken.
“On December 15, eight MCCP students traveled some 250 miles (one way) to celebrate Christmas in the small village of Inpih in the Asho region of central Myanmar. Inpih is a small village that is not accessible with vehicles. Villagers have to walk on narrow paths through the hills and valleys.
A traditional Burmese meal of rice and noodles was served at some of the celebrations.
“In Inpih the entire village came together to celebrate for two days and two nights. Each night we held a worship program. Both Christians and non-Christians attended the services. It was reported some 250 people came to the meetings. We gave blankets to some of the poorest families.
“At the end of the time at Inpih village, there was a baptismal service for three new converts. One of our pastors there baptized these new believers. It is a joy to see them coming to Christ and following Him in water baptism. We rejoiced for these souls.
“Watitgone is another village in Asho where a Christmas celebration was held. Here we had some 300 people attend. The local pastor commented, ‘Our community was excited to have this kind of celebration again. We had a dynamic program, games for children, singing of songs, etc., and most importantly, we could celebrate God’s gift of love—Jesus Christ in our midst. I am also grateful that an event like this provides the church with a platform to speak to the community. It gives us the opportunity to invite, share, and enjoy fellowship with the community.’
“Here in Watitgone there are several families whose houses are about to fall apart. They do not have proper walls (mostly old, dry bamboo weaves) which cannot block out much of the cold winter air. Children suffer a lot from colds due to the poor condition of their homes. These families were identified and blankets were given to them to keep them warm. One of the recipients said, ‘Thank you for your gift of blankets. We do not have sufficient quilts to keep us warm at night. Our winter here is cold and windy. Our houses do not provide much warmth, as there are lots of holes in our walls and floors. Your gift will keep us warmer. Thank you for your care and love.’
A new believer receives baptism.
“A special gift of pillows and blankets were also given to children at New Generation Orphanage.
“The following items were distributed among the villagers during the Christmas programs: blankets, packs of candles, exercise notebooks for students, and backpacks. Some 1,500 plates of rice and noodles were served. A church in Dainsuh was also given a full set of cooking utensils for special events.
“In all six communities and in the orphanage, some 1,350 people were exposed to the message of the gospel. We thank God for the wonderful opportunities He has given to us.”