Salvation in Burma Comes at High Cost
As a 10-year-old girl in Burma (Myanmar), Shindy* had an illness that a shaman thought could be healed with some blood-letting from a long cut on her neck.
The procedure nearly killed her, and the cut did not heal well, leaving her with chronic pain in her neck. Five years later, the girl living in a remote area of Rakhine state was still suffering when an indigenous missionary invited her and several other youths to a talk.
They met outside another Christian’s bamboo home. The village’s mountain air was thick with humidity as the native missionary told them how one God created the world and the first humans, whose disobedience infected with sin all who came after them, resulting in alienation from the Creator. Shindy’s neck ached as she heard him tell how God sent His Son to suffer death on the cross to pay for mankind’s sin, rise from the dead and reconcile to Himself those who believed by faith.
The message contradicted her family’s belief that many terrestrial spirits had to be appeased through their own efforts, the animistic overlay to their Buddhist devotion. The native missionary’s message rang true to her, and she put her trust in Christ – secretly, as did some of her friends, though their parents were devoted Buddhists.
While she was in the hospital, her father called to say, “Daughter, you are in hospital, and you are suffering, but we will not come to see you. You are Christian, whether you die or not we don’t care.”
“I knew that if I came out as Christian as a teenager, I would be kicked out of my home,” Shindy told the native missionary. “My father later found out and said he would not have me in the house. I loved the Lord, so I left. I thought, ‘OK, my parents have forsaken me, but that’s no problem.'”
The evangelist took Shindy to a dorm at his indigenous ministry’s Bible college in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) – an 18-hour bus ride on winding mountain roads away from her parents, siblings and other relatives, friends and the only place she had ever known. The word “faith” took on a deeper dimension.
The indigenous ministry arranged for doctors to treat her neck. While she was in the hospital, her father called to say, “Daughter, you are in hospital, and you are suffering, but we will not come to see you. You are Christian, whether you die or not we don’t care.”
The call stung. Her youthful heart’s anguish was tempered, though, by a godly love beyond her years that allowed her to look upon him with charity. And her desire to know Jesus grew.
After the surgery, the pain in her neck subsided after a month.
“I prayed for her and encouraged her,” the ministry leader said. “Now she no longer has pain in her neck, and the doctor said she is very, very happy about that.”
Shindy’s adventure in Christ has not come without suffering, and she was unable to finish her education in her village, but she is enrolled at the Bible college at age 16.
“Nowadays the young people at our Bible college are very, very young,” the ministry leader quipped. “It’s a training center not to train brilliant students, but to train up mission field people, young people who can serve God.”
Two other young women at the Bible college, ages 18 and 19, also were kicked out of their village homes for turning to Christ, he said, adding that Buddhist opposition in remote areas seems to be growing more intense lately. After strong winds destroyed a ministry worker’s home – from which he had evangelized and held worship services – the native missionary received a visit from a mob led by the village chairman and monk. They told him not to rebuild.
“Our missionary went to the village authority about it, and he said, ‘If they don’t like it, you cannot build,'” the ministry leader said. “And then our missionary went to another official, and he said, ‘If you’ve got that kind of problem, what can we do? We cannot do anything.’ The villagers are strong Buddhists, and they will not allow us to build.”
At the same time, political storms and natural disasters have left many Buddhists more open to God’s word in Rakhine state and elsewhere in Burma, he said. So far this year, his ministry has seen more than 50 people put their faith in Christ.
Some of those former Buddhists came to Christ after the native missionaries involved their villages in drilling wells. The evangelists generally ask village leaders for permission to proclaim Christ, and they always welcome them if they offer to provide clean water.
“Wells were very successful in eight villages where there was drought and needed pure, fresh water,” he said. “When we drill, the villagers also help us, and they are very happy and say, ‘Oh, you Christians are very good – I thought you were not.'”
They feel God’s love when water wells are provided, and they see God’s glory by their good deeds, he said. Five Buddhists received Christ in one village where they dug wells, and 10 Buddhists did in another.
The gospel alone, however, has power to transform lives, he said.
“Four months ago, a team of five missionaries went village-to-village sharing the gospel,” he said. “They just shared the gospel, no well-digging, and 25 people became Christians and were baptized as well. The spread of the gospel is improving this year thanks to Christian Aid Mission support.”
The ministry’s 50 evangelists survive on less than $200 a month as they go to remote areas often difficult to access. Please consider a gift to help them bring Christ’s love to villages where His name is not known.
*Name changed for security reasons