With a third wave of COVID-19 hitting Burma (Myanmar) amid ongoing violence from a coup in February, local missionaries are shining Christ’s light with tears and heartache.
“We work, we run with tears,” the leader of a local ministry said. “This morning I received a telephone call – the wife of one of our worker’s cried out, ‘My husband is struggling for breath. We need oxygen.’ I called one of our drivers and told him to go as soon as possible for a two-hour drive.”
Though the military that took over the country on Feb. 1 frequently stops vehicles and confiscates oxygen tanks and medicines, local missionaries undertake drives of eight to 10 hours to provide the life-saving medical equipment and food aid, he said.
“Because of your financial assistance, we were able to buy five oxygen concentrators, 22 oxygen cylinder tanks, PPE, medicine, food and so on,” the leader wrote to Christian Aid Mission. “Without your financial help, we can do nothing for this rescue work. We have helped 58 families. Out of those families, just four persons died, the rest have been rescued. Hallelujah.”
The rescues are precious at a time when pervasive death darkens workers’ days. The leader said his ministry has lost 134 pastors and other workers, including his younger brother, to the pandemic or to coup-related violence.
“These days are mourning and weeping days,” he said. “We have been fought by the seen enemy, the military coup, and the unseen enemy, COVID. Many of our people died by guns and bombs, many of our people died by COVID. Both killers are still harsh across the country.”
Much of the violence is random and inexplicable. Last month a pastor’s wife in the western part of the country was shot dead in their house, the leader said.
“Since Aug. 8, gunfire began in the area, and another woman was shot dead while riding a motorbike toward the hospital,” he said. “Others were hurt. That kind of battle is going on in other states as well. Life is in danger, and it is very difficult. We are now taking care of eight patients at their homes.”
The ministry leader and his wife direct workers by phone to provide treatment and biblical counsel to the sick. Pleas for aid are constant; in June he received 50 phone calls for help, and his wife even more.
“Since we have no government, no hospital, no government doctors and nurses, we search for private doctors and nurses that are available,” he said. “May and June were very busy and heartbreaking months. Physically and mentally, we were tired. Loved ones died; some were killed by guns and bombs. We were working in the midst of COVID and bullets.”
Amid this nightmare scenario, local missionaries also undertake regular evangelism and aid efforts.
Workers recently went to a village where a family had opened their hut for a Bible study three months before the coup. Amid the military takeover and COVID-19, suddenly people had no food. Local missionaries brought rice and other food on three occasions, winning the opportunity to explain the gospel to many others, the leader said.
“The villagers were so happy and became receptive, and 23 of them received Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord,” he said. “A church came into being in that area. We have purchased a small piece of land, 20 feet by 40 feet, for a meeting place.”
In another area struck by a flood, a ministry worker had no food to offer but brought the Good News of eternal life in Christ to people who had lost their homes and rice storehouses, the leader said. The worker bore a heavy spiritual burden to bring God’s grace to the villagers, and he and his wife made two visits to proclaim Christ.
“Since the missionary had no money or food to give them, they just preached the Good News,” the leader said. “The people were interested in the gospel, and they requested that they please come back but bring something to eat, ‘so that we can hear what you preach longer – now we are so hungry.’ The worker and his wife came back home with a lot of tears.”
The ministry provided funds for relief help and gospel outreach, the leader said.
“The worker believes that the people will accept the gospel and a church might be planted,” he said.
Cord of Love
Another ministry based in Burma is striving to serve its devastated church members and neighbors with the help of volunteers.
Advising families to remain home to protect themselves from the virus, the ministry fits the volunteers with protective gear and sends them to markets with household grocery lists.
“They go to the market and then deliver the groceries at their doorsteps,” the ministry leader said. “This has tremendously helped to avoid possible exposure to the virus. We also have volunteers to cook for families who cannot cook due to illness.”
His team members are also facing ongoing gunfights, curfews and confiscation of life-saving medical equipment, he said.
“Despite the challenging situation, one thing is clear – we are bonded with the cord of love in Christ that cannot be broken by the fierce invasion of the virus,” the leader said. “While the Delta wave is not unique to Myanmar, the parallel presence of political turmoil has certainly added to the challenges we face. We covet your prayers.”
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