Local Missionaries in Myanmar
One of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, Myanmar has been embroiled in ethnic conflict for most of the years following its independence from Britain in 1948. It claims the unfortunate “honor” of having one of the world’s longest-running ongoing civil wars.
Bordered by Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, Thailand, the Bay of Bengal, and the Andaman Sea, the country of Myanmar contains central lowlands surrounded by rocky highlands. It is the second largest producer of opium, accounting for nearly 25 percent of the world’s opium. Opium production is used primarily for manufacturing heroin. Myanmar is also one of the world’s largest producers of methamphetamines, which have replaced opium as the drug of choice. Intravenous drug use is widespread and has led to Myanmar’s high rate of HIV/AIDS. Alcoholism is also rampant.
Myanmar’s military dictatorship, which took power in 1962, was officially dissolved in 2010, but still wields enormous power. Christian-majority ethnic groups have been targeted for abuse. More than 3,000 Christian villages were destroyed within a 10-year span. But despite efforts to destroy Christianity, it continues to grow. After foreign missionaries were expelled from Myanmar in 1966, native believers began evangelizing their own people. Today, Myanmar is home to many flourishing churches among ethnic minority groups.
The Burmese majority comprises 57 percent of Myanmar’s population. The rest of the population is comprised of 148 ethnic groups. Around 78 percent of the population identifies as Buddhist. The Burmese majority is very resistant to the gospel, as Buddhism is enmeshed in their cultural identity. Theravada Buddhism is the most prevalent form of Buddhism in Myanmar, with many practicing a form of Buddhism that incorporates astrology and various occult beliefs and practices. A common saying in the country is “To be Burmese is to be Buddhist.” Those who become Christians are commonly persecuted or ostracized by their Buddhist families and communities.
Despite this opposition, the formation of churches among ethnic minority groups has created a great need for Bibles and gospel materials in local languages. Indigenous ministries also request assistance to train and support missionaries serving in poverty-stricken areas, dependable vehicles to reach remote areas where unreached people groups reside, and materials for simple church buildings.
Indigenous ministries hold feeding, medical/dental, children’s and holiday outreaches where they preach the gospel. These outreaches consistently yield new believers and churches. They also drill wells, which are a highly effective way to open doors for the gospel in Burmese villages. In the experience of one ministry leader, every well drilled has produced a church plant.
One indigenous ministry requests assistance for its residential rehabilitation program for addicts, which has transformed lives and led many families to Christ. Indigenous ministries are also sheltering, caring for, and discipling orphaned or abandoned children, the elderly, and refugees.
Sources: Joshua Project, CIA World Factbook, Operation World
How to Pray for
- Pray that witnesses for Christ would be soon established among every one of the people groups in Myanmar.
- Pray for protection and provision for indigenous missionaries who work in regions hostile to their faith; ask God to open doors for them and grant them wisdom.
- Pray that peace would reign in this country that has been so plagued by conflict.
More stories from Myanmar
With some civilians dressed as soldiers and some soldiers dressed as civilians, it is often impossible to know who is responsible for ongoing acts of terrorism in Burma (Myanmar), the leader of a native ministry said.
Hit first by COVID-19 and then a bloody coup that has brought ongoing violence, local missionaries are bringing light to unprecedented depths of darkness.
“The situation is very bad – we are in a battlefield, every day there is killing,” the leader said. “We have bombs exploding everywhere. It is very risky to go outside.”
Burma (Myanmar) saw a dramatic upswing in COVID-19 cases in September, and the ensuing lockdowns further hammered the poor and the local missionaries serving them – even as workers were bringing more people to faith in Christ.
A native ministry leader said COVID-19 restrictions have blocked villagers from going to rivers to fish or forests to find bamboo and wood.
“The situation now looks darker,” he said. “People are in great fear for the days ahead.”
A police officer in Burma (Myanmar), fired from the force after 10 years on duty due to a drug offense, was listening as a native ministry leader spoke of Christ at his prison.
The leader provided the inmates with food as well as spiritual nourishment, and the former policeman, Nyan, sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit.
As the ministry team left, the preacher had no way of knowing his impact on Nyan’s life.
Between ethnic rebels trying to recruit them as soldiers and evil spirits threatening to afflict them, young adults in Burma (Myanmar) have a lot to fear. Besides fearing that any illness may be a sign of punishment from a malevolent spirit world, young men in Burma also live in fear of militants from insurgent groups drawing recruits from ethnic groups. “They are frightened all the time, as they don’t know when rebels will come to their village and take them from their family and from their village,” a native ministry leader said.
As a boy growing up in Southeast Asia, Revo* was the top student in his Sunday school class, eventually becoming a full member of his church. Then came the evil spirits. Revo said he opened the door to the evil spirits when he fell in with an unruly gang: “We reveled in drunken orgies and even offered sacrifices to evil spirits.”