Myanmar is a member of the International Ministerial Congress of the Church of God (Seventh Day). It is a Buddhist country in Southeast Asia, sharing its border with India, China, Bangladesh, Laos, and Thailand. In this environment Jesus Christ is moving in the lives of more people.
But there are challenges. Christianity experiences significant discrimination and persecution in Myanmar. The government seeks to limit the growth of Christian churches, and, as a result, ministry here is difficult. For example, if you live in Yangon and are worshipping on the Sabbath, it is not good to sing loudly. People may object and report you to the government in order to stop the ministry. If you do not stop, they will put you in jail. Therefore, we have to make a strong effort to be in good relationship with our surrounding neighbors. Ninety percent of the country’s population is Buddhist, and 4 percent is Christian. Roman Catholics are about 50 percent of the Christian population. Baptist and Seventh-day Adventist churches are the largest Protestant denominations.
After Myanmar declared independence from Great Britain in 1948, the military leadership took power and maintained strong control of it until 2010. Government and military corruption over the years have ruined the country and the mentality of the people. Currently Myanmar is experiencing reform as the people now have a stronger voice in the government. However, the military still maintains political control because the current constitution allows military leadership to have more power than the elected president and parliament.
Myanmar has a small gross domestic product, and many are jobless. As a result, crime (including theft and murder) is common. Daily wages are only $3. In a family, only one person might have a temporary job. Most of the people are uneducated.
Our neighboring countries are suffering from coronavirus. Myanmar shares 1,700 miles of border with China. Recently the health department announced that the virus can be found abundantly and immediately within our city. Prices of food and basic needs like rice, oil, masks, etc. are getting higher every day because people are beginning to store these things. We don’t know when the government will announce a state of emergency or if our city of Yangon will be quarantined. The government will never tell the truth, and we do not know how many people are affected. The government says to stay away from areas where there are many people. However, we must buy from the markets where there are big crowds. Members are collecting food as much as they can.
It is difficult to evangelize unbelievers. The first well-known missionary to Myanmar, Adoniram Judson, said it is easier to pluck the tooth from a living lion than to convert a Buddhist. Most people here believe that if someone converts to Christianity, that person cannot be loyal to their country or tribe. To be a citizen of Myanmar means that you are a Buddhist. That is the thinking. They see Christianity as the religion of the British, who colonized our country, and therefore is not good. To grow as a church, people must see a strong, dependable organization. In order to share effectively, the people must see that we are strong and effective in our ministry. Otherwise, they won’t listen. They take note of a church when they see her buildings, the lifestyle of the people, and the quality of her organization. As a result, the Baptists can do much more than a smaller organization like ours, whose reputation is not strong. These qualities are important to the Buddhists and to other Sunday churches.
Some of our churches are mission congregations where half of the members are former Buddhists and Animists. Typically, we ask the pastor to arrange for a crusade or Bible camp to gather the people. In a recent crusade we had four to five new converts from Animism and Buddhism, in addition to others within the Church who were also baptized. Our plan in the near future is for each ministry (youth, women, men, etc.) to organize a crusade one or more times a year. Also, the vision of our ministry to orphans is to recruit and equip them with the Word of God so that they may serve as ministers, workers, and missionaries when they are done with school. They will know the doctrine and will be well trained. We have eleven orphans now, and when the construction of our new building is finished, we hope to have up to forty.
The new building we are constructing will have three purposes. It will serve as a headquarters office. It will also serve as a dormitory for the orphans, who come from various parts of the country and go to school. And some space will be available for Bible training for youth and full-time Bible students. Staff members who will help us carry out the work more effectively will also stay there. The work of the Church is great, and more workers are needed to move her ministry forward.
The Church also has land for investments that will support the Church. We want to invest in fencing and a small house for a caretaker in each location. Bananas, lemons, pomegranates, dragon fruit, fish, and chickens are some ideas we are considering. With these investments, as well as the tithes and offerings of the members, we can run and sustain the church. All the churches are contributing their tithes and offerings faithfully, and we are forming an investment department. To move the work of the church forward, financial stability is important, and we are actively putting this into place.
The following is the story of one sister’s journey to life in Christ and in our church.
Thuan Nei has lived most of her life in Mainuai Village, Chin State, and is a faithful member of our church there. She was born into a Christian family and belonged to the Baptist church until her husband died nineteen years ago. When he died, he left her with three children. Two of her children are living in another village; one has passed away. Her children do not support her because she is a member of the Church of God (Seventh Day) and keeps the Sabbath.
Thuan came to the Church of God (Seventh Day) because she found our teachings to be based on the Bible. This is what attracted her to become a member.
Thuan Nei works hard maintaining the large Church compound in Manuai Village and cleans houses for other people to make her living. She sometimes goes to the hills to gather firewood to sell to support herself. The Church is very grateful to her. She is 68 years old, and is no longer able to work as she did before she aged. Moreover, Thuan broke her wrist in a motorbike accident, making it more difficult for her to find a new livelihood.
A few months ago when the monsoon began earlier this year, the wind blew the roof off of Thuan’s bamboo-and-thatch hut, and she had no place to live. The Church allowed her to stay in the compound and serve as a groundskeeper. The Church also constructed a small hut for Thuan to live within the compound, assisting her with food and medication. In the future, Thuan hopes to raise chickens for her livelihood, and get electricity so that she may have light to see in the night. Our church in Myanmar is active in engaging members like Thuan Nei in the ministry and, in so doing, is bringing good testimony to the Church and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Working in the Spirit
All of these factors are important to our ministry in Myanmar. However, most important, we must have the Spirit of God. We are to act and obey. We have to practice this in our life and not wait in the upper room. We have to allow that power into our lives and make it practical. If we do this, then with the manpower and finances God may give to us, we can do the work God has called us to do.
If you and/or your congregation would like to support the ministry of the Church in Myanmar, or another country where the Church of God (Seventh Day) exists, contact GC Missions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Write a check with “GC Missions” on the memo line, or donate online at cog7.org/giving.