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You don't hear a lot about Myanmar (Burma) in the press and what little that does filter through is often not very encouraging. But what is encouraging is the news that God is at work in that country - both through sections of the indigenous church and through other ministries. GRN's impact in Myanmar is quite small but growing.
Officially, literacy is over 80% in Myanmar. However, literacy is measured in the national language of Burmese, which is not the mother tongue of over 40% of the population. Also, it is probably not a measure of how well someone could read and understand a Bible. Apart from that, out of the 110+ languages and dialects spoken in the country a full Bible exists in only 2 of them, the New Testament in a further 10, and Scripture portions in another 16. Most of the tribal languages have little or nothing of the Gospel in them, and literacy among the tribal people is generally very much lower than among the Burmese majority.
Our small, but committed team is working hard to make it possible for those who don't read - and those who don't have access to written materials about Jesus - to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ in their own heart language, and be saved. The stories below testify to 'their' success.
Population: (2000 AD) 45,611,177
Religions: Buddhist 82.9%; Christian 8.7%; Muslim 3.8%; Chinese 9.8%; Traditional ethnic 3.2%; Hindu 1.2%; Non-Religious/other 1.2%
People groups: Sino-Tibetan 89.3%; Mon-Khmer 5.7%; Other 5%
Official language: Burmese
Total languages: 110+
Government: Military Regime
GRN: GRN Burma is a base of GRN Australia. 'Al' has one assistant, plus an Advisory Committee.
The 'S' people
The 'S' people are the second largest tribal group in the country but literacy is very low as the people are resistant to learning to read. It is very hard to find good language helpers. Buddhism is very strong.
There are some Christians among this group and one young lady who was an orphan agreed to help GRN record the "Good News" in the S language. GRN staff went back to the area and quickly distributed just 25 cassettes in each of 4 towns. They could not stay long because of the sensitive nature of their work.
One Christian lady ("Esther") in one of the towns got very excited with the tapes. She requested 25 more and distributed them in several villages and reported enthusiastically that in many of the villages the whole community would gather to listen to the cassette. Many responded by saying "Only the Christian God is the true God. Buddha is not the true God."
Some of the believers here are very committed and keen to share their faith but find it very difficult to say what needs to be said. The cassettes are a great resource which help them to communicate their faith clearly to others. Churches have been planted in several of these villages. More recording and distribution is planned for this people group.
The 'B' people
Two very poor sisters who used to go out and sell sugar cane for people to chew, heard about Jesus through a pastor. They became interested in the Gospel and were given a copy of the GRN "Good News" cassette. They did not have a cassette player so they kept the cassette with a friend and would listen to it there. As they listened to it, God spoke to them and they become convinced of the truth of Jesus and decided to follow him.
On Sundays, they would go out selling sugar cane as usual but at church time would go to the church to worship and learn.
Their parents were staunch Buddhists, and noticed that the girls were coming home quite late on Sundays. One day the father followed them, and when he saw them in church he went in. He dragged them out and beat them severely, forbidding them to go to church again or sell sugar on Sundays.
Some time later GRN's Al, visited the church and met the elder sister who managed to go to church secretly and share her testimony. The girls try to take it in turns to attend while the other tries to convince the parents that both are at home! One is secretly doing Bible correspondence courses. Pray for these girls and others like them who gladly endure hardships to follow Christ.
Pray for the ministry of cassettes as God uses them to bring conviction and hope to many in the darkness of Satan's kingdom.
The 'M' people
The town of K was a large town with many different ethnic groups. Among them were the 'M..'s, a tribal group of about 20,000 people with no known Christian believers. However, the Holy Spirit was working in the heart of one of the tribal leaders of the 'M' tribe. He met with 3 or 4 other leaders and convinced them that Buddhism was not doing their people any good. They needed to try another religion. They decided to investigate Christianity.
They journeyed to the capital city and approached several churches. Some of the churches turned them away saying they could not help them. The Church of Christ welcomed them and agreed to help, and a pastor went back with them to preach the Gospel and teach the people. A small community of believers was formed but opposition from the Buddhist majority was strong. The believers chose four of their young people and sent them to Bible College for four years.
A small church was built but the opposition intensified and the local people began to put pressure on the believers to dismantle their church. The believers stood firm and said they could not take it down. If the town wanted to destroy it they would have to do it themselves.
Eventually the local opposition brought the matter to the police and the army, and sought their help to destroy the church.
The day before the army planned to bulldoze the church, the believers gathered together and prayed, calling out to God for help. That evening a storm gathered suddenly and lightning struck the Buddhist Pagoda nine times, damaging it significantly. It was a large brick tower structure more than 30 feet high. Plans to destroy the church were abandoned as the people acknowledged the power of the "Christian" God.
The still small community of believers asked GRN to produce some cassettes to help them evangelize the tribe. In 2003 the "Good News" audio visual was recorded, and about 100 cassettes were distributed in 9 'M' villages in the area by GRN staff and some local believers. The people were very happy to hear the message in their own language and many wanted to join in the singing on the cassette. Many responded quickly to an invitation to follow Christ and now more than 20% of the 'M' people are followers of Jesus. The number is growing rapidly.
This year (2005) plans are in hand to record "The Living Christ" for these people. This will provide the story of the life of Christ (and a set of 120 illustrations to go with it) in their very own language!