This article will have two parts, because God’s work in Myanmar has kept growing, and so have the resource projects that supply it. Only first names have been used for missionaries. You can read more about these projects in our previous post.
The country once known as Burma put out a welcome mat to the West in 2010 after years of isolation. Myanmar’s hopeful transition from police state to democracy has improved opportunities for spreading the Gospel, but some folks didn’t wait for wide-open doors.
Vern and Loretta Buller’s bucket list didn’t include reaching a Buddhist nation for Christ. After he retired from a 35-year career in banking, the couple moved close to their children in Spokane, Washington and got involved at church and in outreach to the homeless, poor and abused in their new community. They also decided to volunteer with a Christian organization that worked with the United Nations’ refugee resettlement program. But when their first assignment proved much more involved than expected, they had second thoughts about further commitments.
New Calling, New Passion
In 2007 the Bullers were asked to help another refugee family; their first reaction: No way. “But God had other plans,” Vern says. They had no idea how far-reaching those plans would be.
Their connection to Myanmar began when a Chin-Burmese couple arrived with their six-month-old son on a midnight flight. The Bullers picked them up and took them into their home to stay until living arrangements could be made. Before eating the meal Loretta had prepared that first night, Vern offered a gentle testimony to Sang and his wife, Ngun: “We are Christians. We pray before meals. OK?”
“We prayed for a Christian host family,” Ngun replied.
The Bullers enjoyed hearing about the family from Kalaymyo, in the Chin State of western Myanmar. They learned about Sang’s Bible school teacher and missions director, Pastor Go Lian, and Ngun’s brother, Mang, a pastor and missionary.
The retired couple felt led by the Holy Spirit to develop an e-mail relationship with the two Myanmar pastors, and later, to send financial contributions to support their church ministries, orphanages and evangelistic work. Over the years, the Bullers expanded their giving to support several more indigenous pastors working under Go Lian.
Vern—“Uncle Vern” to these missionaries—says many things have made ministry difficult in Myanmar: “persecution from the Buddhist government, transportation, language barriers (about 40 dialects), and the lack of finances and Christian materials.”
Sending support to the Burmese pastors wasn’t easy before the country reopened to the West. It meant trusting foreign intermediaries to wire sometimes large amounts of money. Even so, the Bullers sent funds for motorcycles and scooters for the missionaries. “This has given them more mobility to travel greater distances without having to walk,” Vern says.
Vern had a big challenge when Pastor Go Lian requested an evangelistic tract. He says, “I scoured the Internet before contacting Desiring God Ministries. They sent Quest for Joy, by John Piper.”
The QFJ tract introduces the idea of delighting in God: “God created us so that he is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” Included scriptures were ordered to show that we were created for God’s glory but fall short of his glory, and God sent his only Son to give us life and joy.
Seven Dialects and Counting
Vern wasn’t sure the tract would do much good in a Buddhist culture, but now says, “God ordained it. It translates well in many dialects, and touches the hearts of these people.”
Pastor Go Lian translated the tract into Burmese and the Chin dialect, and sent it back to Vern. Not knowing what else to do with it, Vern sent the translated copy to International Outreach (IO). Six weeks later, International Outreach (IO) volunteer Terry Maveus contacted him and said: “We’re interested.”
In 2010, IO provided a donor-supplied grant of $2000. The funds allowed for the mass printing of Quest for Joy, 50,000 copies for each translation, Burmese and the Tedim-Chin dialect. Terry Maveus says, “Digital resources will not work for many countries, including Myanmar.”
The Bullers later funded additional printings of the QFJ tracts, which have continued to be translated and printed in more dialects—seven so far.
Missionary reports of salvation stories have gone from a few, to many, to many hundreds of Burmese people that have found new life in Christ. One minister, Dai Z., used 50 Chin-translation tracts to share Christ with 200 people. “It was so powerful,” he wrote. “I have requested another 370 copies.”
Bible school students and evangelists have distributed the tracts in many previously unreached places. Pastor Go Lian says, “Many Buddhists have given their lives to Christ. Every day souls are saved because of our tract. They need to be trained in God’s word.”
Terry Maveus says International Outreach understands there are two parts to the Great Commission—conversion and discipleship. TGC-IO seeks to get appropriate resources that support both, with a primary emphasis on equipping church leaders.
Vern and Loretta Buller are amazed at their journey in these years of retirement. They recall the words of Job 42:12, “And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.”
[This article will have two parts, because God’s work in Myanmar has kept growing, and so have the resource projects that supply it. Only first names have been used for missionaries. You can read more about these projects in our previous post.]