The Chin State could be the Nazareth of Myanmar. It’s the least developed state, with the highest rate of poverty in the country. Yet the Gospel flows out of that northwestern region to the rest of the country.
Though Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a Buddhist nation, the Chin State, which borders India and Bangladesh, bears the fruit of missionaries during the last century.
Go Lian, a pastor and missions director in that state, says he grew up in a Christian family due to the influence of American Baptist Missionaries. “My forefathers were idol worshipers,” he says. “My grandparents became Christian[s] and forsook their idol worship.”
The Burmese pastor says his early faith was only nominal: “After the missionaries [left], we the Chin people gradually became legalist[s]. I was strictly taught by my parents to observe the moral law in order to obtain salvation. I never had assurance and the peace of God in my heart.”
Go Lian received assurance of salvation in 1990, at age eighteen, when a Gospel camp visited his village. He attended a Bible school for many years and eventually completed a Masters of Theology in India in 2002. He returned to his native city of Kalaymyo that same year to begin his ministry as a pastor. Three years later he founded the inland missions organization (name withheld). He currently works with five other missionaries, but his wider ministry network includes more than 50 pastors and evangelists who labor to spread the gospel throughout Myanmar.
Go Lian says his country is moving toward more freedom since the resurgence of democracy in 2010, “but we must be very careful when sharing the Gospel, since our political situation is not yet totally changed.”
In a country of spiritual and political constraints, the Burmese missionaries could feel weak and insignificant. Go Lian knows the reality of Jesus’ words from Luke 10:2: “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (NKJ). But the pastor might never have guessed the Lord would stir believers on the other side of the earth to help facilitate Myanmar’s harvest.
Friends in the West
Vern Buller in Spokane, Washington received a new calling in retirement: supporting pastors and missionaries in Kalaymyo (see Part I, November 2013). He has worked passionately and sacrificed financially—along with his wife, Loretta—to provide for the work in Myanmar.
Buller’s partnership with TGC-International Outreach (IO) first resulted in the mass printing of an evangelist tract in Burmese and seven dialects. The fruit of that effort—many hundreds of new believers—necessitated follow-up materials for those coming to faith.
Further IO funding enabled Go Lian to print Burmese and Tedim-Chin translations of two booklets, For Your Joy and In Our Joy, both by John Piper. Over 5000 copies of each have been made available to village pastors to use for evangelism and discipleship efforts across Myanmar.
One pastor, Dai, lives in a Buddhist area, where there is much opposition to the Gospel. He reports powerful door-to-door ministry, as he shares and distributes the biblical resources.
Friends in the East
In 2012 TGC-IO embraced another goal for Myanmar: A Burmese translation and printing of 15,000 copies of best-selling author Jerry Bridges’ new book: Who Am I? (Cruciform Press). The 95-page book uses Scripture to answer fundamental questions that help Christians gain unshakeable confidence in the good news of Jesus Christ as Savior.
The goal of $14,000 needed to fund this project was quickly met in an unexpected way that blessed those involved. International Outreach volunteer Terry Maveus says “A church in Asia wanted to build up the church in Myanmar by underwriting the whole nine yards.”
Pastor Go Lian soon translated and arranged the printing of Who Am I? He now oversees distribution of the book to his network of indigenous pastors and workers. He says the book has helped Christians all over his country discover a new way of living, “grounded in the truth of [God’s] word.”
Another Chin State pastor works in an area of nominal Christianity. “What they know is just to go to church and give offerings—but never think of their spiritual life,” Ma Na says. “This book has been a blessing. We have seen many lives transformed by the word of God.”
Pastors say their lives are also helped through the book’s clarity. One pastor of ten years, Kai K., says Who Am I? challenged his understanding of God’s plan for His people. Another pastor, Cin, now considers his past works as done in vain. “My change affects my family and my community,” he says.
An example for other churches
Go Lian is excited to see the Lord blessing the church in Myanmar “with new souls, wherever the book is distributed. Thousands of people are being discipled through Who Am I?” He hopes to publish this book in a Tedim-Chin version.
Myanmar missionaries also need Bibles for new believers and more copies of all the IO resources to supply other workers.
The International Outreach team is encouraged by the example of the Asian church sponsorship of this recent theological famine relief effort. They hope it will inspire other churches to adopt a project to equip church leaders in poor areas of the world.