Today, I am with the World Help team in one of the most isolated and forgotten countries on the planet—Myanmar.
Also known as Burma, Myanmar is a Southeast Asian country of nearly 50 million people situated between India and China and bordered by Bangladesh, Thailand, and the Bay of Bengal.
After decades of international isolation and the iron rule of a restrictive military government, Myanmar’s growth is stunted, her economy underdeveloped, and her people crippled by years of cruelty and deprivation.
It is often called the “land of shadows,” caught in between darkness and light as its people struggle to surmount a legacy of human rights violations and oppression. Thousands of Burmese were forcibly relocated by the government. Refugees were coerced into forced labor, including many young children.
The people of Burma are intensely religious. In a land filled with beautiful gold-covered temples, the people are oppressed by the darkness of false religion and the enslavement of drug abuse. It is estimated that two out of every three young people in Burma are drug addicts.
World Help has been working in Myanmar for years. Our first partner there was the late David Yone Mo, who was one of the most determined Christ followers I have ever had the privilege to meet.
David was once the leader of a violent, notorious street gang, a drug addict—a man with just days left to live.
He contracted viral hepatitis from using dirty heroin needles. The disease ravaged his body to the point that his doctor sent David’s mother home to begin making funeral preparations.
His diagnosis: David would be dead within a week.
Before leaving, David’s mother—a devout Christian—left a Bible under his pillow. Realizing his death was imminent, David began reading.
As he read the words of Jesus to the dying thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise,” God broke through his hardened heart and David gave his life to Christ. He immediately felt God’s healing power surge through his body. He knew God had saved him and healed him.
Transformed through the hope of the Gospel, David went on to do extraordinary things for God on behalf of his people. He opened an orphanage, an outreach to lepers, and a drug-rehabilitation center that, as a result of the required Bible training, has a success rate of nearly 100 percent.
Through our partnership with David, (and now his daughter Sharon, who is leading our efforts on the ground) God has enabled us to train and send dozens of church planters to unreached communities all over Myanmar.
Today, I had the privilege of speaking to a room full of World Help’s dedicated Burmese church planters. Christ followers here face significant obstacles: Persecution and violence is rampant and danger is ever-present. Myanmar is currently ranked by the World Watch List as the 23rd most dangerous place in the world for Christians to live.
The session we shared together was simply incredible. One church planter named Maung is a long-time friend of mine. He is a former drug addict who completed David’s drug rehabilitation program in the 90s. I had the honor of ordaining Maung as a pastor in 2002, and he has gone on to reach one of the most heavily oppressed areas of Myanmar, and now serves a church of over 70 believers. Through the generosity of World Help supporters, we were able to provide a church building for Maung and his congregation in the early 2000s. This extraordinary ambassador of the Gospel is a living testimony of God’s power and grace. A former drug addict is now the brave leader of a church in the most persecuted areas of the world. That’s God. That’s hope.
Through the gift of sponsorship, the lives of some of Myanmar’s most disadvantaged children are being restored. Hla was one of these fortunate children. Before entering our program, Hla lived in a leper colony where the conditions were unimaginable . . . no medical care, no shelter, no clean water, no education, and little hope for the future.
Not long after he was sponsored and still at a very young age, Hla knew God was calling him to ministry. After receiving years of purposeful investment from the children’s program, he entered our Bible institute where he graduated three years ago. Miraculously, Hla was compelled to return to minister to the outcasts of Burmese society—the same leper colony that was his former home.
This former sponsored child is now living and serving among the lepers of his community with a thriving church. Just imagine—this all started when a willing individual decided to commit to the journey of sponsorship. God can truly use each and every one of us to change the world. Investing in the life of child is one of the most simple, incredible ways to make an eternal impact.
Please continue to pray for the life-changing work being done in Myanmar today. Pray for the persecuted believers, the recovering drug addicts, the pastors in training, and the children who are receiving help and hope through sponsorship.
I can’t wait to share more with you about what God is doing in Southeast Asia. Stay tuned for live field updates from Thailand next week!