Some Burmese adults hardly reach my chest height. They walk with sandals or barefoot if they do not possess any sandals. Every second shop in the old part of town displays golden jewelry and the shop in between is either an herbal pharmacy or a food and drink store.
There is much progress in Yangon since the first time that I visited Myanmar. Economically they linked up with America and cut off from China and new trade relations are formed. Highways and buildings are being constructed. The government is moving away from dictatorship to democracy.
But the oppression and persecution of Christians are still prevalent. The government wants to keep the nation Buddhist. In the Saffron Revolution (so called because of the yellow garments of the monks) of 2007 the Buddhist monks rose up to defend their religion. Many people died during the skirmishes. Today Buddhists are more involved in politics than before. They have adopted the style of TV evangelistic preachers when they preach and make their sermons more dramatic. They also distribute tracts everywhere they go to promote Buddhism. Another thing they copy the Christians is to hold Sunday School to teach the little children the ways of Buddha.
‘Once a Buddhist, always a Buddhist!’ is their slogan borrowed from Catholics.
The military attacked and destroyed many churches, raped women and killed people in the 2012 civil war.
But the Christians have stood strong throughout all the threats and attacks. Men like Michael Naing go from village to village on foot to preach the Gospel. Sometimes they sleep in the rain at night when there is no shelter. Their only reward is a bowl of rice. People are used to giving monks some food when they walk through the streets. You recognize Buddhist monks by their yellow or maroon garments.
Today I spent the afternoon with Myo, Loung Thang, Jonathan and Michael. I listened to their pleas and to their many stories of hardship as they soldier on for Jesus and the Cross. They asked me how do believers become mature. I told them how we operate in our church in Cape Town. We give every single person an opportunity to function. You grow up when you have some work to do! The Word of God is the key to maturity and Jesus gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, to perfect them and bring them into unity of faith until they become mature.
The little village Shewphitar where I preached in a bamboo home on my last visit has been shut for foreigners. Unless you own a house you are not allowed to have church meetings in it. To rent a house you have to pay the full year’s rent before you move in.
Many husbands are saved but their wives are not and they control them and will not let them go to church. In the same way there are wives and children that want to serve Christ but the father is against them. When someone becomes a believer in Christ he or she is cut off from the community and no one wants to do business with them.
I met a converted monk in Insein where I preached in a home to 23 people. He always thought Christianity is for weak people who can do nothing for themselves. There is no self-effort involved: all they do is to believe! But then on a certain day two men came to his village and met him in the street and convinced him that Jesus is the only one that gives eternal life. John 3:16 spoke to him and he accepted Jesus and left the monastery. He is doing evangelism now.
I preached on the benefits of fellowship as believers. It is something other religions do not have. You cannot have fellowship with an idol; it is dead stone or wood. But you can have fellowship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and you can have fellowship with other believers. It is something very precious reserved for the saints in the church. We have fellowship with Christ’s sufferings when we are persecuted for Him. We have fellowship in His glory when He saves, heals and delivers people. We have a caring heavenly Father. Jesus said, whatever we ask in His Name shall be done! As we walk in the light of the word of God and have fellowship with God and one another, the blood of Jesus cleanses us continually. Jesus continually intercedes for us. He reminds other people to pray for us and tells us who to pray for. We are linked in the spirit even though we are miles apart. We are part of the family and the household of God. He is our provider and protector. His Spirit leads and guides us and shows us things to come. What a wonderful privilege we have to enjoy fellowship!
I ministered healing to people. One lady with HIV came forward for healing as well. Then a mother brought a little boy and said he has been chosen for a school scholarship, but he must first pass the test. She asked that I pray that God would help him.
Myo told me how he came to be part of Harvester. He already had a small group of people for two years but they had no church name. When people asked him about it he prayed and asked God what to call the church. The Holy Spirit told him to call it Harvester Church. After that he met Michael Naing at a conference and Michael told him about us. He felt he had a supernatural connection with us already and came to see me personally. When he returns to Timoso in Kaya state he is going to put up a Harvester Church banner!
Loung Thang from Insein faithfully ministered to two people for ten years before there were any new converts. His father was the first to accept Christ in their village. Today is his father’s 60th anniversary of becoming a Christian! There are many house churches all over Myanmar today.
Noah, Michael’s cousin, could not make the meetings this weekend. He is out ministering in rural areas.
After the morning meeting the believers shared a fellowship meal together. We ate in shifts: there is only one table so we go and eat in small groups.
I made a list of all the things they want us to pray for. I told them to ask God for new ideas. Ideas give you something to do and whatever you put your hand to shall prosper.
They also pray for us every Sunday after their worship service.
‘We see your love for us because you come all the way to see us here in Yangon.’
They were inspired and want to arrange a large pastor’s conference the next time. Jonathan says he wants to go to many nations like I do.
Apostle André Pelser