Local Missionaries in Myanmar
One of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, Myanmar has been embroiled in ethnic conflict for most of the years following its independence from Britain in 1948. It claims the unfortunate “honor” of having one of the world’s longest-running ongoing civil wars.
Bordered by Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, Thailand, the Bay of Bengal, and the Andaman Sea, the country of Myanmar contains central lowlands surrounded by rocky highlands. It is the second largest producer of opium, accounting for nearly 25 percent of the world’s opium. Opium production is used primarily for manufacturing heroin. Myanmar is also one of the world’s largest producers of methamphetamines, which have replaced opium as the drug of choice. Intravenous drug use is widespread and has led to Myanmar’s high rate of HIV/AIDS. Alcoholism is also rampant.
Myanmar’s military dictatorship, which took power in 1962, was officially dissolved in 2010, but still wields enormous power. Christian-majority ethnic groups have been targeted for abuse. More than 3,000 Christian villages were destroyed within a 10-year span. But despite efforts to destroy Christianity, it continues to grow. After foreign missionaries were expelled from Myanmar in 1966, native believers began evangelizing their own people. Today, Myanmar is home to many flourishing churches among ethnic minority groups.
The Burmese majority comprises 57 percent of Myanmar’s population. The rest of the population is comprised of 148 ethnic groups. Around 78 percent of the population identifies as Buddhist. The Burmese majority is very resistant to the gospel, as Buddhism is enmeshed in their cultural identity. Theravada Buddhism is the most prevalent form of Buddhism in Myanmar, with many practicing a form of Buddhism that incorporates astrology and various occult beliefs and practices. A common saying in the country is “To be Burmese is to be Buddhist.” Those who become Christians are commonly persecuted or ostracized by their Buddhist families and communities.
Despite this opposition, the formation of churches among ethnic minority groups has created a great need for Bibles and gospel materials in local languages. Indigenous ministries also request assistance to train and support missionaries serving in poverty-stricken areas, dependable vehicles to reach remote areas where unreached people groups reside, and materials for simple church buildings.
Indigenous ministries hold feeding, medical/dental, children’s and holiday outreaches where they preach the gospel. These outreaches consistently yield new believers and churches. They also drill wells, which are a highly effective way to open doors for the gospel in Burmese villages. In the experience of one ministry leader, every well drilled has produced a church plant.
One indigenous ministry requests assistance for its residential rehabilitation program for addicts, which has transformed lives and led many families to Christ. Indigenous ministries are also sheltering, caring for, and discipling orphaned or abandoned children, the elderly, and refugees.
Sources: Joshua Project, CIA World Factbook, Operation World
How to Pray for
- Pray that witnesses for Christ would be soon established among every one of the people groups in Myanmar.
- Pray for protection and provision for indigenous missionaries who work in regions hostile to their faith; ask God to open doors for them and grant them wisdom.
- Pray that peace would reign in this country that has been so plagued by conflict.
More stories from Myanmar
Military conflicts have driven thousands of people from their homes, and native Christian workers are often the only ones in position to help them. Workers recently brought rice, oil and the gospel to 74 families in one area, 65 in another and 60 at a separate location; over the course of six months, they provided 1,476 people with food and the message of Christ’s salvation.
Leaders of native ministries request urgent prayer for aid and protection amid constant surges of people displaced by military conflict, and for workers risking their lives to help them. Recently fighting drove more than 40,000 people from 11 villages. “About 200 are under our care in our church compound,” a native ministry leader said.
In spite of ongoing military conflict, eight disciples recently graduated with bachelor’s degrees in theology from a native ministry’s seminary, including five in absentia, and eight others received diplomas for lesser studies. “It was a small celebration on our campus, yet a good reminder of God’s faithfulness through the years despite the many challenges confronting us,” the native ministry leader said.
A native Christian worker from the La Hu people went to his ethnic group in a jungle village, where the local animists worshipped evil spirits. The worker became friendly with the local priest, sharing about the heavenly Father who casts out evil spirits, and the leader called the villagers together and told them of the one God who created all things; some villagers believed and formed a small group worshipping Christ.
Military conflict in the first three weeks of March increased the number of Internally Displaced Persons in Burma (Myanmar) by nearly 100,000, bringing the total since the 2021 military coup to 1.76 million. Desperation in Burma is growing but, amid opposition and restrictions, in many areas only native workers have the knowledge and networks to meet needs. They are risking their lives to do so.