Baptisms in the face of bullets—hundreds turn to Christ in Myanmar

November 17, 2021 by Lindy Lowry in Asia

Nine months after Myanmar’s military staged a coup and took over the civilian government, the violence continues as the Tatmadaw (Burmese local army) leaves traumatized civilians and destruction in their wake.

“The situation is difficult to describe,” Brother Lwin, an Open Doors local partner, reports. “Wherever the military goes, they burn the houses, kill the pigs [which many families rely on for income], and occupy churches.”

Yet like so many situations where God’s people are pressed on every side (2 Cor. 4:8), faith continues to survive in the devastation. Our local partners report that increasing numbers of people are turning to Jesus for their hope. Watch as children worship at an Open Doors training last month.

‘Nowhere to hide but the jungle’

Since the beginning of October, the Tatmadaw (Burmese local army) has been sending more troops to predominantly Christian Chin State to ward off opposition fighters. The fighting has left believers homeless, and church buildings have been ransacked, shelled and occupied. According to our field records, 30 church buildings have been attacked by the military since the coup began.

One Baptist pastor, 31-year-old Cung Biak Hum, was killed when soldiers gunned him down while he rushed to help put out a fire caused by military shelling. As his town of Thantlang in northwestern Chin State went up in flames, soldiers sawed off the pastor’s finger and stole his wedding ring, Al Jazeera reported.

Salai Za Uk Ling, deputy director of the Chin Human Rights Organization, told Al Jazeera that the violent killing and mutilation of Cung Biak Hum are representative of the military’s treatment of civilians. “This demonstrates the extent of disrespect and brutality with which [Myanmar military] soldiers are conducting themselves in their ongoing war against the people.”

Lwin adds: “The fighting is intense in Christian areas in Falam Township in Chin State and Kachin State. It’s alarming because believers’ families there are forced to hide in the forest—migration in Chin State is happening in droves, and the towns have become completely empty. There is nowhere to hide but the jungle.”

Zew That, a believer in Chin State forced to flee to the jungle, told Open Doors: “Whenever we hear a loud voice, or gunshots, we are in fear.”

17,000+ helped; 500+ accept Christ

Despite the violence, God has been opening what our local partners describe as “pockets of opportunities,” to reach believers in Myanmar.

“We are able to implement training online, and we are able to go and visit the persecuted church and internally displaced people in the midst of unrest in the country,” Brother Lwin shares, adding that they are also able to reach refugees to provide relief.

As of September 2021, your support has enabled Open Doors local partners to help 17,135 believers in Myanmar, including emergency relief aid and discipleship support.

Given the challenges of distribution, that number is even more remarkable. “We have to be careful with our relief work because sometimes, a truck full of supplies for believers can be misconstrued as supplies being provided to rebel groups,” Brother Lwin explains. “We have to be careful, but we believe the Lord is in control.”

During one of the distributions, our partners met Hayma Aye, who was forced to flee from her home in Chin State. She and her daughter have been living in the forest. Hayma shared with our team: “Praise the Lord for the food relief distribution. Me and my daughter have been able to sustain our lives so far. It’s been three months for us in the forest. You are our life savers.”

Lwin says that even in the helplessness, “God is still bringing people unto Himself.” Our local partners are aware of 544 people giving their lives to Jesus this year in Myanmar, with 166 of them making decisions to be baptized.

“Praise God! Even if there is helplessness, we are seeing a lot of people coming to Christ at this time.”

Of that number, 50 new believers were children who have dedicated their lives to Jesus in an Open Doors training last month. “By partnering with local churches, we are reaching the unreached children, assuring salvation in their young age, strengthening their faith, building good character, and helping to develop a Christlike attitude in their lives.

“Amidst the backdrop of intense strife and violence, God is working mightily!”

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Pray with Brother Lwin for Myanmar

Brother Lwin shared his heart for his country’s people and how we can pray for specific needs, especially for Myanmar’s next generation.

Pray for provision of basic supplies. Families and churches in Myanmar have also been rocked by COVID-19. In July and August, more than 130 pastors died because of the virus. A new wave is now spreading, and there is concern it will spread into the camps for internally displaced people, Lwin says. “In some villages, the military doesn’t even allow goods coming in. Basic needs—including medicines like paracetamol—are out of reach. The people are feeling a sense of helplessness.

Pray for Myanmar’s children: “Children are used as human shields, so they are fleeing to the borders to escape the atrocities. These children in displacement camps and war-affected zones really need help for mental and spiritual care and healing. We ask you to pray with us for their safety. Pray for a bright and hopeful future for the children of Myanmar.”

Pray also for Myanmar’s discouraged youth. “Many young people have started using drugs; addiction is increasing. Some have lost their way and older children, especially the teenage boys, are being recruited to join the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) to fight the junta (military government). Pray that the youths will find hope and strength in Christ.”

top photo (baptism): IMB.org

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