Spend time with Myanmar’s young ones and discover culture and faith through their art.
Visiting the Kids
It is 7:00 AM as we quickly eat breakfast – a local dish of flavorful ground chicken with rice noodles swimming in a steaming broth. It tastes amazing, amazing enough to ask for second helpings! Ten minutes later we are whisked away to the port, where busy boatmen converge to ferry both tourists and locals.
The boatman readies hot pink life vests, and I board the boat along with my two coworkers and our host, Pastor Yang*.
The view is magnificent. We marvel at the stilt houses, the fishermen, and the seagulls soaring overhead. “This is a heavily Buddhist area,” says burly, bespectacled Pastor Yang. He knows this quite well. He can’t live in the city anymore because he has ruffled too many feathers among the Buddhist townsfolk.
Pastor Yang has been in the area for 40 years, evangelizing and preaching, doing what he firmly believes God has called him to do. He loves the ministry, but it’s not without its challenges.
“While staying in the area, the monks forced the village leaders to move me out of their region many times,” Yang shares. “My house has been shot with slings and stones twice a week. I had been called by the township officer and district officer and forced to sign a document saying I’ll stop my Christian activities. I was made to sign papers like this more than five times.”
Pastor Yang says some residents who pitied him used to take him in, but once they did that, the community turned on them as well. Eventually, his sympathizers dropped off one-by-one, and so he resorted to planting his church firmly on the outskirts of the town.
And to the outskirts you go. Tucked somewhere between central Myanmar’s glorious valleys and ravines are the three bamboo huts that make up Pastor Yang’s church. The biggest hut draws us in. Growing louder with every step is a noise that makes our hearts soar – tiny voices of children singing praises, declaring in Burmese that Jesus brings them from darkness to light.
Recently, Open Doors field partners and local contacts have found a growing trend among Myanmar’s children. They say that Buddhist monks have been infiltrating impoverished Christian communities in the country, setting up schools with free education in order to lure Christian children away from their parents’ faith. It has caused great discouragement among the parents, who, because of poverty, have no choice but to let their kids go, lest the children miss out on the rare chance of having formal education.
But today is not about children being won over to Buddhism. We peer through the window of the bamboo hut as fifty children sing with all their might: “Our God is a great big God, our God is a great big God, our God is a great big God, and the whole world’s in His hands!”
The camp director sits with us for tea. Our team only came to visit, but she invites us to teach. My stomach drops. Preach in season and out of season, says the Word. So of course we say yes, we would be more than happy to.
David and Goliath
We tell the little ones a story. David was a young man who fought the Philistine Goliath. He wasn’t as big and strong, but he trusted in God. Goliath chose to fight with heavy armor and a sword, but David only fought with a slingshot. He chose to do that because he knew that God, in His power, would be the one to bring victory to Israel.
The children respond. They take out pens and crayons and draw their Goliaths and Davids. They draw pictures that represent what they’re afraid of and how God gives them strength.
Some of them draw snakes, darkness, and guns. One-by-one, they tell us that they receive their strength from fishes and bananas, from family, and from God. But their images of God, aside from a few crosses, also show gleaming, towering golden pagodas.
A little boy named Joshua* shows us his art: David and Goliath with a faint outline of Jesus on David’s side.
“Goliath can’t see Jesus,” Joshua says. “But Jesus is behind David. David’s strength comes from God.”
What Hope Looks Like
In another hut, one that faces the fishpond, we meet the teenagers. This room is different. The voices are deeper, the laughter louder. We read the Word together and pray, hearkening back to God’s promise in the bible: For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
We ask them what hope looks like. They want to be teachers, footballers, and pastors. They hope to be like Daniel and his friends – young people upright in character and firm in faith.
“My hope is to pass Class 10. I also hope to become a teacher. My dream is to pass with flying colors. My father is Buddhist. All my relatives are unbelievers. After I see the results of my Class 10 exam, I will confess my faith to my father and then to my relatives. I will share the gospel with them and everyone in this place will know the good news. Everyone will know Jesus; they will know the truth.”
“My name is Nom Peh*. I’m 17-years-old. I hope to be schoolteacher. When I teach children, I will share the gospel.”
“I want to become brilliant. Intelligent. I drew this picture, step-by-step, because in life there are things that I know will go slowly. Not everything will go smoothly. My hope is to be respected. I want to be a blessing to my parents, my relatives, and I want to share the good news. I want the world to know Jesus Christ.”
“I’m Thon* and I am fifteen-years-old. I didn’t draw anything. Hope means having a simple life.”
Dusk comes and we say goodbyes after much prayer, bear hugs, and tight squeezing of hands. On the boat ride home we are greeted with a striking sunset. The seagulls come and we throw bits of bread into the air. The birds catch it, and we are mesmerized.
There is persecution and evil and suffering in the world, but God reminds us not to worry. After all, he feeds the birds of the air. Aren’t the children we visited today more valuable than they?
- Pray that the children and youth would grow and stand firm in their faith in Christ. Some of them are the only believers in their families. Shana*, one of the teenagers, became a Christian three years ago. Her father always beats her for coming to believe in Jesus Christ. Pray for her strength in the faith.
- Queen* is a seeker who attended the children’s camp. Her parents are Buddhists and she still hasn’t come to faith, yet she likes reading the Bible. Please pray for her salvation.
- Pray for Pastor Yang and his church – that they would continue to be a lamp that shines Jesus’ light in central Myanmar.
Myanmar Ranks No.24 in the World Watch List. Source of Persecution: Religious Nationalism
*Name changed for security reasons
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