This update is from Rod Matthews, GCI’s mission director in Southern Asia, New Zealand and the Pacific.
In recent weeks, many areas of Asia have experienced disastrous flooding as a result of an intense low pressure weather system that brought huge volumes of rain in a short time. The rugged, underdeveloped Chin Hills area of Myanmar was severely affected. GCI has a congregation there and it’s home for a number of our ministry partners. Tluang Kung, whom we helped gain his seminary education and who later translated our Discipleship Course into Burmese, wrote this:
Thank you for your concern for us. We are safe here in Yangon but my relatives in Tahan, Kalay and Chin Hills are the worst victims of this disaster. It is the worst within 64 years of Myanmar history. More than 600,000 acres of rice fields have been destroyed, many bridges taken away and hundreds of houses, especially in Chin Hills, collapsed by landslides. With the main road cut, transportation is possible only by helicopter in the Chin Hills. Food security is the highest level of risk—one bag of rice in Chin Hills which usually cost as little as 25,000 Kyat now costs 120,000 Kyat [approximately $100].
Tluang Kung said that even that price for a bag of rice is continuing to rise, and he and his family are concerned that the same will happen to prices in the capital, Yangon, where he lives, even though it wasn’t flooded to the same extent as in the northern and western states. He sent these photographs of the situation in the worst-hit parts of Myanmar:
Good news in the midst of disaster
In the midst of this natural disaster that is affecting millions of people, there is some good news. God is using our fellowship to touch the lives of an increasing number of people through the decision by a network of congregations headed by Chan Thleng to become part of GCI (click here to read my previous update on this development). Just recently, Chan Thleng responded to a message from our Southeast Asian Coordinator, Wong Mein Kong, asking how he had fared during the floods, and added more encouraging news about the value, impact and development of using our material in the churches who have joined us. Here are excerpts from what Chan Thleng wrote:
Flooding does not make any distinction between the rich and poor in Myanmar. People run to house-tops or other places of safety. The poor are badly hit as their mud houses collapse in rain and the mud is carried away by flood water. The villages and fields in the catchment area are all submerged under water in Hmawbi Township. Relief parties, voluntary institutions, and governments come to help the flood-stricken people. Rice and other things are provided to them in various ways. Our church also is arranging supplies for them such as rice, clothes, and other things in the most seriously affected area to assist further—especially in Yangon, Matupi and Rakhine state. In Matupi the house of one of our leaders was completely under water.
In Rakhine State, our church planter has been serving since 2013. We are sorry because we can’t contact him. In many Rakhine townships and areas people are still in relief camps and unable to return home according to the report. We all have concern for him and his family.
Our church has developed a close working relationship with one village using GCI material. We hope to wins soul if God helps us. Three families (Karen people) want to join to us. We pray for them that God would open the hearts that they may be given the eyes to see that their hope is found in Jesus. I plan to send our leader there next year.
We plan to celebrate our new name (GCI) in October in Yangon and Chin State. We all are so excited to belong to a new church as we had been praying for a church.
Some materials I have translated into our Matu Chin language. We pray that we will become a model everywhere in Yangon and Chin State to turn to God from animism to serve the living and true God in the future. I gave much time for translation.
At every home cell-group service, I am sharing GCI material to our church members and sometimes to our ladies prayer group and non-Christians of our neighborhood. One lady said, “GCI has helped me to understand the Bible better and given me my spiritual maturity.” One man said, “GCI helped me and my family to understand the Christian faith.” Our church members said, “All the writers of GCI material will touch the realities of our people if GCI material is available in our own language. One man said, “I like to thank GCI teams for producing such wonderful material. It has become my daily spiritual food.”
Our leaders and members [in the Matupi church] are so excited to be a part of GCI and are looking forward to celebrating a new name (GCI) in October. One leader said, “My members shout joyfully; we shall belong to a new name, never heard before; GCI is a beautiful name; GCI will be our second gate of heaven.” Rev. Tlou Cawng said, “We shall have a new name. We will hold GCI doctrine; we look forward to GCI material being available in our own language. We shall never be the same BP church” [their previous name]. One leader said that two families have already joined our church—they are from an animist background and their children have a great interest in reading the Bible story.
We thank God for his grace and encouragement in being able to help this group with the wonderful biblical material he has given us, and to see their excitement as they grasp the burden-lifting reality of the gospel. While many groups make contact in the hope that we can offer them financial support, this group has focused on what we actually can offer. It is a mutually exhilarating relationship.
GCI Disaster Relief Fund
From time to time we’re contacted about helping members impacted by major disasters like the recent one in Myanmar. If your congregation has a heart to help members in this way, probably the best way to do so is to send donations to the GCI Disaster Relief Fund. The Fund was established to help provide members in disaster areas with emergency needs such as food, water, medicine, clothing, temporary housing, home and/or church hall repairs, temporary local pastoral salary expenses and other emergency needs. Monies received into the Fund that are not immediately needed will remain in the Fund to be allocated in future disasters.
In previous years, money from this Fund has been used to help members recover from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, storms and flooding in Bangladesh, an earthquake and tsunami in the Solomon Islands, typhoons in the Philippines and an earthquake in Haiti.
On behalf of all those who have been helped by the Fund, I wish to express sincere appreciation to the congregations and individuals who have generously provided financial assistance.
If your congregation would like to donate to the GCI Disaster Relief Fund, your treasurer can set up a one time or monthly donation through the GCI Online system (http://online.gci.org) by logging in and selecting Church Giving under the Treasurer tab.
If your congregation prefers to send a check, make it out to Grace Communion International, indicating on the memo line that the donation is for the GCI Disaster Relief Fund. The donation should be sent to:
GCI Disaster Relief Fund
Grace Communion International
P.O Box 5005
Glendora, California 91740