This update is from Rod Matthews GCI’s mission developer for Southeast Asia including Myanmar.
For years, GCI has had two small congregations in the nation of Myanmar. Then last year an independent network of churches requested to join us after the network’s supervising pastor, Chan Thleng, made contact through the GCI.org website, came to appreciate our theology, then met Wong Mein Kong, GCI’s coordinator for Southeast Asia, and lead pastor of our congregation in Malaysia. As a result of these multiple contacts, Chan Thleng has come to love our fellowship.
New doors have recently opened to us in Myanmar as a result of the recent historic elections (the parties opposed to the long-standing military regime gained a majority in parliament) and some other developments that I’ll describe here by sharing excerpts from Wong Mein Kong’s diary of a trip he and others recently made to the Myanmar cities of Yangon and Mandalay. As a result of their trip, we now have an expanded network of friends and fellow pastors to advance our part in the work of the gospel in the nation of Myanmar.
Wong Mein Kong’s diary
TRIP TO YANGON
We arrived in Yangon on Thursday (January 21). On Friday we met elder Naing Key Har at the hotel. I updated him on Chan Thleng’s group joining us. Afterwards Chan Thleng came to meet me and spoke of his plan for the church to generate income and support their church planter in Rakhine State. [GCI Malaysia] had donated some money for flood relief in Myanmar last year. In October he visited Chin State to distribute our flood relief to the affected churches. Chan Thleng has translated some GCI articles and our Malaysian magazine articles into the Matu Chin language to teach his group.
On Saturday morning we met with Kyaw Thu Min who has translated “The God Revealed in Jesus Christ” and another GCI booklet into Burmese. He and another friend are willing to translate our Discipleship 101 Course into the Karen language. In the afternoon we met Stephen, who had contacted the GCI website offering to translate material into Hakha Chin. He is a young man who teaches at a Bible school. Shortly after Dawt Lian Thawng and his wife Lily came. He is also a Bible school teacher who runs a children’s home in his house. Saturday evening [our friend from previous visits] Pastor Hung Ling came to fetch me to his Bible school in Shwepyithar to give a talk to 30 of his students. He is very thankful for the books and flood relief we donated.
Sunday morning we took a taxi to the village of Hmawbi about 40 km from Yangon to Chan Thleng’s church. I gave a split sermon with Chan Thleng translating. The church building has made progress, with walls and roof erected. We donated a box of clothing for the members. After lunch Chan Thleng and some of his leaders had a Q&A session with me. That evening Nyein Thu and Saw Ler Ghaw came to meet me. [Saw Ler Ghaw hosts a house church in the southern delta region.] We enjoyed fellowship and a meal.
Monday morning Chan Thleng and I discussed his proposed project. His church wanted to rent a piece of land a few miles away for three years. They will buy flower seeds for planting, drill a well onsite and install a generator to power irrigation. His church members have started planting and will harvest flowers from June onward to sell in the market. Here are pictures of their work:
Chan Thleng and I also discussed the possibility of me visiting Chin State later this year to meet his elders and members. That afternoon Dawt Lian Thawng took me to his home in Mingalardon where I met his wife and three children (they also house and feed 13 other children). I was asked to give a talk to them. His wife formerly taught in a Bible school but now she weaves traditional cloth designs to sell. He was impressed by GCI’s sincerity and that I was the first church leader to visit his Beulah Children’s Home. Tuesday morning we flew to Kuala Lumpur.
TRIP TO MANDALAY
On the following weekend I made a trip to Mandalay to meet pastor Andrew Bawi Ceu, who is about 45 years old and has three children. He has an MDiv degree, is working towards a DMin and is keen to learn more. He is taking one of our ACCM courses online with the intention of [exploring what is available that might eventually be offered in Burmese]. He strikes me as one with vision and ambition as pastor of an urban church that is active in outreach.
Sunday morning they brought me to their church located on the rooftop of a shopping mall. The attendance is over 100 (mostly young people), the worship is lively, led by a youth band. Among them are 35 students of Andrew’s Bible school. I gave the sermon with Andrew translating. In the evening I gave a lecture to his students and some teachers. Andrew expressed his appreciation for GCI, and invited me to visit again.
In the past few years we’ve had contact with a young, well-educated seminary graduate named Van Thawm Lian. He is excited about our theology and delighted with our literature. In the last year or two, we have contracted him to translate several publications into the Falam Chin language and into Burmese. As a result we have been able to distribute hundreds of copies of our Falam Chin edition of the Discipleship 101 Course to pastors and interested Christians in Myanmar. This past month, I received a message from him saying he wants to formally affiliate with us. His goal is to establish a Bible school in his home area in the Chin State.
After years of having to work with caution and limitations in Myanmar, we now see new doors opening, indicating that exciting times lie ahead as we are enabled to share the blessings God has given us with the people of Myanmar.