On this third weekend of November, following the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, we continue to share the wisdom of our country leaders on persecution. This week, Pastor Pan* and Pastor Thang* in Myanmar (Burma) give their reflections.
Myanmar is 18th on Open Doors’ World Watch List, which lists the top 50 countries with the greatest persecution of Christians. Persecution has increased as Buddhist extremism and Burmese nationalism grows. For context, read Open Doors’ country profile here.
Pastor Pan* has seen and experienced physical and psychological persecution in his two decades of full-time ministry. He is an encourager and connector of a network of dozens of pastors and missionaries throughout his country. A few years ago one of the women he mentored in ministry, Tabitha*, died of a premature “heart attack” the day after a mob of radical Buddhists and monks surrounded her home screaming threats. As she was 32 and healthy, it is unlikely her death was natural. Her crime was leading 12 men and women to faith in a village where she had been doing ministry for seven years.
Pastor Pan shares,
“Firstly, pray for all our partners for their safety during this pandemic. Secondly, pray for the persecuted Christians to be more strengthened in their faith. Thirdly, pray for the non-persecuted Christians not facing persecution in their lives. Finally, pray for the Gospel to be more fruitful through our efforts in Myanmar.
I personally learned and believe that persecution comes to us because of having faith in Jesus Christ and sharing His good news. Because most of our missionaries who have been facing persecution did nothing wrong with their community, but still they were opposed and persecuted. That means persecution took place because of the hatred of Jesus Christ and not because of the hatred of the man or the woman. I didn’t find any other reasons for facing opposition and persecution except having preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
During the past quarter, I haven’t experienced any persecution directly. But we must be wise when evangelizing in the villages. Even though we did not face persecution directly, the new believers’ faith is persecuted by their relatives and their communities to not follow Christian faith. But by the grace of God, though they faced persecution because of their faith, they don’t care about that. Instead, they grow in their faith.
Pastor Na*, who I serve with, recently wrote,
‘I have regular contact with the new believers in the place where we started a new fellowship in early March. I send a message from the Bible so that they can read by themselves and learn more from the Lord. But it is very sad that some of the people in their village said to them that they hate Christians because they destroyed their beliefs. They do not want Christians in their village. When they heard all these words from their village people, they were so scared for their future. But they still have faith in Jesus Christ more than before. Please, for their safety and their future lives, pray that this kind of persecution may not destroy their faith in Jesus Christ.’
Another Pastor I serve with, Maung*, shared this recently,
‘Most of the time, we are working among the Palong people. They mix their beliefs between Animist and Buddhist. I usually call it Animist-Buddhism. These Palong people were very conservative in their beliefs of their forefathers. Many of the Palong villages are controlled by the Palong rebels and have no chance to believe in Jesus Christ. If someone under their control becomes a believer, that man will be dismissed immediately. In the Palong villages, there are people who are always disturbing our preaching. At the beginning of March, as we planned to visit one of the villages, we were stopped from entering and pushed back to not enter their village. There were about 20 people in a group who opposed us and warned us not to preach the Gospel in their village, even in the future. But the Lord still opened another village and we have seen two people come to the knowledge of salvation.
One was a man and his name is Niang*. I visited his village and shared the love of God with him personally. His past religion was Buddhism; I shared the love of God with him for more than two hours and he came to know Jesus Christ. He confessed his sins and accepted Christ as his Saviour and Lord. He is so active in his faith, and he is now the main person to get me access to the refugee camp in his area. I hope and believe that someday he will be one of the soul winners among the people there in the refugee camp. It is also my prayer that the Lord will speak to those who are willing to learn more about the living God and will change their lives with the love of God in the next outreaches.’
According to Luke 10, when Jesus sent the 72, He said, in verse 3, “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” From that point I usually encourage the persecuted believers/missionaries, that ‘you are sent among the wolves’. You might face persecution, but that persecution will not be the end, but will bear fruits for the Kingdom of God.”
Pastor Thang* is also a connector of a network of pastors and missionaries. Although he has faced opposition for his faith in small ways, like the police giving him a citation for noise in his church, he would say he has not faced persecution himself. He brings perspective to praying for and learning from the persecuted church that believers in non-persecuted countries, like the US, may relate to.
“To be honest, I find it very hard and difficult to say a word to those people who suffer and are persecuted as well as put into prison. Because if I am in that position, how hard will it be? But I want to share what I have been praying for them, as follows:
When I was converted in 1990, I started to pray for the people who have been persecuted because of their faith till today. Also, I am praying for the persecutors and the authorities who mistakenly and wrongly persecute Christians, that they will turn their life into believing God and trusting, like Paul the apostle.
My prayer and encouragement and message to persecuted Christians is this:
You brothers and sisters in Christ who are in prison and being persecuted, I give you the highest honor and respect for your faith and willingness to stand for God for any cause, even to death. Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” This verse is what you stand for. I personally just read it, but you are the one who is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. So, I am always reminded that I am a very poor person in spirit and the Christian life. It has always been a challenge and encouragement for me whenever I pray for you.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, you are the transformers of the world through your faith in Christ, and stand without wavering in your faith even into the prison. Whereas many people are just speaking and confessing their faith in a normal life, you are strongly committed to the Lord. I always remember the life of Job’s suffering. God is so proud of him being faithful and trustworthy. God also knew that even though he would suffer and lose everything he has, he would never abandon God. That is why God allowed Satan to tempt and destroy his physical life, but saved his soul and life. So, you are God’s trusted men and women for the sake of other Christians, to be great examples and transform the life of the persecutor and non-Christian. So that through all your life our God will be glorified and manifested. I also pray for you and will pray for you at all times, as this is one of the greatest things that I can be part of in your suffering.”
Thank you for reading and praying! To support the work of Pan, Thang, and all the men and women we come alongside, you can give below. Next week, we will be sharing messages from leaders in Bangladesh, India, and Bhutan.
*Names changed for safety