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Locked Doors and Open Hearts

On a recent video call, we heard from church leaders among the Myanmar people about how believers are living on mission in this time of crisis. 

“Jesus is with us,” said pastor Hla Myint Oo. “When trials come, we do not pray for them to stop. Instead, we ask God ‘What do you want to teach us?’ This takes our prayers to a deeper level.”

In both Thailand and Myanmar, it is the marginalized who have been most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Myanmar migrant workers living in Thai factories are in lock-down, unable to leave the buildings where they work, eat and sleep. Other workers outside the factory have been locked out and are now jobless.

“When life is too easy, we forget God,” Hla Mint Oo pointed out. “But now we pray more, working to find creative ways to fellowship and disciple others. Myanmar migrant workers have always been transient, moving from factory to factory. This spreads the Gospel but makes it hard to be community.” Now the doors are locked, but hearts are open. “I tell believers, ‘Stay wherever you are! Reach your co-workers, your bosses!’”

The Myanmar believers keep in touch through their mobile phones. “I teach some short lesson by phone,” said Hla Myint Oo. “I tell them, ‘Pass this on right away! Teach this to someone else right now.’”

He also encourages them to pool their resources to care for whomever in the network is in greatest need. “There is a powerful presence of Christ when we do this,” he added. “It makes us feel like a big church even though we are very small. (And we know that the church is not a building; so even though the doors are closed, the community is alive.”)

In Myanmar, the crisis is no less dire, but manifesting differently.

“There was already a lot of prejudice in Myanmar towards Christians,” said one long-term Multiply worker. “In a crisis Christians are often blamed, because they refuse to appease the spirits with sacrifices.” 

Now, with the pandemic, there is even more militant hostility. Villages erect signs that say ‘This is a Buddhist village. No Christians allowed!’ Despite this, believers continue to deliver rice and truth to the villages, stopping at a safe and respectful distance. Hearts are opening to the Gospel as they serve out of the Father’s heart of love.

At the end of the call, Hla Myint Oo encouraged the Western Church. “Don’t live in fear. God has already rescued us and saved us! We are all one family. I am praying for you all as you serve!”

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