In the Midst of Lockdown, Breakthrough Came to Burmese Believer

When Jacob,* an American who had travelled back and forth to Myanmar for years, returned to the Southeast Asian country, he found that much had changed. The military coup in February of 2021 had arrested medical professionals and monopolized medical supplies, contributing to one of the highest rates of deaths from Covid in the region. Ongoing military control restricted movement and closed the border to foreign visas for two years. Some of Jacob’s friends died from Covid without funerals, and his remaining friends’ lives are constantly affected by the junta’s oppressive regime.

“It’s hard to understand that this is part of the King’s plan,” Jacob admits. Jesus says that “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars . . . Such things must happen . . . There will be famines and earthquakes” (Matt. 24:6–7). But He also says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). His presence is keenly felt in Myanmar in the midst of the crisis. Jacob’s Burmese brother says that, while he has seen many challenges in his home country, “we see the glory of God in Myanmar in many places.” Many “wonderful, glorious” things are happening there.

“Everybody seems to be questioning their faith, and in a predominantly Buddhist environment, suddenly, there’s a tremendous interest in looking for hope,” Jacob shares. His Burmese brother affirms, “this is God’s glory. God has been working in Myanmar.” Many of these new believers come out of a synchronist Buddhist background and have a family shrine of altar in their home, at which they worship Buddha and ancestors. After these new believers read Scripture in three-thirds groups and on their own, “it’s usually just a matter of time” before they decide to remove the idols—a tricky endeavor that can create strong family tension.

Normally, the evangelists would help new believers to remove their shrine, conducting a prayer ceremony with their Buddhist families and mediating some of the tension that comes from stopping the veneration of the ancestors. But in the midst of the Covid lockdown, the junta imposed martial law and restricted people to go to market for a set two hours every day. Since many people lived without refrigeration, they had no choice but to go every day to get the food they needed. As a result, the evangelists had to use the time they were allowed outside their homes to go to the market and do other critical tasks for their families, with no time left over to help dismantle shrines.

Evangelists still reached out over the phone and online, but new believers got frustrated that the evangelists couldn’t physically come and remove the shrines. Instead, new believers decided to take down their own shrines rather than wait for restrictions to end. They began to take ownership and action, praying the prayers themselves and sharing their faith through Bible study with the family members who protested. “In some ways,” Jacob says, “crisis brings breakthrough. It’s an exciting thing to watch. . . the priesthood of all believers feeling empowered to share the gospel, even though they don’t necessarily feel that they have all the training and equipping that they want.”

Find more stories of God’s provision in hard circumstances on our podcast, where our host, Mary Roberts, interviews people all over the world who have been blessed by Zúme’s resources and use those resources to multiply disciples.

*Name changed for security.

September 8, 2023

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