Why Nationals Carry Ministry in Myanmar
Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Ministry in the Golden Land of Judson, a booklet authored by Dr. Do Suan Mung, founder and president of Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary. This excerpt has been slightly modified for the web.
The Name Confusion
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar, commonly shortened to Myanmar, is a sovereign state in Southeast Asia bordered by Bangladesh, India, China, and Thailand. This country was formerly known as Burma. Myanmar’s population of over 60 million people makes it the world’s 24th most populous country* and, at 676,578 square kilometers (261,227 sq mi), it is the world’s 40th largest country and the second largest in Southeast Asia.
The British conquered Burma after three Anglo-Burmese Wars in the 19th century and the country became a British colony (a part of India until 1937 and then a separately administered colony). Burma became an independent nation in 1948, initially as a democratic nation and then, following a coup in 1962, a military dictatorship which formally ended in 2011. The name officially changed to Myanmar in 1989.
Myanmar is a country rich in jade and gems, oil, natural gas and other mineral resources. In 2011, its GDP stood at US $53.14 billion and was estimated to be growing at an annual rate of 5.5%. Despite good economic growth, it’s believed that Myanmar’s true economic potential won’t be easily achieved due to the nation’s lack of development, as of 2013 according to the Human Development Index (HDI) Myanmar still has one of the lowest human development in the world.
Understanding the Spiritual Climate in Myanmar
The seed of Christianity was first sowed in Myanmar by American Baptist missionary, Adoniram Judson, in the early 19th century. Judson set his foot on the Burmese soil on July 13, 1813. It took him six years of ministry in Myanmar to see his first convert. He encountered numerous personal and family problems and was severely persecuted during his 37-year ministry. He lost two wives and several children. He died in 1850 and his body was thrown into the Andaman Sea.
Judson translated the Bible into Burmese directly from Hebrew and Greek. Judson’s Burmese Bible still stands as the standard Bible for the Burmese language. He also made two voluminous dictionaries—one from English to Burmese and the other one from Burmese to English.
In the midst of severe trials and oppositions through his ministry in Myanmar, Judson had strong faith in the Lord. He looked at the Buddhist temples on the hills and said, “One of these days, those temples will become temples of the living God.”
God rewarded his faith and allowed him to see some 8,000 Christians in Burma before he entered glory.
Nationals Carry the Gospel Work in Myanmar
Hundreds of American missionaries continued the ministry work in Myanmar until 1966 when the then government expelled all foreign missionaries from the country. Until very recently, no foreign missionary was permitted to live and work in Myanmar. Although that is changing, the national Christians carry on the work and God is still working mightily in this forgotten land. Today, 7% of the country’s population claim to be Christians, but only God knows how many of them are true, born-again Christians.
We Christians in Myanmar love America and are full of gratitude to believers in America. We gratefully acknowledge that we have eternal life as well as a civilized life because of the American missionaries who came and taught the way of life. Many missionaries gave their lives for our people. Today, the nationals shoulder much of the load of the ministry in Myanmar, but even then, we do so through the prayers and financial support of believers in America. We owe a lot to you.
*These statistics were calculated in 2013
God is growing his kingdom rapidly in Myanmar through faithful men and women nationals. But these national believers still rely on vital aid from outsiders. You can join in God’s ministry in Myanmar by praying for Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary or Hope International School. Be sure to sign up for updates for these projects below. Tangibly, Faith Baptist most needs solid theological books or commentaries to stock their new library. Contact us for more information if you can donate new or gently used books.