Samuel heard the barrage of gunfire. Men with guns stormed through his village. He ran for his life, leaving everything behind — even his Bible.
Samuel was the pastor of a S’gaw Karen community in Myanmar’s eastern mountains (formerly known as Burma). Of the many Karen tribes, the S’gaw alone make up more than one million of Myanmar’s 4.5 million Christians. American missionaries brought the gospel to them in the 19th century.
Samuel graduated from Bible school in 1993 and became the pastor of his small village. He told our native partner in the area, “I had my own Bible, but during the war, the Buddhist Burmese soldiers came, and I left it in my house which the militias burned.”
He and his flock went deeper into the isolated mountains for safety, and Samuel continued to lead his people without a Bible. He relied on his memory and encouraged the villagers the best he could. Three years passed.
They encountered other S’gaw Christians fleeing the conflict, and one of them had a Bible. They chose to live together, and the Bible passed from person to person. It fell apart from overuse. Then because it was so rare and precious, the believers decided no one could touch it except Samuel. “It had to remain in the church, and I could not take it home to study for fear I might lose it,” said Samuel.
Desperate, the villagers pleaded daily for the Lord to provide them with Bibles. It was January 1, 1999. When nothing happened after several years, Samuel traveled to Myanmar’s capital to ask the Bible Society for some. With the murder of countless Christians in the last decades, Samuel took a significant risk. When he arrived at the Bible Society, they had only one S’gaw-language Bible. It was far more expensive than Samuel could afford. He dropped his chin to his chest, closed his eyes, and let the tears flow.
When he returned to the village, the believers continued to pray. They gathered at night and sought the Lord more fervently.
It was 21 years later when ANM’s native partner found these spiritually-hungry believers nestled among the trees. They gave S’gaw-language Bibles to each family. People stared at the gift in their hands. Smiles spread across faces, and they wept with gratitude. Tenderly holding this miracle, they clasped it to their hearts.
Samuel told us, “Not only did you provide Bibles, but they were completely free! Hallelujah! Just one month after your visit, our church members studied their Bibles every day, and great changes came to our village. People are now full of the joy of the Lord, they have stopped smoking and drinking, and they love one another. When I walk through the village, I hear people reading God’s Word aloud and singing praises. Our meetings have overflowed, and our church building cannot hold everyone. We have been so blessed by God that I feel like we now live in a heavenly village! Thank you so much for the great and precious gifts you brought to us. God bless you all abundantly!”