Southeast Asia

From Children’s Home to Church Leadership

Hla Naing Soe (center, with hat, in the above photo) was born to leper parents in Myanmar. The leper village, with its woeful and unhealthy environment, offered no future for him. Living in the village exposed him to the risk of contracting the dreadful disease.

One Sunday morning in the early 1990s, David Yone Mo, an erstwhile notorious and fearsome gang leader-turned-missionary went on one of his regular visits to the leper colony. The sad plight of the children moved him. Hla Naing Soe remembered him talking about their future: “He said he would take care of the children from the leper colony if the parents agreed. In 1999 I and 22 other children were taken to the Myanmar Young Crusaders children’s home, and we started going to school by the grace of God.”

At the home, young Hla Naing Soe found a loving, caring, and nurturing environment. Stories about Jesus and characters in the Bible, Christian hymns and songs, and prayers were daily fare for the young boys and girls who came from different tribes and people groups. The Myanmar Young Crusaders staff made sure that the children in the home received basic Bible training and formal education. Everything was designed to introduce the children to the fullness of life in Christ, helping them grow up with kingdom hearts and a readiness to represent Christ to their own people.

In one of his early visits to the leper village, Bo Barredo, an Advancing Native Missions co-founder and now Global Ambassador, met the young Hla Naing Soe. Bo vividly recalls noticing the boy’s rapt attention as he spoke to some of the children.

A child with a kingdom heart

Hla Naing Soe finished school in 2006, after which he attended the Myanmar Young Crusaders Bible college. Three years later he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Theology in 2009. With a heart zealous to serve the Lord, he helped in the children’s home for one year from 2010 until 2011. He then thought of the believers back in the leper village and his heart went out to them. His parents had recovered from the disease and had been attending the leper church planted by David Yone Mo. His father was active as a deacon at the church. The pastor left the church that same year.

As Hla Naing Soe remembered the people in the leper village where he had spent his childhood, the Lord laid on his heart a burning desire to go back and serve them. The call to serve was irresistible, his vision clear — to take care of the lepers. He knew that returning would put his health at risk and alienate him from the outside world, which treated his people with disdain. Yet armed with this singular vision and propelled by the love of God, Hla Naing Soe packed up his simple belongings and made his way back to his parents’ village in 2011. He began faithfully serving the leper church as their pastor.

Asked why he wanted to be the pastor of the leper church, Hla Naing Soe replied, “When I heard that Pastor Hla Oo left the leper church in 2011, I felt so sad. Something touched my heart and I felt burdened about it. I wanted to raise my people in the leper colony. I knelt down and prayed to lead the church as its pastor. God answered my prayer and here I am serving as pastor until now.”

ANM’s Bo Barredo (right) with Pastor Hla Naing Soe in 2014.

A heritage from the Lord

Children are a gift from the Lord. They hold a special place in the heart of God. Scripture declares, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3).

Parents have the primary responsibility of raising and rearing their children, a sacred trust that demands utmost care and due diligence. Christian parents teach their children from a tender age the basics about God’s love, salvation, and kingdom, knowing that they may in turn become leaders of God’s people when they grow up. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

Unfortunately, some parents have relinquished that tremendous responsibility and privilege, whether by intent or circumstance. We are thankful for the many caring ministries like Myanmar Young Crusaders that have stepped in to give these children a better future. The Lord used Myanmar Young Crusaders to raise a young man, who once had no future, to have a heart filled with love for his people and for his God. Thank you for your partnership in prayer and giving with these believers throughout the world.

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