Missionaries in Myanmar
Pastor Sita, a native Myanmar missionary, announced they would sing hymn number 46. The small underground church sang it in their heads. “We will now read Isaiah 40.” The appointed spotter rushed outside to check the surroundings. At a clear signal, those assembled would read the scripture in silence.
For the people of Shan State living along Myanmar’s Chinese border, restrictions against Christianity abound. It is against the law to gather with other believers to pray, sing, or read the Bible. Pastor Sita takes every precaution by meeting in different places, at various times, and on assorted days because he is constantly watched.
In 2017, the rebel communist army controlling this region made sweeping arrests of pastors, native missionaries, and Christians. Pastor Sita was one of 98 Christians arrested and imprisoned. He endured six months of harsh beatings and poor rations before his release. During those six months, he heard nothing from the outside world.
Release From Prison Presents New Challenges
When his sentence was completed, Pastor Sita returned to his home and church compound in Myanmar but found them both destroyed. His wife and children had disappeared. Where were the 23 families of new believers he shepherded?
In a daze, he walked around the neighborhood until he saw a plastic tent erected in the distance. As he headed in that direction, three children came running with outstretched arms yelling, “Papa!” They fell to their knees weeping, hugging, and thanking Jesus. Then the questions flew.
“How did you survive?” asked Pastor Sita.
“We sold plastic on the street and Pastor John helped us,” his children replied.
“Where is your mother?”
“She is not here, but Pastor John can reach her.”
“Who destroyed the house and church?”Pastor Sita inquired.
“The rebels. They burned everything,” came from the children.
“How did you escape?”
“We ran and hid in the market.”
“I need to talk to Pastor John as soon as possible,” Pastor Sita said.
The Cost of Obedience
When the two pastors connected, Pastor Sita sent a wire to his wife. She replied that she could no longer endure the persecution and hardships as his wife. It was too burdensome, and she wanted out of the marriage. Pastor Sita was disheartened, but he understood and let her go her own way. He determined to remain obedient to the Lord’s call on his life.
The Native Missionary’s Heart
As more and more pastors were released from prison in Myanmar, Pastor John desired to gather them together to provide a listening ear and a time of refreshment. They had been held in separate facilities and were released at different times. He learned that three had died from illnesses while in prison, and one had become a principal of a Bible school.
Pastor John was able to gather 30 of them. His first question was, “Do you regret becoming Christians?” A resounding “No!” came from the crowd. “It is a joy to follow Christ, and we are willing to pay whatever the cost.”
Pastor John took them to a neighboring country for three days for encouragement and sightseeing. The trip’s highlight was lunch at an all-you-can-eat Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant where they could also drink unlimited Coca-Cola. They shared stories with one another, wept, and prayed that God would strengthen them and restore their ministries. God has answered their prayers.
Today Pastor Sita secretly meets with his faithful sheep. Together they quietly grow in the Lord and seek to expand His kingdom no matter the consequences. Pastor Sita, Pastor John, and many other Myanmar believers persevere unswervingly despite the hardships. Their faithfulness amidst such struggles is a challenging example for all of us.
You can help the missionaries like Pastor Sita and Pastor John by praying for them.