We’re republishing this as part of our 25th anniversary series featuring favorite stories from our archives. This story by John Lindner about one of our oldest ministry partners appeared in ANM’s magazine in 2010. Enjoy!
“Who do you think you are?” the young ruffian challenged his presumed gang leader. “Take a machete, and we’ll see who’s really tops.”
Unfazed, David Yone Mo pulled a razor from his back pocket, snapped it in two, and held out one piece toward his challenger.
“Take it,” David jeered. “We’ll both get in that barrel over there and the one who comes out alive will be the leader.”
The other fellow backed down.
It was an evening in the early 1960s in Yangon, then named Rangoon, capital of Myanmar, traditionally known as Burma. David had grown up the son of devout Christian parents, but the faith never “took” on him. His quest for adventure led him to the dark life of the streets where he soon became the undisputed leader of Myanmar’s most notorious motorcycle gang, the Road Devils.
Road Devils’ rampage
They smoked, drank freely, and indulged in drugs. After all, Myanmar was part of the Golden Triangle of drug trade. They got their funding demanding “protection money” from taverns and gambling dens.
In the course of his adventures David fell in love with a young Filipina named Kathy, a Catholic primary school teacher. She was two years older than he, and both sets of parents strongly objected. When they eloped anyway, Kathy’s parents publicly disowned her. Only after they were married did Kathy learn of David’s drug use.
David’s life of lawlessness and abandon continued its downward spiral. He became hopelessly addicted to heroine, and sold his services as a hit man, breaking the legs of his victims with a bamboo pole. He set up gambling dens, sold heroine to rich university students, and even robbed from his mother and his wife’s grocery money to support his habit.
And Kathy needed the money. By the mid 1970s they had five children: Mark (1964), Kevin (1966), Sharon (1968), David Jr. (1970), and Timothy (1970).
During these days of severe trial Elizabeth, David’s mother, frequently visited Kathy as if she were her own daughter. Having come to solid faith in Christ through the witness of a Burmese evangelist, Elizabeth shared her faith quietly with Kathy, who hung on her every word. Soon Kathy, too, trusted in Christ.
This enraged David all the more. But he began to show signs of physical weakness. He lost 45 pounds, became jaundiced, and was admitted to a hospital.
The canceled funeral
Hepatitis! The doctor shook his head. “If you had brought him in earlier, we might have been able to do something. But I’m afraid there isn’t anything we can do for him.”
David lay lifelessly still on his bed, too pained to even roll over. Elizabeth left the hospital that August night to order a casket, a necessary custom in hot and humid Myanmar, where embalming processes were not available. But before she left she slipped a Burmese Bible under David’s pillow.
After his mother left, David begrudgingly pulled the only resource available to him out from under his pillow. It fell open to Luke 23. There he read how the two thieves exchanged words with Christ on the cross, and how Jesus said to the one who begged forgiveness, “Today you shall be with me in paradise.”
David thought deeply about that transaction and finally surrendered. “Jesus,” he prayed, “I’m sorry. I’ve made a terrible mess of my life. Please forgive me. Please remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
A tremendous peace flooded his heart.
“Praise the Lord! Jesus Christ just saved me!” he shouted to the other patients in the ward.
The nurse heard the commotion and rushed to the room. “You alright? You better lie down.”
“No, I’m fine!” David retorted. “Let me walk around a bit.”
A week later David walked out of the hospital a new man—spiritually and physically.
His mother sold the casket.
Myanmar Young Crusaders
David entered his new life with the same courage and abandon that had characterized his old life. Soon the members of his Road Devil gang, seeing his astounding turn around and unable to resist his witness, committed their lives to Christ.
There was only one problem: None of the existing churches would baptize them or welcome them into their fellowship.
So David began his own church. At first they met under a tamarind tree at his house. Soon there were 50. As they studied the Bible and roamed the streets together preaching the Bible, their number grew. David called them Myanmar Young Crusaders. Eventually he was able to construct a large meeting place with the Lord’s provision.
The Lord brought to his gathering drug addicts and rock stars. They got saved, transformed and joined the ministry.
Their crusades featured new Christian rock music and drew thousands. They produced several music CDs, and one became the top selling CD in the secular market.
The next 30 years saw some of the most outstanding growth and evangelism on the planet. He got some help from America and expanded his ministry. He began trucking (or elephanting) to the outlying regions of Myanmar. Even in the most remote areas crowds of up to 100,000 flocked to his meetings, and thousands came to Christ.
David’s life on this earth came to a sudden end in 2003 when he died of cancer at age 59. His beloved Kathy had similarly preceded him in 1999. But the Myanmar Young Crusaders march on.
His daughter, Sharon, now leads the ministry, with her brothers’ hearty approval, as they direct other aspects of the ministry. With ANM’s help, MYC continues to reach drug addicts, lepers, and other unwanted members of Myanmar culture. Truly, God is alive and active today in the most unlikely places.
Twenty-five years after we started partnering with native ministries like David Yone Mo’s Myanmar Young Crusaders to reach the unreached, the work continues, and we are closer than ever to seeing the Gospel proclaimed and lived out among every people group in the world. Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel!
There’s more to be done, and just $25 a month can equip another missionary.