The cute white dog captured Sharon’s attention. She was in the Irrawaddy region of Myanmar, handing out rice bags after Cyclone Nargis hit in 2008. Sharon gave the friendly dog some food. The dog picked up some of it but carried it away instead of eating it. More unusual, she came back to get more of the food. Off she scurried again. Curious, Sharon followed to see what the dog was doing. Suddenly, Sharon came upon the dog with an elderly blind lady. The dog was delivering the food to a 90-year-old woman named Esther.
Where only Buddhists receive care
In Myanmar, the elderly are treated with respect and bowed down to, but for senior citizens with no family, the government takes care of them only if they are Buddhist. When the elderly of other religions need help, they are on their own.
Cyclone Nargis brought the elder crisis to a head for Sharon. When the cyclone hit the Irrawaddy area, most of the young people of the area died because they were outside working when the cyclone hit. The cyclone killed thousands. Senior adults were typically at home and were now left alone because their children were gone.
Sharon and her missions team rushed to the worst-hit area in a boat before the storm had even ended. They brought food and bags of rice for those who were affected by the cyclone. Then, the motor on the boat broke. The missionary team began to pray. Someone noticed that the wind was blowing in the wrong direction. If it had been blowing out to sea as expected, they would have drifted away. God protected them and got them to shore.
One man started to toss the anchor into the water but fell in. He stood up, realizing the water was shallow and they could walk to shore. They were cautious as the government had said they could not go to the area and take rice. Sharon stated, “God closed their eyes and let us go. We did not get stopped by the police, while other people did get stopped. God is always protecting us by making the enemy’s eyes blind.”
A new ministry begins
Meeting Esther and her unique dog provoked a memory of Sharon’s dad. As her dad lay in a bed in the hospital dying, he thought, “Who will help the people who are ill like me when they are old? Who will be there to take care of them?” He also thought, “If I get better at this time, I will start another ministry.” But he did not get well. He left Sharon in charge of the six ministries he had started, and now she saw the need for a seventh ministry, to be called the Evergreen Ministry, to care for older adults.
Sharon explained, “I just decided then that I wanted to take care of the elderly. I immediately talked to Esther and took her to our church. I told our pastors to take good care of her.” That was how the ministry to the elderly began.
There is not a separate building for the Evergreen Ministry. However, Sharon’s team has established churches all over Myanmar. She asks each church to adopt two or three of the senior adults from their area to care for them. The ministry gives support to the elderly through the adopting church. The elderly are cared for by the pastor of the church and his family. They are given food, shelter, and a home. The pastor and his family also care for the sick in the area.
They don’t just help the senior citizens who are Christians. They also help those of other religions. The ministry is caring for 34 elderly people right now. Sharon is praying for a separate building and volunteers to help provide care and attention.
If God had not protected Sharon and her team, they would not have been able to deliver food to the storm victims, help with the recovery from the storm, or save Esther and her dog, part of the inspiration for the Evergreen Ministry to the elderly in need. God uses unusual circumstances to start new ministries.