A Nation in Turmoil: is there Hope for Myanmar?


Myanmar has been in the news in a disturbing way since February 1, when the military once again took control of the country.

Two months after the takeover events

Life transitioned from moderate inconveniences during the first month and a half after takeover to martial law and near civil war like conditions and widespread civil disobedience as a response. Life was stressful, disturbing, and continuously challenging. Here’s an excerpt from a message from our partner there at that time:

Peace to you. I will be very brief here. People in our area were killed in the last couple of days. Our phone calls are recorded and so we need to be careful now. The whole city is a mess and gone further into a kind of civil war situation. Please pray for us always. Under martial law. Anything can happen to us. Night is scary. Internet has been closed every night, does not work well in day and afraid we cannot contact you further. We have been much in need of food and cash and life has been challenged. Word is that all internet will be closed shortly.

Thank you for praying. We are currently in closer communication again but the internet is still less dependable than it was. Just knowing that so many are praying brings comfort. Please continue to pray that they will not take missteps in word or deed. Their neighbors see them as spiritual, rather than political. Discussions and emails require more care in words. Life is lived in ways like former times.

Earlier, our partner shared these words with us: “Yet, in all of these circumstances, we trust in the faithfulness of God and His sovereignty over the whole universe and in the midst of these troublesome situations. Deep down in our hearts, we experience the peace of Christ each day and for which we’re grateful. Pray for wisdom and endurance.”

Perspective through the eyes of a ten-time visitor to Myanmar

On my first visit to Yangon in 2011, I was amazed at how open the country seemed, but our coming and going was carefully controlled to reduce interaction. We were told part of our safety was that officers would be keeping eyes on us any time we were out in public.

We flew to the northeast for a seminar and had another reminder that we were in a restricted country. After the seminar ended, we ate in a restaurant near a table of officers. On our return to the hotel, and only minutes after I left my friend to return to my room, he was taken to police headquarters for questioning. A visiting official at the restaurant insisted on knowing why foreigners were eating with local people. When my friend returned about an hour later, he got rid of all seminar material from his room. The next morning, he cancelled the planned church visit to avoid putting suspicion on local people, and we flew out later in the day. I feel God allowed this so our mission would realize the actual life conditions of the Myanmar Christians.

Since then, there have been many signs of change. The press gained freedom rapidly in the months to follow, although there was a definite limit to that freedom. Slightly used cars were allowed in from Japan. There are at least a third more cars on the road in the capital.

In 2011, there were a handful of small multi-story department stores in the main city of five million and only those of the small middle and upper classes could afford to shop there. Now there are mall-like stores in quite a few places in cities.

Tourists could now travel more freely, but street vendors that had been seen on every sidewalk downtown were being replaced by car parking. Clothing in stores became more western, although traditional clothing is still readily available, and you see a mix on the streets.

Foreign blockades were removed, and the port began to fill with containers as goods were shipped in and out. Where once only one in five had a job in Yangon, there are now companies going to find workers locally. Meat is more available, and even junk food is sold on almost every street. Electric frying pans, rice pots, and small burners have replaced many of the small fires that were seen even in apartments ten years ago. Phones and other communications improved and became affordable. Roads improved, travel between areas didn’t require permission, churches were easier to build, and so evangelism was easier to accomplish.

And yet, it was also during this time of progress that the devastating Rohingya crises took place. This has raised many questions in the western world.

Last year, most churches in another area chose not to participate with a direct government request to demonstrate in support of the government’s stand at the international court of Justice.

An Uncertain Future

How will the recent military coup effect the country and the church? Will “stability” take away freedom to travel, to speak and report? Will the port once again sit idle instead of bustling with products? Will the extra pressure on churches in conflict areas become more oppressive? It’s still a constantly changing situation.

But we know that the church has grown during these ten years of relative freedom. There are thousands more Bibles available and being read, just through the work of one mission. There are 82 Bible school grads from one school alone in the past five years who are everywhere around the country spreading the Word. More than a thousand pastors and Christian workers have been encouraged by the visits of Bible teachers, and through the prayers of many who now are aware of them. And God’s work will continue in the current situation just as it did before these years.

My partner’s mission theme is hope for his nation. From Psalm 130 (NLT): “I call for your help…. I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on him, I have put my hope in his word. …Hope in the Lord.” updated Sept 11/21