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For 80% of people living in Myanmar, to be a citizen of that country means they are Buddhist—Theravada Buddhist, to be exact. Local monks, with their shaved heads and saffron-colored robes, are respected. Elaborate pagodas, or Buddhist shrines, point golden fingers into the clouds. Holidays as unavoidable as New Year’s are filled with Buddhist nuances.
If you had been born in Myanmar, it is likely your household would have had a small shrine—a shelf with a statue of Buddha, perhaps accompanied by pictures, flowers, and candles. Your family would have left gifts of water or food at the shrine daily. Strictly speaking, the Theravada Buddhist religion encourages followers to rely on their own actions (or karma) to get what they want out of life, and these shrines are meant to merely act as a reminder of these teachings. But you might have known many people who prayed to the statues of Buddha, regardless.
To be Burmese means to be Buddhist for many, but it can also become a much more personal question. For some, stepping outside their religion of birth also means leaving their family and friends.
Than Zaw Oo, a Burmese man from Phawngpin Town, heard about Jesus from a graduate of Shiloh Bible College, and became a Christian two years ago. This wasn’t an easy decision, as all of his family are Buddhist. And they weren’t happy. They forced him to leave home and told him not to return as long as he was a Christian.
This year, Than Zaw Oo is a second-year student at Shiloh Bible College. College president and founder, Andrew Bawi Ceu, wrote, “He loves the Lord very much; he is a dedicated man, good in character. He is willing to share the gospel to his parents and all of his relatives.”
As God brings the country of Myanmar to your mind, and specifically the various ministries that Andrew Bawi Ceu is leading, pray for:
Students at Shiloh Bible College such as Than Zaw Oo who have sacrificed much to follow Christ.
The ministry of Shiloh Bible College. Seven students are preparing to graduate next February and minister in non-Christian (Buddhist or animist) villages.
The specific efforts of Christians in Myanmar to share the light of Jesus with their Buddhist brothers and sisters. Two outreach crusades designed to reach Buddhists are planned this month.
God’s heart beats with love for people from all over the world, from a variety of backgrounds. Psalm 67:3 and 5 reminds us of His love through the repetition of this prayer: “May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you.”
Through your prayers for the Buddhists in Myanmar, you are joining with Andrew to see the Light of the World shine in their darkness. Thank you for your continued prayers and support.
Sources for front page story: Asia Studies Center, Michigan State University, http://asia.isp.msu.edu/wbwoa/southeast_asia/burma/religion.htm, and Operation World, www.operationworld.org.