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The Stories : Myanmar

Tea with Aung San Suu Kyi (well, not actually)

Tea with Aung San Suu Kyi (well, not actually)

Recently I was in Myanmar. It’s a small country in South East Asia with a repressive military regime. The leader of the opposition movement Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for the best part of two decades and was only recently released. In spite of all this the local church is thriving among the tribal groups who live in the jungle regions and they are bringing transformation in the poorest areas of the country. The secret to their success is the integrity of their leaders and the intensity of their prayers.

I met a remarkable woman on my trip. It wasn’t actually Aung San Suu Kyi but Grace, a senior church leader of the Myanmar Baptist Convention, who shares a similar vision and passion for her country. Over a dinner of delicious Thai food Grace told me how the church is addressing poverty. ‘In conventional development outsiders come and “do things” for us. But this just makes our people dependent’. Tearfund’s long-term approach is to empower local communities by developing their skills and helping them discovery their own skills and resources. In one village they came together to begin building a well for clean water, Tearfund provided some technical expertise and they worked hard to get it built. ‘We feel a real sense of ownership’, says Grace ‘That minimizes dependency and makes change sustainable.’

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Later that week, on a stifling hot Sunday morning I attended a local church. The sermon was in Burmese and my attention was beginning to drift. And then the congregation began to pray, and I was blown away…. Maybe I’ve led a sheltered prayer life but this was praying like I’d never seen before. I don’t know exactly what the congregation were praying for, but together, they were quite simply pouring out their hearts. Some knelt and prayed quietly to God. Other cried out loud, tears pouring down their faces. This was raw, honest, passionate prayer. They were praying as if their lives depended on it.

That is the vital spark to their prayer, their lives do depend on it. In Myanmar they are faced with government opposition and extreme poverty but through prayer and by working together they are seeing change in their society. May we be inspired by them.

What’s incredible is that this scene is played out again and again around the world. As night falls in Myanmar, and the prayers of the villagers come to an end, the sun is rising elsewhere, and the prayers of others are just beginning. Together, around the world, individuals, groups, churches are gathering and passionately praying for God’s will to be done, for lives to be transformed.

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