Imagine mortar shells exploding around your hometown. The screams of women and children being attacked fill your ears; you and your family must flee – now! – or you’ll be killed. Your elderly grandmother urges you to leave her behind, but you cannot bring yourself to leave her for dead. So your family throws together what possessions you can carry, and you lift your grandmother onto your back. You dare not travel the main roads, which are blocked by the military; instead, you must move as stealthily and quickly as possible, on foot, through the countryside. The mountains are your only hope for survival, but it will take at least a month to get there. Will you make it? Will your family live?
It’s a horrifying scene that has played out in the lives of tens of thousands of Kachin people in Myanmar (Burma), Southeast Asia.
While nearly 90 percent of Myanmar’s population is Buddhist, those who live in the Kachin State on the northern border, near China, are overwhelmingly Christian. In a combination of ethnic cleansing and a grab for the rich resources (jade and amber) found in Kachin State, thousands have been tortured and killed. An estimated 100,000 Kachin people are displaced, living in makeshift camps along the Myanmar-China border.
Since 2011, the Myanmar military has destroyed and ransacked an estimated 200 churches, sometimes replacing them with Buddhist pagodas.
Thuza*, LHF’s translation coordinator in Myanmar, hears heart-wrenching stories from the lips of the Kachin people he and his humanitarian care team are serving.
“We are not allowed to enter the war zone,” Thuza explained, “but we are close enough to save people who are running from war. The Burmese military blocks all roads, not allowing victims to get to safe zones. (They are afraid freedom fighters will hide among the villagers.) They are burning the villages, killing villagers. The villagers run at midnight to get to safe areas.
“But some villagers who can’t run – pregnant women, old people and some infants – are left in the village. The military kills the people who are left as punishment.
“I am so sad, with tears…Children lose their families and their future. They don’t have enough food and shelter. I’m so sad to see their hopeless faces,” Thuza said.
BRINGING HOPE TO THE HOPELESS
For people who have lost everything, the reminder that Jesus loves them and is with them in every circumstance is priceless.
Through a mission grant from the national Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML), LHF has translated and published 3,000 copies of A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories in the Jingpho language, spoken by most Kachin people.
As they deliver care to Kachin refugees, Thuza and his team are distributing the Bible storybooks to families and reminding them of God’s love for them.
“This book is a best friend for children, especially for those who live with fear and loneliness in civil war areas,” Thuza said. “The book is their companion and their inspiration. They find peace and security, knowing about God’s love and care by reading it as they run from place to place.
“These children won’t exchange the book for a ton of gold or toys as it’s a very precious gift for them. They lost everything in the war, but they have hope through the Word of God.”
The books are proving especially useful for sharing the Gospel in regions controlled by the military.
“We can’t enter the civil war area to spread the Gospel, but the books can pass through to get into those areas for children in need,” Thuza explained. “The books share the Gospel, even when we are not able to do so in those places.”
Thuza’s name has been changed, and all faces pictured have been blurred to protect their identities.
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