Over the past several years, Martyn & Gaynor Dunsford (KCC Southampton) as part of Catalyst, have been connecting more and more with Myanmar, and building relationship with leaders from churches based there. Martyn has visited several times now to a conference hosted by a local Pastor there and on 28th Feb they lead another trip back to Myanmar with a team of people from different churches. Here’s an update from their trip.
‘Gaynor and I recently visited Myanmar and Laos, along with a team of others: Jeff and Lori from Taunton, Richard and Jan from Poole, Josh from Bedford, Crispin and Sue from Caversham and Simon from Chesterfield Newfrontiers churches.
We flew to Myanmar (Southeast Asia) for a conference which is lead by our friend Pastor Va and financed by Catalyst. Pastor Va is a leader of a group of churches there, and has planted some 60 churches in at least 7 of the 14 states of Myanmar and reaching about 20 different people groups! (Their aim by 2020 is to plant 100 churches.) The conference started early morning on the day after we arrived, and in total there were about 100 leaders who attended from all across the country, which was fantastic to see. This last year has been hard for them – 6 of their pastors had died, some of preventable diseases like malaria, others with sudden heart attacks and one a road accident. Some of their churches are in extremely poor and remote areas like jungles, mountain villages etc. where they cannot access medical treatments, and for some it takes them three days travel by bus, boat and on foot to get to Yangon for this conference. So this year their total number of churches had slightly decreased overall, but they remain cheerful and determined and they accept these tragedies much more easily than we might in the west.
The conference was outstanding – Crispin shared a few times from Psalms, Jeff shared practical pastoral advice and Josh (who came because he had a dream about Myanmar, a great young guy) preached the father heart of God – his first preach! A great team effort. I did a series from Acts, giving them examples of church life and the extension of the gospel through the Roman world that they could apply to themselves in Myanmar. This is our 5th such conference. Each time you can see the growth in maturity and the strength of their fellowship together, led apostolically by Va who is recognised as such now in our Newfrontiers world. The meetings are free and we were able to pray for healing, deliverance and breakthrough, and the response to the word is greater than ever. Many of them received individual prayer and prophesy in a great atmosphere where the Holy Spirit was moving powerfully. On one occasion where I was preaching there was such an outbreak of joy and laughter that went on for several minutes with Va who was translating at the time, quite helpless – another Holy Spirit moment.
Other leaders we are connecting with are Pyn from Oman and David Bi Cho. Pyn is the Newfrontiers pastor in this Gulf state, but was born in North India not far from the Myanmar border. David leads about 20 churches in Myanmar who also came to the conference with some of his leaders. The work of God is growing in Myanmar, and we had such a great time building friendship together.
On Wednesday night we went into the centre of Yangon, to the biggest Buddhist temple in the world, with 72 tonnes of gold leaf covering it! A place of darkness, but very revealing of how millions of people live and practice religion. Praise God that more and more people now are coming to believe in Jesus in Myanmar and with the country becoming democratic recently, Christianity should flourish more and more without fear of persecution.
Whilst we were there we visited the Hosanna children’s home which was built by Crispin’s charity Hope Asia which the CRY charity supports with the running costs, as well as other donations to help particular children or more specific needs they might have. There is now a really nice home for about 40 children, and an education centre where they will be able to supplement their (rather poor) education through the state schools. This in itself is a major work which we are delighted to be able to help them with, and the home has been described out there as ‘the best’ in Myanmar, but also the children are looked after by extended families, or foster families (usually of the pastors) during holiday times. The plan is for children not to be institutionalised, but given family life, but sometimes there has to be an intermediate situation for them, where they just need a place to live for a while.
Overall, we had an excellent time in Myanmar and really enjoyed seeing how well things are going.
Laos - A Quick Update
On the Saturday morning we flew, for a short trip, to Loung Prabang in the north of Laos to see some of the amazing work that CRY has been doing based in Fish Farming over the past couple years in some of the poorer areas. Loung Prabang however, is an incredibly beautiful place, declared a world heritage site, because it was an old capital city of a previous kingdom with palaces, temples and other buildings of real beauty.
We ate good food, chatted for hours with people we met, enjoyed the local culture as well as travelling around seeing the work of the Village Fish Farm lead by a guy called Andrew and his team. Andrew has been instrumental in building and growing many Fish Farms here and as a result of them being set-up, the level of nutrition has increased generally for the local area, adding fish protein to their diet of almost exclusively carbohydrate rice and the health of the community has improved. We ended our time together with a fish lunch, all sitting on a mat sharing laughs, stories and conversation. Even I tried some of the Tilapia fish eaten with rice using fingers.
Then we set off for a very remote Mhong village called Lang Lan, right up in the mountains, through jungles on a dirt track and amazing scenery. Eventually we emerged onto a kind of plateau where the village was located, surrounded by mountains all around. Before us was a school where some 100 children attend, where CRY supports some of the poor families here. There are 75 families total in this poor village, but so peaceful and beautiful. We walked around the village, sat with and talked to some of them and eventually left this idyllic place to begin our journey home.
Overall, it was an incredible time seeing how we are supporting, financing and building God’s Kingdom across Asia.’