How to Become a Third-World Country – Lessons Learned in Myanmar

After moving to Myanmar, Holli and I quickly realized that the government’s main concern was to maintain control – at any cost. They didn’t want things to change because that would mean they would lose their power. Red signs with white letters were everywhere commanding the people to turn in traitors or those trying to break the unity of the nation. The government-run news agency aired stories of the junta elite giving gifts to industry, agriculture, education, and medical community.

It was all a public image ruse. The reality was Myanmar was slipping further and further into a third-world, third-rate country and the generals didn’t know how to stop it. Word on the street was the generals had been raised in the jungle and didn’t know any way to rule expect barbarism. They ruled with an iron fist and fought among themselves for more power. Competing government-run businesses were bombed, as a result.

The future of Myanmar was being depleted and fast. And it broke our heart.

I think seeing all these things was particularly hard for Holli. She was good at organizing things and finding ways to turn the hardest situation into a life-giving oasis. She was overwhelmed with the brokenness and decay she saw around her. She believed God could change the hearts and begin to work with the Burmese women to help them come up with solutions to the problems they faced every day. Through casual conversations over tea, Holli began to bring some order to the chaos around her and these ladies she loved. She had a God-given ability to persevere that always amazed me.

I visited with the Myanmar Baptist Convention (MBC) to see ways we could partner with them to share Christ and His love. Some of the leaders were amazing examples of Christlikeness and we spent long hours together. But persecution from the Burmese government had hardened the denominational leadership’s hearts over the years. Like an old car, rusting in the back of the house, they seemed unable to move forward or forget the past.

The MBC thought the answer to all their problems was for everything to return to the way it was before the Junta took over the country. Pastor’s laughed when we talked about how their Buddhist neighbors would spend eternity in hell if they didn’t receive Christ. “They deserve it for how they have treated us” was their reply.

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