“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit!” ~ Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NIV)
Myanmar and Bangladesh are two neighboring countries in Asia with coastlines that touch the Indian Ocean. Both have tropical climates and a variety of natural resources. The majority of people living in both countries are under 55 years old. Millions of people live in their capital cities, but most do not know Jesus.
Nearly 90% of people in Myanmar practice Buddhism, and nearly the same proportion of the population follows Islam in Bangladesh. Few Christians live in either nation, but Myanmar has several minority people groups where most people follow Jesus.
People in these countries experienced British colonial rule. Since achieving independence, these nations have gone through periods of military rule and parliamentary democracy. Today, people in Myanmar still suffer under authoritarian rule. Economic decline and human rights violations remain common. Myanmar is home to more than 100 ethnic minority groups, many of whom face considerable discrimination. When violence occurs, many flee to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has its own share of hardships. Rising sea levels and more frequent natural disasters have left much of its population vulnerable to water contamination and floods. However, in 2008, Bangladesh returned to a democratic form of government after many years of military rule. The government’s slow and steady improvements in health care, food supply systems, and economic opportunities have decreased widespread poverty.
In these Stories of Hope, you’ll hear how God continues to work in these nations despite these significant challenges.
Pastor Testimonies – Myanmar
When Omar was only a baby, his parents began to follow Jesus. Several years later, his father became a pastor. Growing up a Christian and the son of a pastor in Myanmar was difficult for Omar. In school, Omar’s classmates refused to play with him or even speak to him. He felt so sad and lonely.
Omar’s parents saw him struggling and decided to send him to an all-boys Christian school. He finally made friends there. Every school day started and ended with devotions and in between he went to his academic classes. This routine along with the support of his friends and family shaped him for how God directed him next.
After graduation, he knew he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. He decided to go to seminary to prepare to be a pastor. When he finished his studies, he returned home to live near his family.
It didn’t take long for him to cross paths with the classmates who ostracized him when he was young. They weren’t doing well and expected that Omar may mistreat them in retaliation. Instead, Omar approached them with confident kindness. In response, Omar’s old schoolmates apologized for how they behaved toward him all those years ago. Omar shared the Gospel with them and prayed with them for their salvation.
When Omar’s father passed away, Omar took his place as lead pastor of their church. Being a Christian and pastoring a church in Myanmar still is not easy, but Omar knows from his experience that God will care for his every need. Today, Omar asks you to pray that God would give him strength to continue to serve Him wholeheartedly through his ministry.
Champo’s family lived off the crops they cultivated on their small farm. Bountiful harvests meant good meals and income. Drought, pests or storms could leave them hungry and penniless. In the midst of so much instability, Champo’s Christian parents taught their children to trust God for what they needed. Every day the whole family read from God’s word, studied what it said, and prayed together. Even in times when their crops failed, Champo saw God faithfully provide. He soon became a Christian as well.
When Champo’s parents could no longer pay for his schooling, he was forced to leave high school. It was painfully discouraging. He wanted to go to Bible college, but now that seemed impossible! Champo remembered how God provided so many times for his family as they trusted in God’s faithfulness. He prayed like he had with his parents when he was young. He asked God to do a miracle.
God answered, and opened a door for Champo to move forward in his education. He went to Bible college and graduated! Today, Champo is married and has four children. He also serves as the lead pastor of an ICM-developed church in Myanmar.
“The Lord has been faithful in our lives,” he says. “He has taught us to trust in Him. In our weakness He shows us His strength, and in our foolishness He reveals His wisdom. We are thankful to God for counting us worthy in and through His Son Jesus Christ to serve Him and His Church. We will forever serve Him to the best of our ability.”
Pastor Testimony – Bangladesh
As a young man in Bangladesh, Abdul was addicted to alcohol and drugs. His friends were, too. When they weren’t drinking or doing drugs, they went to brothels, harassed their neighbors, and committed petty crimes. But inside he knew his destructive behavior would catch up with him. In his search for help, he began praying to idols and spirits. When that did not help, he did not know what else to do.
One day, a pastor came to his village and preached the Gospel. Abdul realized that Jesus was the only source of true peace and salvation. He became a Christian. Choking back tears of emotion, he asked the pastor if he could be baptized. The pastor agreed.
His relationship with Jesus grew as he learned to pray, but he faced another obstacle. He couldn’t read the Bible because he was illiterate. Even though ICM’s Bible study curriculum, called Foundations, is available in audio and visual format, Abdul still desperately wanted to learn how to read and write. Reading the Bible was a great place to start. The church he attended hosted literacy classes, so he signed up as soon as he could. Abdul prayed every day asking God for wisdom and help to quickly absorb everything from his lessons. God was faithful, and Abdul learned quickly. Today, he can read the Bible, and he also uses Foundations to listen to the Bible study lessons. His new skills made it possible for Abdul to attend Bible school, where he gained a deeper understanding of God’s Word.
Today, Abdul is a pastor. Sunday mornings he preaches to his congregation and during the week, he shares the Gospel with people in nearby villages. For many years his church met in a dilapidated structure that did not protect them from the elements. But ICM’s generous investors provided them with a permanent church building where they can safely worship the Lord and serve their community. Abdul and his congregation are so grateful for this gift.
Please pray for pastors in Myanmar and Bangladesh like Omar, Champo, and Abdul as they faithfully serve God and their communities.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
* Names have been changed to protect identities.