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Be transformed

In October, I visited the Congregational Church in Myanmar (CCM), a church and mission based in Yangon. For those who need the old names, that is Rangoon in Burma.

The Church and Mission were founded by Elvis Sa Do, in 2000, and are very much built on his vision for God’s work in Yangon. His wife, Naw Pale Say, is a passionate supporter, and works tirelessly with the children, and in some of the poorest districts of the city and surrounding areas.

My first weekend, we packed in at least a week’s worth of activity! Friday we visited two mission churches. The first was a house church in Okkan, about three hours’ drive north of Yangon. This was one of the first to be founded from the Yangon church, and has been running for fifteen years. About twenty people gathered for praise and prayer – about as many as the room would hold.

We moved on to Phaung Gyi, a small town in a remote area, and one of the newest church plants, founded by a couple who had moved into Yangon from the village, and lived there for a number of years. She and her husband were baptised by Elvis Sa Do. So when they moved back to Phaung Gyi, to live near to her mother, who had been the only Christian living in the area, they were encouraged to plant a church. Now they are praying for a church building of their own and for the congregation grow.

Saturday was the day of the Christian Life Seminar at the CCM church in Yangon. I gave five lectures on Romans 12:1-2, with Elvis Sa Do translating, and his wife leading singing between the lectures. Several church leaders were present, together with church members, some of whom were new converts. Also present were some children from the Grace Children’s Home next door. The main message of the day was Paul’s exhortation to ‘be transformed’, and this was central also to what I said at each of the mission churches. This was easy, because I could see the transformation that was taking place in the churches and the people involved. I was speaking to people who knew what it meant to have their lives transformed by the depth and riches of God’s love.

At the end of the seminar, I went with Naw Pale Say to a children’s outreach in a desperately poor part of Yangon, a kind of shanty town on the edges of the city. Wooden buildings rise on low platforms over muddy paths and standing water, with little in the way of facilities. Each Saturday, Naw Pale Say arrives and is greeted by up to forty children whom she teaches simple Bible lessons and songs.

This is part of Grace Children’s Ministry, which runs under the auspices of the church and provides education and care for needy and orphan children. The Children’s Home houses ten children. They go to government schools, but the church provides food and clothing, welfare and care. There are five more children on the same programme, provided with full care, but living at home. All fifteen children are graduates from the Grace Children’s School. The Children’s Ministry also supports a secular pre- and primary school at Chakhai Village, which provides free education, with two full time teachers.

Sunday School is run for the Grace Home children, church members’ children, and a few non-Christian children, by Naw Pale Say. There is a girls’ choir and boys’ choir, both of which sing with huge enthusiasm. The volume when they are all singing is amazing! On the Sunday I visited, a young girl sang a solo, in a lovely clear, confident voice. And there was also a young people’s choir. Sunday concludes with a brief act of worship for the children, conducted by the children – again with amazing confidence.

Then the chairs are re-arranged for full Sunday worship, which all the children attend, together with the adult congregation. I preached, with translation by Elvis Sa Do. But apart from the sermon and communion, led by Sa Do, the whole service was led by members of the congregation. The children’s and young people’s choirs sang. Others read, and led prayers.

After the service, the children and some of the adults climbed into the transport to visit a home church in South Dagon. This is one of the poorest parts of Yangon. The tiny room was full of children. We sang, and worshipped. As before, I brought a message, which was translated, and we prayed for the needs of individuals, laying on hands for healing where requested.

This is an amazing work for God in a country which is not very open to Christian activity, though this is improving. Funding is always tight, and the vision of what can be done always outstrips the resources available – which is a sign of faith! If you would like to know more, visit the website.

Janet Wootton