This is one of the many congregations pastored by GFA missionaries in Myanmar that will now become centers for cyclone relief efforts.
Gospel for Asia’s first shipment of cyclone relief supplies has arrived in Myanmar (Burma) and has been received by GFA officials.
“Because of our previous service to the nation in times of such need, our national leader has a good reputation among government leaders, and the local churches are held in high regard,” explained GFA President and Founder K.P. Yohannan. “As a result, the government has agreed to allow GFA Church to not only bring in supplies, but also to make sure they reach the people who are in such desperate need.”“Rebuilding Myanmar could take years. And since our missionaries, churches and Bible college students are indigenous, they will be there for the long haul.”
Even though there have been several reports in the international media of aid materials being diverted, GFA has been assured that these will get to those in need.
In addition to the medical supplies that were flown into the Yangon (Rangoon) airport, GFA Church is also shipping food to the disaster-struck nation.
“Please pray that all of these supplies will get into the hands of the people who need them the most,” Yohannan pleaded. “I also ask that Christians offer prayer that the government leaders will give greater freedom to help the hurting in remote areas.”“The people are asking for water to drink and rice to eat. Starvation is the major problem right now.”
In what he described as a near-miracle, the Myanmar government has also given special permission to GFA Church to open medical clinics in its church compounds.
“This is a very unusual situation,” Yohannan said, “and it is good because we have 400 churches in Burma, and many are in the most affected areas. Of course we cannot minister to everyone who is suffering as a result of this disaster, but we will do everything we can to help everyone we can.”
Yohannan said the most pressing need at these clinics is for trained medical personnel.
“I am asking people to pray that God would lead us to Burmese doctors and nurses who are already in the country, since so far the government has not allowed outsiders to come in and work,” Yohannan said.
Yohannan also revealed that the GFA Church leader in Myanmar has asked to open an orphanage to care for more than 90 children now in his church’s temporary care.
These students were welcoming a guest to the GFA Bible college in Yangon. The Bible college is now a shelter for cyclone survivors.
“Could you please allow us to pick up the pitiful children who have lost their parents in the cyclone,” he pleaded. “They have no families and are completely alone.”
Yohannan said permission had been granted and that the children will be cared for.
GFA workers have been actively involved in the relief effort since a few hours after Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in the predawn hours of May 3. The work started in the GFA Bible college in Rangoon, where people sought shelter in the badly damaged, but still usable, buildings. A few days later, GFA workers spread their efforts to other parts of the storm-ravaged country.
The Bible college is still being utilized as a shelter. A portable generator there has made it possible to draw clean, fresh water out of the campus well. The water is being bottled and distributed to those who so desperately need it. At night, the missionaries are using portable projectors to show an Indian-made film about Jesus.
Missionaries are focusing their attention on the two major needs of the people.
“The people are asking for water to drink and rice to eat. Starvation is the major problem right now,” Yohannan said.
GFA Church has additional medical and food shipments on the way to the country, and more than 300 students from GFA’s Bible colleges, along with missionaries and volunteers, are mobilized to get food and clothing to the storm survivors.
News reports from inside Myanmar put the death toll at 38,491. The United Nations estimates that more than 60,000 people perished because of the storm. The International Red Cross says the dead could number as high as 127,900.
More than 80 percent of Myanmar’s 46 million residents adhere to the Buddhist religion.
“No matter what the official number is, we must remember that each of these people was a soul precious to God. In the same manner, we must continue to help the millions of survivors. They need to hear that they are beautiful in God’s eyes,” Yohannan said.
Weather-related troubles may not be over for the people of Myanmar. Heavy rains have been falling on the country for several days and the annual monsoon season is just a few weeks away.
The foul weather may complicate the distribution of some emergency supplies, but it will not be cause for the relief efforts to stop. GFA’s 500 native missionaries in Myanmar will continue to serve their fellow countrymen, long after the crisis disappears from the headlines.
“Rebuilding Myanmar could take years. And since our missionaries, churches and Bible college students are indigenous, they are there for the long haul,” Yohannan said.