As the result of a coup that began at the beginning of this month, the elected leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, was removed. After decades of military rule and “closing” the country, she relaxed rules for visitor visas to Myanmar when coming to office in 2016. This allowed Michelle and me to travel there for the Feasts in 2017; the Jennings brothers, Aaron and Austin, were able to travel there in 2019. The changes also allowed for Davidson Lay Beh, who had been living as a refugee with his family in Sheffield, United Kingdom, to return to live in his home country of Myanmar—but COVID-19 has delayed their move.
Davidson, son of deceased Worldwide Church of God elder Saw Lah Bey, who came into the Church in the 1970s, has translated many UCG sermons into the Karen and Burmese languages, as well as the hymnal into Sanskrit. He has been conducting services via the Internet to members in the church in Sakhangyi for the past year or more. He has also built a Myanmar website to publish the booklets he has translated. Along with this southern UCG church, there is another Church of God group 120 miles north of Yangon that has been serviced by Leon Sexton and the Legacy Institute.
As always with any coup, the first thing the leaders try to control is the media. With this coup, phone service was cut off and many Internet functions stopped. However, for some reason, the Facebook Messenger app was still working. This past weekend, however, all Internet connections were shut down and the webcast church service could not be done. Web and phone access was cut off, but seemed to be largely restored on Monday and Tuesday this past week, and we have been able to communicate with our brethren. When the Internet goes dark, our members are cut off from the outside.
Most banks have ceased to operate, but LifeNets was able to find one and sent about $3,000 to the Sakhangyi group so money would be available to our members in addition to UCG funds previously sent. It is likely that this bank will stop international transfers soon, so it seemed best to give some cushion to these members while we could.
God has continued to be with these members. Both groups were able to acquire about six acres of land. In the south, the members were having a difficult time on farms, because owners wanted them to work on the Sabbaths. Some rice land came for sale for about $5,000 that was within walking distance for our members in Sakhangyi. We purchased it and the land has provided work and yielded food for our members. In the north, our brethren in the U.S. and Hong Kong have helped in similar fashion. The timing of these purchases and the help it gives to our members make us confident that God had a hand in putting this all together, knowing what was to come.
In some areas of the country, it is not safe to go out at night. The Sakhangyi group in the south is fairly isolated, being a village accessible by boat. In the capital, Yangon, where we have some prospective members, life is difficult amid the protests.
Although the military has stated that they will allow an election in a year, we do not know if that will happen. Please pray for God’s people in Myanmar, that the Internet will once again continue to allow for services and that travel visas will again be able to be issued so that our brethren may be visited.