This month we would like to give you a recap of what our ministry was most blessed with in 2016 and what we look forward to in 2017 in the Lord is willing.
In the year of 2016, thank God and thanks to you for your partnership in prayers and giving and encouragements, our team was able to accomplish many great things. We Thank God so much for blessing our ministry with great partners and great ministries. We thank God for opening doors to places, like China, where many cannot go and speak about Jesus. We look back at 2016 and are surprised at where God has taken us and what He has done through us so far. We would like to summarize and focus on 5 great things God is doing in Southeast Asia and China.
First, we finished the Lisu commentary on the book of Revelation. As you know, Stephen gathered his notes and papers from what he studied and from other scholarly notes and with the help of the team, he was able to translate the text into a Revelation commentary in the Lisu language. This additional ministry is a great way to help the Lisu leaders study the Bible using tools that they will be able to read and understand. This was a great accomplishment because many Lisu expressed that they are encouraged and have a fire to study the word even more because of this. We have also had Revelation classes for several groups of leaders from Myanmar after they had finished reading the commentary alongside with the book of Revelation. The classes helped the leaders understand and even clarified some of the questions they had on the book of Revelation. The need and desire to study the Word is great among the Lisu but many of them do not have the means and funds to go study in Bible colleges, so we believe that this commentary ministry is very important because it gives the Lisu people a chance to learn God’s Word. If God is willing, many more commentaries will be printed out in the year of 2017.
Second is the Bible conferences in church contexts especially in Myanmar. This goes along with number one but we have classes through Bible conferences in Myanmar in order to bring the people back to God’s Word. As a matter of fact, one of our cores is to bring the people back to God’s Word. We feel extremely encouraged that every time we go and teach at the Bible conferences, hundreds of Lisu will come and study the Word and this gives us more energy to teach all day and even, sometimes, through the night.
Third, in 2016, we were able to use the Lisu Cultural Conference in order to build relationships and evangelize to the non-Christian Lisu in China. We hosted a little conference in Thailand, where we were able to invite Chinese Lisu to attend. This conference was beneficial to both the Christian and non-Christian Lisu from Myanmar, China, and Thailand. During this Lisu Cultural Conference, the Lisu were educated to distinguish what Lisu events and behaviors were culture and what was spiritual (religion). For instance, the climbing of the sword ladder – this is a spiritual animistic worship because the climbers had to be possessed by an evil spirit in order to climb the sharp ladder made of swords; many Lisu Christians thought this was merely a cultural thing so they attended these without knowing that they were taking part in an animistic worship. On the other hand, non-Christian Lisu were educated that Christianity does not destroy the Lisu Culture. Stephen was able to explain that Christianity and Lisu go together more than most people thought, because Christians believe in a creator God… and so do the Lisu. After this conference, Stephen and his team was able to attend a Lisu Cultural Conference in China. Stephen spoke on stage about how Christianity doesn’t destroy the Lisu Culture but actually helps it; many of the Chinese Lisu (even the ones working in the Chinese government) were really interested in this topic and even printed out Stephen’s speech on a Chinese official document/journal approved by the Chinese government! In fact, Stephen’s articles on Christianity and Lisu culture have been published every year approved by the Chinese government since 2010 and his book on Lisu poems was just printed out in China a few months ago. Being that Stephen has been attending this particular conference in China for many years in a row, the year of 2016 was incredible because God is moving among the non-Christian Lisu in China. The team was able to see great changes in the Chinese Lisu behavior and actions. This past year, they no longer served alcohol or even smoked. Many of the alcoholics gave up alcohol because they observed how respectable we Christians are as we attended these conferences. Several documentary movies about Lisu Christian families and their daily lives including a family singing Christian songs and family prayers, and devotions showed at the conference and televised on the Chinese national channel. This is a very big step because we can see God working on the Chinese Lisu as they change and as they even asked us to pray for them. Praise God!
Fourth, the Biblical training of the 3rd group of leaders from Myanmar was finally completed in 2016. After several years of training, the 3rd group of leaders from Myanmar are now back in their ministry teaching and using what we at Asia International Seminary taught to them. Special thanks go to Derek Voorheez (a current professor of Boise Bible College), Dean Hammond (a former professor of Cincinnati Bible Seminary), and Joe Snyder (a former computer expert of Bible translation) for helping equipping these students from Myanmar.
Fifth, with the help from IDES, we were able to save hundreds of lives that were affected by Tuberculosis and Malaria in Myanmar. Our mission focuses on a “wholistic” ministry, where we try to meet the people’s spiritual, physical and mental needs. As you may know, TB and Malaria is a rampant disease that affects Southeast Asia. In Myanmar, the average person cannot afford treatments because they live in extreme poverty. So, with IDES and other partners, we were able to save hundreds of people affected with these two deadly diseases. God is good!
This past month, Stephen taught the group of Lisu leaders from different parts of Northern Myanmar. These leaders are evangelists, preachers, elders and leaders of different denominations. At first, some of these leaders were very defensive when the Revelation Class began. You see, many of these leaders have never really studied the book of Revelation because they’ve been taught by traditional way that didn’t really pay attention to study the in depth of the bible. As a matter of fact, many Lisu have never even read the book of Revelation because they fear Revelation 22: 18 – 19, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.” They fear to even study the book because they fear if they read it wrong, they will be condemned. So most of these Myanmar leaders were very reluctant at first. They frequently said that missionary said this, and the other said we have been taught that, but never scrutinized the Scripture and searched what the Bible says or what the Bible doesn’t say. But as the week went by, they all were shocked and in awe that the Bible didn’t support what they had been taught or understood. Then they all started to grasp Revelation through understanding the historical and literary context of the book. They read it in the perspective of the first readers in the first century and are able to understand the Revelation even more.
After the group of leaders left, we got messages from them that they were very thankful to have learned Revelation with Stephen. The leaders said that they were very blessed to learn with Stephen because in the past they were taught Revelation by traditions and not by actually studying from the Bible. They were able to understand Revelation and most of these leaders are now teaching what they have learned in Myanmar and some have even entered into China to teach there. Praise the Lord! God is moving in Southeast Asia and China.
|Studying Revelation in a house church setting in China|
During the time these leaders were here, we took them to teach what they learned at a Lisu church in Chiang Dao. Furthermore, before the group of leaders left, we were asked to go pray for a Christian couple, one of our relatives, to pray for peace and pray to cast the evil that had been oppressing the couple. We went with the Myanmar leaders and had a worship service and prayed for the couple. We then had pizza at that house, which was a first time experience for all of the leaders from Myanmar
The Killing Field in Myanmar
Currently, the Lisu in Northern Myanmar are very affected by the fighting between Myanmar soldiers and the rebels which has escalated in the past 6 months. Almost 6,000 Lisu people in several villages in Danai, west of Myitkyina, are running out of food. These Lisu living in Danai have the traditional jobs of mining for Amber, but now they are kicked out by the rebels and so they are not able to work or gain any income. Many of these Lisu also tried to plant crops for food because they have no income, but the fields are riddled with landmines. Several people have lost their limbs and even their lives going out to the fields. So many of the Lisu living in Danai are running out of food and they have no way of gaining income or growing food.
Another area that’s affected even more is Sitong, east of Myitkyina. Sitong is a mountainous area where many of the non-Christians Lisu grow opium. Since the battle, many of these villages turned into a battleground for the Myanmar soldiers and the rebels. So these Lisu have to run to the safety of Myitkyina and Wain Maw (area near Myitkyina) because these areas are relatively safe. Over 400 households, each household has an average of 8 members, are currently in Myitkyina with no home. The number is steadily rising. These Lisu ran and lived in the forest and caves for several weeks before finally reaching the safe areas of Myitkyina. Last we heard, the rebels have now tried to barricade the Lisu that ran from their villages from entering the safety of Myitkyina, where Myanmar soldiers protect. The actual fighting is not the only thing affecting the Lisu villages in Sitong and any village close to the forest; the rebels live in the forest and would go into Lisu villages in order to take food and money and even people including kids by force. Many of the people kidnapped are used as human shields or forced to join the rebel army.
|Temporary Shelters for the displaced Lisu|
|The recent group of displace Lisu|
|First real meal for the displaced Lisu after weeks in the forest|
As of right now, many of the churches in Wain Maw and Myitkyina, many of the Myanmar leaders that we work with and teach are from these locations, are actually trying their best to build temporary homes for these displaced people. They are providing food and water for these people in the best way they could. With numbers of the displaced people increasing each day into the almost 4000 from the battle areas, the churches in these areas has asked us to find aid or raise money in order to take care and show the love of Christ to these displaced people. Many of the Wain Maw and Myitkyina churches explained that they don’t know how long they could continue to take care of these people. The actual land that the churches own is very small, and all of these churches have requested for help with purchasing some land that will cost 30,000 US dollars that will be enough to house all of the displaced Lisu people and have land for them to grow food.
We have talked to several nonprofit organizations who expressed interest in helping the people but don’t know when they can start helping. We are also asking if you could first of all, pray for the people, and please spread this situation with others in hopes that there will be generous donors. Many have dedicated to give and explained it was a small amount but we told them and will tell anyone that even a small amount goes a long way. We pray that God will open doors and open the hearts of people that they may bless people in Myanmar and so that Jesus’ love can shine in this dark situation. Please pray!
The family is doing well. Isaac just finished soccer competitions at school. He is now in a Chinese language club and really enjoys his new school, Sarasas. Becky is busy helping Stephen type documents from written text to computer documents. Mary is doing much better now, she, with help from some of her friends, is getting the field ready for planting rice. Stephen is preparing to go to Myanmar in order to visit the displaced people and to encourage them. Nick is currently working to contact different organization and to raise awareness of the situation in Northern Myanmar.