Friday, June 6, 2008

Burma Cyclone Survivors Open to Gospel Amid Relief Efforts

Amid reports of appalling humanitarian conditions within cyclone-struck Burma, Gospel for Asia says it is not only succeeding in bringing aid to survivors, but is also touching hearts with a practical demonstration of the love of Christ.In this May 25, 2008 photo released by the Myanmar NGO Group and made available on Friday, June 6, 2008, locals are seen in Bogalay 125 kilometers (78 miles) southwest of Yangon in the Irrawaddy delta, in Myanmar, amid destruction caused by Cyclone Nargis. Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar on May 2-3, 2008, and left 78,000 people dead and another 56,000 missing, mostly in the country's southern Irrawaddy delta region.One month after Cyclone Nargis struck, up to 2.4 million people are destitute and struggling to rebuild their lives without homes and an adequate supply of basics, including food, water and medicine.In the face of hardship, GFA said that aid workers in its Compassion Services teams were finding an “incredible openness” to the Gospel among non-Christian survivors in largely Buddhist Burma – officially known as Myanmar.One unnamed relief team member quoted a survivor as saying, "Buddha might be sleeping, for he is doing nothing for us, but Christians are everywhere, sharing from whatever they have.”The member said that delivering the GFA medical and relief supplies had been a great blessing."It was also a great recommendation for our church and ministry,” he stated in his report to GFA. “Our providing food and supplying drinking water to different affected areas was a tremendous testimony among both Christians and unbelievers."He added, "People in Burma understand that the Christians are the people full of love."Love, expressed to the people through practical aid, prayer and the sharing of hope in Christ, is exactly what is needed in Burma today, the team member added.Meanwhile, Burma’s military government is compounding the humanitarian crisis by blocking aid. On Wednesday, U.S. warships were forced to leave Burma’s waters after they were refused permission by the ruling military junta to deliver emergency supplies to the washed out Irrawaddy delta. U.S. Navy ships left Burma’s coast Thursday after weeks of hoping to deliver aid to the survivors.The GFA team member reported: "Nowadays there is no peace at all inside the country. The officials have promised that they would allow relief donations to reach the people, but now they actively prevent it."In some areas, we had to stop our distribution of food and water because of the danger, but we will resume it when the time is better."Farmers in the Irrawaddy delta, the rice bowl of Burma, face serious challenges to planting new crops, including lack of shelter, rice seeds and fertilizer. Only part of the region has been drained of seawater and most ploughing animals were killed in the May 2 cyclone, which left 134,000 people dead or missing.Nevertheless, the team member said that he continues to look to God for His help in the face of such difficulties."I understand that our God knows this entire situation and I pray every day for His help for His children who are without help,” he stated.Despite the obstacles and increasing resistance from officials, Gospel for Asia reported that its indigenous network in Burma meant that it is still reaching survivors.GFA President K.P. Yohannan said he was grateful to God that the Burma government was still allowing Compassion Service teams to bring vital aid to survivors."Thank God that we are still allowed to bring aid to people," he said. "While the situation is very difficult, we are still able to minister in the midst of it."
As in the days of Noah...

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