We are having a wonderful time with Pastor Naing Thang as he visits us again here in the United States. One of the things we enjoy are his great stories of God’s faithfulness to him as he works, dispelling the darkness in Myanmar by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I wanted to take the time to pass on this new story he shared with us about his recent evangelistic endeavor.
Just a few days before he was scheduled to come to America to visit several churches here and to take part in a denomination’s annual presbytery event, God put it on Pastor Naing’s heart to go to Rakhine State for a special time of preaching and teaching. I honestly thought it was a little crazy to try to cram in, and I was a little worried if he’d be able to make it back from there in time to catch his flight.
By God’s grace we were able to help him put on a three-day event at the church we built in Bogalay Village in central Rakhine. You might remember me telling you we sponsored several meals for the people coming to hear the preaching.
Bogalay is about a 10 to 12-hour drive from Pastor Naing’s home in Yangon in a very rural area.
Rakhine is a very dangerous place, torn by war and poverty, and often deadly for Christian workers. In fact, more than one Christian pastor has been killed and others taken prisoner in Rakhine in the past two months.
In addition to all of this impending danger, a monster cyclone was forming, and that’s not my description of it, that’s the official category given to it by meteorologists.
The cyclone formed in the Indian Ocean less than two weeks ago and began heading toward Rakhine on the eastern banks of the Bay of Bengal where Pastor Naing was preparing to hold his meetings.
Cyclone Fani, as the meteorologists called it, was the largest storm in this region in 20 years and packed with it deadly power.
As pastor Naing and his crew were preparing the food to feed those who had come to the meetings at the newly renovated church, they heard someone on a megaphone call for the people to flee the area and take cover to avoid the deadly storm.
Pastor Naing, feeling very strongly that God had called him to teach and preach at this specific place and time, reassured the people that they should stay at the church and that God would protect them.
He told them God was more powerful than the storm and he could turn it or stop if He wished or could preserve them in the midst of the storm at the church. Some were frightened and ran, and others stayed.
To reassure them and himself, God reminded him of another time in his life where God answered his prayers.
Naing’s own faith began to build as did those hearing him as he told them the story of how God protected him in a storm many years ago in what seemed to him to be very miraculous.
“I told them how we were on our way to a village to preach, and when we were walking six or seven miles into our trip, we began to see black clouds forming and coming our way,” he said.
“We stopped to see if we had umbrellas in our packs but we did not.”
Pastor Naing and those traveling with him wondered what they should do seeing they were about to encounter this harsh weather without proper cover. They had several miles to go on their trip, but they decided it would be best to continue no matter what because they had given their word they would be there for the special services. So they prayed and asked God to help them. And He did.
Swirling black clouds and the fighting sounds of lightning came crashing toward them as they continued on toward the village by faith.
“What happened to us was amazing thing,” Pastor Naing said. “A wall of rain came to us and stopped in front of us and another wall came behind us. All the way we walked to the village, the rain was moving in front of us and following behind us. I never see it like that before!”
When he arrived at the place where he was expected, the people were shocked to see that they were dry.
“How can this be,” they asked, “was there no rain?”
When he explained what had happened to him, the people were very glad to hear his teaching, and there was a great time of fellowship and faith.
After hearing this story and even knowing Cyclone Fani was bearing down on them in Bogalay, some said, “If Pastor Naing stays we stay, if he runs we run. Whatever he does we will do, God will be with him.”
This new attitude of faith set the stage for a good teaching time in Bogalay.
Pastor Naing said he often tells people about the wonderful things that happened to men of God in the Bible, but he is also able to tell people about what God has done for him. His own own personal testimony of God’s great care for him seemed to have a great effect on opening the peoples’ hearts and minds to the message of the Scriptures.
This story encouraged many who stayed for the teaching and preaching in Bogalay, and they were even more encouraged when the cyclone changed its course and turned northward toward India.
Today we are all praising God for the 17 people, including three entire families that confessed Christ and were baptized in these meetings.
When we are in great anguish and feeling faithless, we should take time to remember what God has done.
When you pray, you’ll find that it builds your faith to include what God has done and what you expect He will do as you come to him with your petitions.
May God be praised for what He has done, what He is doing now and for what He will do through us. Past, present, future. He is the God who was, who is, and who is to come.
We can sometimes find it easier to believe what God has done – either what we read about in the Bible or what He has done for others in the past – or find it easier sometimes to believe what God might do someday in the future – but we have a hard time believing in the moment.
Be encouraged today by what God has done. Have faith He will never leave us or forsake us. Know that He goes before us as we walk with Him and work for Him.
Wisdom from the Jungle
by Mark Robinette
While staying with my family recently, Pastor Naing Thang, of Myanmar, told us a story I’ve been telling everyone I can.
One of the pastors of his village in the remote mountains of Chin State, was a man who taught everyone the importance of a Bible truth. “In everything gives thanks, for this is the will of God, in Christ Jesus, concerning you.”
He stressed God’s sovereignty and how we should pray before we set out to do anything. If we did this, he taught, we could then give thanks for whatever happened, it was in the hands of God.
One day before he and one of the young men of the village left to go deeper still into the mountains to a favorite fishing spot, they stopped to give thanks and prayed for God’s protection and provision.
After their first day’s catch they needed to preserve their many fish by smoking them.
While cutting wood for the fire, the good elder accidentally swung wild with his machete and cut off his own finger.
Bleeding and in a great deal of pain, the old man thought to himself, “what a poor lesson this is for the young man. We prayed for God’s protection and this tragedy has befallen us.”
His finger was lost, and if he didn’t get back to the village soon, maybe his life would be too.
In these mountains there are a great many dangers. Giant pythons, Bengal tigers, wild boar, cobras and elephants who trample men when they can.
But there is one predator far more menacing. The head-hunting cannibals. They often slither quietly though the forest in search of human sacrifice. When the two men saw them, they knew who they were and what they wanted.
Terror stuck the hearts of the elder and his companion and they both ran in separate directions as fast as they could. The old elder was an easy catch for the cannibals. As they lead him back to their village where preparations for a ceremonial offering and meal were already under way, the man of God felt abandoned by his maker.
He watched as they built a fire for him and danced in the darkness. His heart darkened with thoughts of hopelessness, loneliness and doubt.
As his time came to face what they had planned for him, their priest came to see who and what the hunting party had brought to them.
He began inspecting him everywhere. Feet, legs, under his clothes and then noticed the wrapped hand and bloody stump where his finger had been.
The priest was very upset. Motioning to the others, the pastor could see he was not what they wanted. They wanted a man who was whole. His missing finger was some sort of bad omen.
They released him and motioned for him to leave.
As he made his way home in a sort of shock, at what should have been his fate, he remembered how he had felt toward God in his time of weakness.
He now understood, God had taken his finger to save his life.
Thanks be to God for his faithfulness to this man and the lessons it provides us today. May we indeed be thankful in all things, for this is the will of God, in Christ Jesus, concerning us.