Where there is no boom
“There is no boom,” said a Lutheran pastor about mission work in East Asia.
Between culture, religions, hostile governments, pestilence, warfare, and centuries of tradition that are all deeply ingrained and intertwined into the lives and minds of the people, there are no quick and easy approaches to making new disciples in East Asia. No flashy shortcuts lead to “booms” or surges in new believers. The Word doesn’t return empty. That is still true. But in Asia it takes so much time, so much effort, so much pouring into relationships. And sometimes years of faithful labor and precious harvest can be scattered to the winds in an instant.
In Myanmar, for example, a Lutheran pastor and his congregation have faithfully taught God’s Word, shared the gospel, and discipled believers for years. Over about three decades, church leaders have gathered and shepherded about 300 souls. Longing for fellowship with other confessional Lutherans and hungering for God’s Word, they reached out to a WELS pastor in the United States and have been encouraged through his teaching. They stayed in touch through the pandemic, and the Myanmar church leaders found ways to connect with their people and strengthen them with the gospel, even though they could not gather in person.
Then came the boom—the boom of war. Civil war erupted in Myanmar early in 2021. As battles spread across the country, the army shelled the town where many of the church’s members lived. As the town burned, the army shot civilians as they fled. Many of the church’s members fled across the border to India, to other towns in Myanmar, and even into the jungle to hide. The town went up in smoke. The flock was scattered and mostly unaccounted for. In terms of numbers and an organized church, it looked like their harvest went up in smoke too.
In this environment, there is no “boom” of flashy programs and fast numbers. There is only the sowing and re-sowing of God’s Word, seeking and re-seeking the lost. Within a few weeks of the shelling, church leaders and the WELS pastor connected again online. God’s Word was taught, and the gospel strengthened their weary souls. Then these Burmese shepherds of souls began to seek out and find what members they could. They reconnected with a few families, worshiped with them in their homes, comforted them with the gospel, shared the means of grace, and even baptized. There was no complaining about lost ground, only rejoicing over souls saved and sins forgiven.
There is no flashy evangelism “boom” here, but there is another kind of power at work: the gospel. This power is often a still small voice amongst the cacophony of the world’s booming and bellowing, but it is still God’s power to save. The only program in Myanmar right now is simply being with people in the worst of times and bringing the good news of Jesus into their lives. This cuts through darkness and gloom and truly refreshes downtrodden souls.
No boom. Just the gospel, God’s power, in a still small voice and in an unassuming way—yet still a mighty power to save and strengthen.
In late December 2021, Wiesenauer shared the following update: Yesterday, the military carried out air strikes and ground assault on the town where the largest of the Myanmar Lutheran churches is located. About 100 members (21 families) fled to the mountains and are hiding there until fighting stops. Most of the town was destroyed, and many will return to find their houses burned down. The church’s pastor is looking for ways to provide for spiritual and physical needs when the people return. Please keep them in your prayers.
Author: Stephen Wiesenauer
Volume 109, Number 02
Issue: February 2022