Nargis' Orphans: Myanmar's Future Hope

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The people of the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar--also known as Burma--have suffered countless human rights atrocities in recent years at the hands of a brutal military regime.

The trial this week of National League for Democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi serves as another example of the types of political oppression the people face.

But perhaps more devastating was a natural disaster of unprecedented proportions that struck the nation one year ago this month.

On May 2, 2008 the country's delta region was ravaged by Cyclone Nargis. The category 4 storm left as many as 200,000 dead.

Among the suffering survivors were 60,000 orphaned children.

One church worker--we'll call him Michael--agreed to talk to us if we protected his identity.

"Some of the relatives are looking after and caring for the orphans," he said. "They are just like a simple fisherman. They don't really have extra money to support these kids. Even they have a hard time to support their own children."

Many of the orphaned children are Karen Christians. The military government has taken control of some who are not living with relatives.

"Some of them have to go like to Buddhist monasteries," Michael said. "Some of them have to go to military camps or where they are sent to some kind of military elementary school and later they will be recruited for military service."

The concern is that some may be forced by the government to become child soldiers sent to fight against their own people.

Also, Christian leaders say they don't want to see young Christian kids like these indoctrinated into the ways of Buddhism.

Groups like the Wyoming-based Vision Beyond Borders are trying to help. VBB was one of the first ministries to respond in the immediate aftermath of Cyclone Nargis.

Today, construction is nearly complete in Myanmar on VBB's home for orphans. When finished, as many as 50 children will find security there--warm beds and hot meals in the dining hall.

The hall won't be limited to just eating. It will actually be a multi purpose facility where children will gather for praise and worship and also studies and Christian education.

Michael said the home will be a place where future leaders will be trained for the Gospel.

"We want them to be strong Christians who grow up with the word of God, with the fear of the Lord and wherever they are they will be soul winners and movers and shakers for the Lord," he said.

And souls are being won by Christian workers throughout Myanmar.

Many Buddhists are choosing to follow Christ, not as a result of agressive evangelism, but because of the example of Christian workers.

"Many of the staff members of non-government organizations in Myanmar are Christian," Pastor Maung of Judson Baptist Church of Aungpinle, Mandalay said. "The people see a big difference between a Christian employee and a non-Christian employee. The Christians tend to have more tender love and patience toward others. The new converts in our church, most of them have become Christians by seeing the Christian life."

So, the future example of the young children will likely have an impact on the future of Myanmar.

"They have such a pure heart and they don't have any kinds of pre-concept. They are just ready there to receive and they are just ready there to believe. If we can impart the truth in them," Michael said.

"I believe that truth will change their lives and then they can be leaders of the future," he added. "Only the truth can set them free and they can change their world."

*Originally aired May 29, 2009

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Gary Lane

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