Pastor Isaiah knew it wouldn’t be easy. Ever since he first started making trips from Thailand back into his home country of Myanmar, he sensed the need for courage and perseverance. At the beginning, there were no believers in his home village. But gradually people began to receive the message of the Gospel and believe in Jesus. However, along with many advances, there was always opposition.
For three years, despite Isaiah’s plan to share the love of Christ and bring positive change into the community, certain local leaders had been persistent in their attempts to oppose him and prevent his team of evangelists from spreading their message.
There was the time, early on, when Isaiah and others were in the middle of gifting a local school with a computer when several Buddhist monks intervened and incited the children to refuse the gift. It was a dramatic confrontation, but eventually, the gift was received. The monks issued a strong warning to Isaiah, but a small door was opened. (See this story entitled “Overcoming with Kindness” in the Spring 2015 issue of Witness, mbmission.org/overcoming)
Another time, Isaiah was speaking to over 1000 villagers at a special Christmas concert when the monks barged in and smashed the generator that was being used, forcing darkness and quietness upon the event. Regardless, more than 700 of those in attendance that night responded to the Gospel and began their journey of following Jesus. On other occasions, local thugs were hired to cause havoc at events that Isaiah had organized. Furthermore, although Isaiah was able to acquire a piece of land near his home village, it was often a struggle to get permission from the local government to initiate building projects or agricultural development. (See this story entitled “House Building, Peace Building” in the Summer 2016 issue of Witness, mbmission.org/peace-building)
But then, miraculously, things began to change. For those who had been following the story and praying for a breakthrough, it was very significant.
At that special Christmas event last year, one man came to Christ who has now become an elected regional leader. He and Pastor Isaiah have built a strong friendship and he has become an outspoken advocate for the work of the Gospel in the region. In addition, one of the local village mayors who had fiercely opposed Isaiah was replaced by a new mayor.
At a recent public meeting with residents from one of the key villages, the new mayor spoke very openly about tensions in the community regarding Isaiah and his work. He asked the residents very plainly, “Are we going to support the Christians living among us and work with them to improve our community, or are we going to side with the monks to kick them out?”
There was overwhelming support from the residents. Only two people voted against the Christians – the former mayor and one Buddhist monk. Everyone else agreed to open their hearts and support Pastor Isaiah’s initiatives on his land. It was a turning point, a critical step in setting things straight and opening a door for future ministry.
Soon after, the mayors from eleven villages in the area came to meet with Pastor Isaiah on his land. They met for hours together as many others stood by to wait for the outcome. Afterward, it was announced that the group had come to extend a formal welcome and an invitation to work freely in the region. It was a new official partnership.
The group of mayors also informed Pastor Isaiah that they had already worked with the Governor to secure a License for Proclamation, which was necessary for all public assemblies. That would enable Isaiah and his team to host more outreaches in their villages, like the previous Christmas event. They even offered to cover some of the expenses for food and festivities at the Christmas parties.
In addition, the leader from the local Buddhist monastery was present and expressed his formal apology to Isaiah for opposing him. He said that he had not understood Isaiah’s heart. Pastor Isaiah eagerly accepted his apology.
We have been waiting and praying for three years to see these changes, and we praise God for them. Sometimes we see God change things in a moment, but sometimes he asks us to persevere for years before we see a breakthrough.