by Alma Kyaw Thura
“Mrs. Kyawthura, we are sorry. But you are going to have to make a decision. You will either have to bring New Life in Christ Ministries under the authority of the church, or you will have to find somewhere else to conduct your ministry.”
I was sitting in the parsonage that my husband, Wesley, and I shared at our church in Yangon, where he had been pastor for 12 years. Surrounding me was a group of church leaders. They informed us that the ministry that God had given me was no longer welcome at the church.
As Wesley and I listened and prayed, I reflected on the journey that had led us not only to this confrontation, but to a new awareness of God’s call on my life.
From Tradition to Turmoil
In the beginning, I embraced the traditional female roles of pastor’s wife and mother. Then in 2004, I was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer. Doctors began a brutal chemotherapy regimen. After two rounds, I was a virtual skeleton. It was a living death, with the only the ‘hope’ of keeping me alive for a few more months.
Then, God gave me a clear vision that He would heal me of my cancer. I decided to stop the chemotherapy and trust God for my life.
For the next three years, I went in regularly, every six months, and was tested. My doctor was astounded. “The tests show that you are now cancer free,” she told me. God had healed me!
My response to God’s miraculous healing was, “Tell everybody!” I wanted to serve God with a fresh sense of gratitude for his goodness and a fresh energy to pursue his calling on my life.
People began to respond. I realized that more and more people were coming to Christ through hearing of Jesus’ touch in my life. Many of these people were Buddhist laborers—people considered almost impossible to reach.
The Ministry (and the Problems)
These people were beginning their journeys as Christ-followers from scratch, with no previous background or knowledge of the Bible, the Christian faith, or living the Christian life. In addition, these low-status day laborers were starting from a very disadvantaged position in life. There was much to do.
We opened our home each Wednesday for a discipleship group. There, we tackled the spiritual, physical, moral, and life-management problems faced by our new brothers and sisters in Christ. Soon, it became apparent that we needed a bigger place to meet.
I went to our church board and requested that we be able to use the church sanctuary each Saturday for our discipleship meetings. They agreed, and our group quickly grew to over 100 adults and 30+ children.
Before long, misunderstandings, jealousies, and class prejudices infected the situation. I began to get pressure from some key leaders to find another place to meet, off of the Methodist church compound. I began to push back.
Opposition to the ministry continued to grow. Resistance to the presence of poor, low-status Buddhists “polluting” our prestigious church campus increased. The standoff was reaching the point of no return.
Did we trust God for our finances, our food, our shelter? Did we believe that He would look after us and our children if we were willing to step completely out on faith? We struggled with fear…but we trusted that God would be faithful to his promises. Wesley resigned as pastor of the church. We stepped out, left our old life behind, and launched New Life In Christ ministries.
Called to Lead
At this writing, New Life In Christ ministries continues to be blessed by God. Over 150 people now meet regularly in our home congregation. Our flock continues to be working poor, low-status Buddhists. Daily, more and more of them—considered to be virtually unreachable—leave Buddhism behind and embrace Christ.
Our approach to discipleship includes practical life counseling. Currently, eight cell groups are functioning. Our vision is to divide them into multiplying microcells in the near future. Phone ministry provides daily spiritual equipping. In these daily calls, we listen to people’s problems, provide practical and spiritual counsel, and guide them in their daily walk with God.
We are beginning to see fruit from our efforts. Families are beginning to be able to stand on their own feet. Some families are even beginning to support the church through their tithes, offering, and volunteer labor.
A Daily Exercise of Faith
So how do we live? By faith, one day at a time. We trust God for even our daily bread. And He provides.
There are times we struggle to believe as we watch our earthly resources dwindle down. But over and over again, God proves Himself faithful. We are here, we are alive, and we are blessed.
Vision for the Future
God is giving us an exciting vision for the future of New Life In Christ ministries. By 2019, we are believing God to plant a second NLIC congregation about 25km from Yangon. We are investing deeply in the development of our people, most of whom are new believers in Christ. God is raising up powerful grassroots leaders from our current church. These are not educated or trained ministers in the classic sense. They come from the bottom—the hardcore working poor of Yangon. But they are faithful disciples who are growing into leadership.