Cambodia, surrounded by Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand, is a land of 16 million people within 28 different ethnic groups, who live with the pride of Ankor Wat and the pain of the killing fields. The modern history of Cambodia is not much different from that of Vietnam or Laos: 100 plus years of French colonization, forced Japanese occupation, Indo-china wars, and wars with America. After the Vietnam War, Cambodia became communized, along with Laos. And during this time, Pol Pot and the communisty party of Khmer Rouge took power, dreaming of an agricultural heaven and massacring any intellectuals, including those who wore glasses, those who could speak English, former government workers, soldiers, and teachers, by means of starvation, torture, hard labor, and execution.
From 1975 to 1979 about 2 million were killed, totaling 1/3 of the entire population. Even after this, Cambodia was a land that thirsted for peace due to continual civil wars and political instability until Paul Pot’s death in 1998. Due to lack of peace, no one was willing to invest in Cambodia and it became a desolate land, becoming known as the “killing fields.” During this process, regardless of religion, more than 90% of religious people were murdered; not only the Protestants who were marginally rising, but Buddhism, which is the main religion, also had almost collapsed.
Due to insecure public peace and poor living conditions, there were only a few Korean ministry workers in Cambodia up until the beginning of the millennium. However, after Pol Pot’s death, public order and social security progressively stabilized and Korean ministers began to enter, allowing Cambodia to host the largest number of Korean ministers in the Indo-China window, after Thailand.
Many Korean churches serve Cambodia because there are relatively fewer ministry restrictions in Cambodia compared to Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. However, most of the ministers are concentrated around Phnom Penh, the capital city, and only a few serve in the rural regions where living conditions are poor, despite the possibility of diverse ministry and church planting with no substantial limitations. So in Cambodia, there is a need for workers who are willing to move out to the areas where not many ministry workers are and serve the souls of the land though evangelization, discipleship, and church planting with a strong pioneering spirit.
In Cambodia, more than 2% of the population is Muslim, which is more than Christians, and one may be surprised to find more than expected numbers of Islamic mosques while driving around. There is even an Islamic radio broadcasting station and the Chams, one of the minority people groups, is 100% Islamized. It is time we Christians work and serve this land even harder to increase dedicated disciples of the Lord and a self-generating local Christian community.
Let’s pray that Cambodia, once called the “Killing Fields,” would be a nation that brings revival. Although Cambodia holds many pains and hurts, its wounds will be healed and restored when the Lord returns through the trials and cross he bore. God, who has revived and uses the nation of Korea for the restoration of the nations, will bring revival to the wounded nation of Cambodia and use it to witness the Gospel in and beyond the Indo-China window all the way to the ends of the earth.
Myanmar (Burma), the farthest west among the five Indochinese countries along the Asian Highway, has the largest land territory in Indochina. Myanmar, with its population of 60 million, is one of the representative Buddhist countries in the world, along with Sri Lanka and Laos. Myanmar gained its independence in 1947 after the Japanese forced occupation, preceded by a long time of British colonial control. Myanmar is a multi-ethnic country with 136 ethnic groups. Harmony among the ethnic groups was the most important political task and the Burmese and minority groups established a somewhat united government, centering on General Aung San, the father of Aung San Suu Kyi. However, it collapsed by the coup de etat led by General “Than Shwe” in 1962.
From then until now, Myanmar had been under a military dictatorship for more than 50 years. The minority ethnic groups, especially the Karen and Chin People, who have the high percentage of Christians, have been under extensive oppression. In 1988, a democratization movement rose among the college students but was repressed by the military, which slaughtered thousands of students in the process. Again in 2007 the British monks cried out for democracy, but this also was quelled.
However, since the end of 2011, Myanmar has been rapidly changing. As China expanded with confidence in its economic development, southeast-Asian countries rose against it in union and reached out externally to the US, the only country that can keep China in check for help. It seems that Myanmar, in fear of being viewed as a subject state of China if it sides too much with China, is pursuing a practical gain in balanced diplomacy of not being too dependent on either side through diplomatic relations with the US and the rest of the western world. Along with this, Clinton, the US Secretary of State, visited Myanmar at the end of 2011 and afterwards, it became hard to make hotel reservations in Myanmar because of many foreign enterprises trying to advance into the Myanmar business and its labor force of 60million people, 90% of whom are literate, and its abundant underground resources.
Our organization’s short-term mission team also visited Myanmar for the first time in January of 2012, and a team of those who pray for this land visited in the past summer. It is evident that God is opening the doors of Myanmar. Now we need to be even more awake and press on in finding ways to serve and praying for the souls of Myanmar as we discern the will of God.
The largest religion in Myanmar is Hinayana (Theravada) Buddhism and more than 90% of Myanmar’s population is Buddhist. It is reported that currently there are more than 4 million Buddhist temples in Myanmar. There are cities where the entire city is filled with the Buddhist temples and at least 400,000 monks are in Myanmar as all men are required to live as a monk at least twice in their life time. There is no country on earth other than Myanmar and Laos, where there are this many religious structures and a requirement obligating all men to become a monk. Myanmar is indeed a Buddhist country! Myanmar also is a land with enormous amounts of narcotic production as well as a land where 1 out of 50 in population is an AIDS patient.
The Gospel reached Myanmar 200 years ago for the first time via the American missionary Adoniram Judson. Today, after 200 years, 5% of the Myanmar population is Christian. The largest people group in Myanmar is Burmese and about 0.7% of the Burmese is Christian, which is 20,000 in number. Then, where are the rest of the Christians? They are among the minority people groups. Even among the minority groups, the Karen and Chin people, with the speculated population of 5 million and 10 million, respectively (there has not been a census since 1930s in Myanmar), are known to have 40~50% evangelization rate. Because the western missionaries as well as Adoniram Judson ministered mainly to the minority groups such as the Karens and Chins, the Burmese, which is the largest people group in Myanmar, still remains unreached.
During the 50 year period of military dictatorship, the military government has been silently and yet mercilessly oppressing the Karen and Chin people who are numerous among the minorities and close to the US and the western countries. According to a certain record, approximately over 1,000 Karen villages were burned down and 30,000 Karen people killed by the Myanmar soldiers, and many who escaped to Thailand and India are living as refugees near the borders.
Now the Lord is opening Myanmar, which had been behind the veil for the past 50 years. Unlike the Middle-East, which is moving in violent commotion in democratic movement, God is quietly opening the doors in Myanmar. Myanmar where many are coming in like a wave for business opportunities… Now, we Christians, let us pay attention to Myanmar and send in the people of God’s heart who desire to share life. Burmese, the major people group in Myanmar, persecute the minorities because they do not know the Lord but let us hope, expect, and pray that the Burmese would become one with the Karen and Chin people in the Lord Jesus Christ, just as the Jews and the gentiles became one in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Next year will be the 200th year of Adoniram Judson’s arrival to Myanmar. How was Myanmar compared to the US during his time period? And yet, he circled the earth half way to Myanmar and worked there for close to 30 years before returning to the Lord. There was not a single Christian when he first came but when he died, there were approximately 7,000 Christians in Myanmar. Let’s pray that the church of God, which is anointed to uphold the flag of world mission, may serve the souls of Myanmar, especially the souls of the Burmese who are moaning in the military dictatorship and 4million Buddhist temples. Lord, the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. So send your harvesting workers to the Burmese!
In Isaiah 40, there is a voice of one calling in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord and make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up and every mountain and hill made low, and the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all people will see it together. Yes indeed. The word of God, who is the truth, has been done and it will continue to be done. John the Baptist became the voice calling in the desert 2,000 years ago and prepared the way of the Lord and made straight the King’s highway. Let us live the life of John the Baptist as we live in the spiritual desert of this world and prepare the way of the Lord, our King who will return.
By Missionary Abraham Jung