It might not make front page headlines, but there have been some interesting developments of late in Myanmar (formerly Burma).
Originally a colony of Great Britain, the Southeast Asian country gained its independence in 1948 as a democratic nation. But for the last fifty years or so the country has been in the chokehold of a brutal military dictatorship.
Things have changed of late, however. Last November a free election was held, and the National League for Democracy (NLD) party defeated the incumbents in a landslide. There was some question about whether the military would allow the election results to stand, or simply ignore them and remain in power. But it appears that a transition of power is actually taking place and a democratic government is taking shape.
A recent article in the Washington Post (here) reports on a new position occupied by Aung San Suu Kyi, unquestioned leader of the NLD. The 70-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been under house arrest for decades and was forbidden from occupying the position of president because her husband and two children were British citizens. Suu Kyi’s ally, Htin Kyaw, was named President of the new government, but Suu Kyi is the real power. She has been appointed foreign minister and, most recently, state counsellor. This latter position was created just for her as a way of skirting the constitutional limitation, and effectively gives her the position of prime minister and “boss” of the president.
This may make for interesting politics, but why is it worth knowing as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven?
These recent events are significant because they have important implications for the running of the white horse of the gospel in Myanmar.
Since 2007 one of the churches in the Protestant Reformed denomination has been laboring with a group of saints in Myanmar. But one of the major obstacles has been in getting a missionary on the ground. The military-backed government closed its borders to any Christian missionary coming to preach the gospel in their land. The result has been that rather than doing mission work through a missionary living and working full-time in Myanmar, the work has been done through occasional, short-term visits to the field and through various channels of technology.
But now there is a shift in power. A democratic government is forming. The hope is that this new government will reverse the decision of the previous one and make it possible for a Christian missionary to come into the land and proclaim the glorious gospel of salvation in this predominately Buddhist country. We can only wait to see what will unfold in the sovereign plan of God.
And pray. The command of God is that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made…for kings, and for all that are in authority.” Why? “That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” But also God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” And in what way does that take place? Through the preaching of the gospel, of which Paul is “ordained a preacher…a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity” (1 Tim. 2:1-7).
Pray that God might use someone like Suu Kyi to open the door in that land so that the white horse might run, the elect there might be gathered, and Christ might come.
This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.