Burma #2, 2008
Read this excellent summary about Dr Richard Charlick's Nov 27 - Dec 7, 2008 trip to Myanmar (formerly Burma). It will truly inspire you in your Christian journey.
Your brother in Christ, Holland Kendall
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Subject: MYANMAR SIX MONTHS AFTER THE CYCLONE
From: "Richard Charlick" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, December 27, 2008 9:04 pm
To: "Holland Kendall" <email@example.com>
MYANMAR SIX MONTHS AFTER THE NARGIS CYCLONE
Myanmar is a country of over 50 million people. The U.S. News and World Report recently listed Myanmar as having the world’s 3rd worst military dictatorship (after Iran and North Korea).
All Christian missionaries and foreign Christian influence were forced out by the military dictatorship 42 years ago. Over 90% of the people are Buddhist; the government requires Buddhism to be taught for one hour each day in all schools. Even though the country claims to have religious freedom, the 2-3% of Christians in Myanmar have been greatly intimated and discriminated against. Some remote mountainous Christian villages have been burned with the killing of women and children and the fleeing of survivors to refugee camps in Thailand and surrounding countries.
Myanmar was hit by a severe cyclone (called a hurricane in the West) last May. It was estimated by the government that 60,000 people were killed but many nongovernment sources put the death count at over 300,000. The number of people left homeless when their homes, villages, personal belongings and crops were totally destroyed is much larger.
The military dictatorship refused to allow international aid into the country creating massive international disapproval and criticism, especially in the world media. The military dictatorship claimed to be adequately caring for the problem while in reality it was well known that little help was available.
Our Burmese host, a pastor, was able to get into the most devastated area of the Irrawaddy Delta one month after the cyclone, after being trained and supplied by United Nations Personnel. They found the river banks lined with decaying bodies and groups of survivors huddled together starving, with no food or shelter and no one to help them. The group was able to take in rice, pots and pans, mosquito nets, medications and furnished them encouragement that someone cared.
I treated one middle-age man who was in the Delta when the storm hit. Fortunately his wife and 2 children were visiting relatives in Yangon at the time. They had no warning the storm was coming. This man told me he lost two brothers and one sister in the storm and that 85% of his village were completely wiped out.
The typical home in the Delta is made on poles, four or five feet off the ground, constructed of bamboo and palm leaves tied together with vines. It is easy to understand the destruction with 150 mile per hour winds and repeated waves and water surges of 8 to 12 feet high. We saw one photo of where his village used to be with grass and debris 12 feet high in some small trees where the water line once was.
My wife, Dora May and I led a team of 10 health care providers into Myanmar 6 months after the Cyclone. The government still would not allow foreigners into the Delta or severely damaged areas. The only way we were able to get into the country was by knowing the right people in the right places and by showing our monitory appreciation in the right amounts. The government monitored our movement very closely every day and frequently we had plain clothes government military personnel in our clinic daily observing our activities. They never gave us any problems. We were simply helping their people.
I had led similar health care teams into Myanmar the previous 5 years. Our home base was in Yangon (formerly Rangoon), the country’s largest city and former capital. This year things were different. The sense of tension and being watched was much greater. We observed very few foreigners. The very first day we went to our usual popular foreign tourist restaurant we were the only ones in the previously busy and crowded restaurant. We were told there were very few tourists in the country and some of the popular tourist hotels and restaurants were closing.
In Yangon and surrounding areas there was considerable evidence of the Cyclone. There were a lot of tree stumps and trees with only half of the limbs left. There was a lot of evidence of house and roof repairs. Some roofs still had tarps on them. We were told that construction repair material was in shortage and very expensive. Inflation in general was considerably higher.
We were allowed to set up temporary clinics in 5 different areas on the outer edges of the severely affected Cyclone areas. We treated over 600 medical patients, over 200 with dental needs and fit over 850 pair of eyeglasses. All of our services were free including all medications and eyeglasses.
A 17-year old young lady, Stephanie Crockett, from my church led our 3 person optical team. Stephanie took a course to learn how to operate an auto refractor which reads very accurately the lens of the eye, feeds the information into a specially programmed lap top computer and selects the pair of eyeglasses we have previously programmed in our approximately 3000 pair of eyeglass inventory. They go to the inventory, find the pair of glasses selected, some being bifocals, and can usually fit the patient’s optical needs very well.
Stephanie and the eyeglass team made many hundreds of patients instantly happy because none of them would have ever had the opportunity to get eyeglasses and see properly. This very kind service opened the hearts of many to hear the Gospel of Jesus.
Holland Kendall, founder of Kendall Optometric Ministries, developed this unique method of selecting eyeglasses by programming the computer to read the auto refractor and select eyeglasses. Holland trained Stephanie and loaned us $12,000 of equipment free to make this eyeglass program work very accurate. He has an excellent ministry in supporting short term health care workers to help lead people to the Lord.
When we asked our patients if they knew why we came all the way from America to help them they did not know. We told them we were Christians and Christians are taught to love the help people in need. When we asked them if they knew what Christians believed they all said no. When we asked if they would like to hear what Christians believed they all said yes. After 20-30 minutes almost everyone asked to become Christians. I personally had 56 people, 100% of every Buddhist that sat down in my dental chair ask to become a Christian.
We spent another 10-15 minutes with them making sure they understood they were now a Christian and asking them if they wanted their children and family to be able to go to Heaven someday. They all agreed they did, but there was no one to teach them. So we taught our new Christians and equipped them with an understandable 30 page pamphlet we wrote and published in Burmese, how to become evangelists and teach their children, family and friends how to become Christians.
This was our 6th mission to Myanmar and we have repeatedly seen how many of these new Christians have won their whole families and neighbors to Jesus and some have become important Christian leaders.
Dora May took a digital photo of each new Christian in the dental clinic along with the pastor interpreter and myself. Each photo had the date on it. She used a new small pocket size Polaroid laser printer and printed out their picture in ninety seconds. Most of these people have never seen or had a photo of themselves. We encouraged them to keep this photo as a reminder of the most important day in their life, the day they became a Christian and decided where they were going to spend eternity after they died. We gave them a variety of other little gifts.
Buddhists have one controlling goal in life and that is to live good enough so they will be reincarnated into a better life. As a result these Burmese Buddhist people are the kindest, friendliest people we have ever met in the over 130 countries we have visited.
Buddha claimed to have been reincarnated several hundred times, but was still not good enough to go to Heaven. When the people heard that God’s Son, Jesus, came down to earth, died and rose again as a sacrifice for us, and as a result God promised to forgive us for all our bad deeds, to allow us to go straight to Heaven after we died if we only ask Him to forgive us of our bad deeds, invite Jesus into our heart and life, believe Jesus is the true Son of God, every person we talked to wanted to become a Christian, including 8 Buddhist Monks we talked to on previous trips. Getting to Heaven with God for eternity is the central, most important goal of their lives and needless to say we made many people very happy. There are many stories of different individual comments, reactions of life changing stories that I will document in my upcoming book of mission experiences.
Several of our pastor interpreters have repeatedly said you do not know how hard it is to lead a Buddhist to Christ. Sometimes we are only able to lead 6 or 8 people to Christ in one year’s time. It amazed them to think that 100% of those we talked to wanted to become a Christian. We finally figured out there were probable many reasons. Age and people with white hair are greatly respected in the Burmese society and most of us were older with white hair. White hair is very rare in Myanmar. The fact that we came from America makes us highly respected. Also we were giving them free health care that they would never be able to receive otherwise was an important factor. Educated people and professionals were highly respected. Probably the most important factor was that educated, professional and respected leaders in their society never stopped to talk to them as an important individual person. We did and showed genuine interest in their health, happiness and family and showed them how they could be reincarnated into Heaven after they die. We have an extremely, unique set of circumstances which gives us an opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus that very few people have.
On this trip we saw 544 Buddhists become Christians, inviting Jesus into their heart and lives. I am excited that Jesus has been able to use us as His messengers and that the Holy Spirit has been so active in opening these people’s hearts and changing their lives.
It was sad to see so much destruction and so many people hurting. We were personally rewarded with the good feeling of being able to help and improve the lives of so many poor and devastated people as well as to lead them to a happier life in Jesus with the promise of Eternal life in Heaven, Praise the Lord. I plan to return to Myanmar for the seventh time for two weeks in January 2010 with another health care team.
Dr. Richard Charlick