The ferocious "chatter" of machine guns just around the corner from one's home is as regular as birds in the morning for displaced families in Myanmar. Fear is a constant state of being, necessary for mere survival in the midst of the war that these families have no part in.
The brutal battle rages on between the central Myanmar government and regional militarized rebels, with thousands of innocent lives caught in the crossfire.
Before you continue, we must warn you that this story is extremely difficult to read.
"Our area is where many people live because they mine amber for a living; and since the escalation of fighting, many have lost their ability to work for an income," our partner in Myanmar reported. "Since they aren’t able to mine amber, many turn to farming but as it turns out the farm lands are riddled with land mines. So, many cannot even grow crops for food."
This desperate situation and the constant threat of violence forces families to leave their homes in the rural villages in search of refuge elsewhere. However, many families do not make it out in time, or are not able to travel far enough away.
One such family is that of Nathaniel. Nathaniel and his family planned to run away from their village at the border between India and Myanmar. Before making it far, there were 50 insurgents who came into the village, threatening brutal violence. They then systematically raped any females in the community, whether married or not.
"They also forced those women to go live in their [rebel] camp to serve as sex-slaves for a period of time," our partner said heart-brokenly. "After releasing the first group, they came back to Nathaniel's village and forced another group of women, young and old, [into sex-slavery]. They did this as their routine. Nathaniel told us with tears that they raped his daughter in front of him in broad daylight."
It is hard to even imagine such evil. In some cases, the men in the villages are simply murdered one-by-one. Many families like Nathaniel's have suffered at the hands of these militia groups. Unfortunately, the central government army is not known for practicing any better morality than the rebel militias they fight. There are stories of the government soldiers committing atrocities, too. But, in Nathaniel's village at least, the army is fighting against the particular group that raped his daughter and many other women and girls in his village.
"As I heard this story, I felt deep sorrow, disgust, and even anger," our partner said. "No wonder why many young boys and girls in Myanmar are now joining with the [central government] soldiers to fight the insurgents. Please pray for peace and for God’s love to overcome these dire situations in Myanmar."
In the midst of such misery, the logical question to ask is, where is God's hand this?
Thanks to your generosity, IDES is able to work with local churches near Nathaniel's village to provide physical help and spiritual hope.
Since many of these families are unable to farm and are on the run, food insecurity is the second most urgent threat after violence. There is no food to eat. But, your willingness to show the love of God came through for them by the means of providing emergency food relief.
IDES provided funds to buy 500 bags of rice (each bag contains 60 liters or 15.85 gallons) in order to help feed 1600 people in the conflict area, all to be distributed by the local church leaders in Jesus' name.
"At first, my teammate bought the rice and got ready to transport the rice bags to the villages, but the [central government] army did not allow entry with the bags of rice. Out of fear that the rice was going to be stolen and used to aid the rebel militia, the central government placed a restriction of food entering the area. There was a limit of only 1 rice bag to enter per person.," our partner reported.
But then, God moved.
"My teammate discussed with the central government that he was going to help the people in need in the area. After a whole day of discussions and pleading, God provided a way; special permission sent from a central government leader to allow us to take all 500 rice bags into the area," our partner said in excitement. "The Myanmar army even helped escort and transport the rice bags to the people in need (a distance of about 188 kilometers). There are tens of thousands of people across the state that are affected by the battle between the Myanmar army and the rebels, but the rice was able to reach the people that are in the most desperate situations in our area. Praise to our Living God!"
Even in the midst of war, God's hand can clearly be seen. This story is a beautiful example of how God can move his people (you) to bless those in the most need (the refugee families). By His grace, you made hope possible for them. IDES' partners in the local churches there are continuing to reach out with the hope of Christ to the families who have suffered so much, especially those families whose mothers, daughters, and sisters were forced into sex-slavery. Because of your generosity, we will be able to offer both food assistance again, and continual emotional support from the church leaders there.
"On behalf of my team, we extend gratitude to our Living God and Lord who has demonstrated His loving kindness through the ministry of IDES once again" our partner said. "Thank you, for we have been working with the people in Myanmar for over 8 years, and are filled with joy as we preach and teach the Word and also help people with their needs. We have seen and experienced firsthand many turning to the Lord and also many needs met. All thanks to God as He works through churches and organizations like you."