By Hans Olson
Myanmar’s history dates back to the mid-900s BC. Various kingdoms rose and fell until 1824, when Great Britain launched a 62-year war, which ended with England incorporating Burma (as it was called at that time) into the Indian Empire in 1886. In 1948, Myanmar gained its independence and became a self-governing democratic republic.
In 1902, Hebert B. Meyers and A. G. Watson traveled throughout Myanmar to sell Adventist literature. Meyers stayed for several years, eventually giving Bible studies and holding an evangelistic series. Five years later the first Adventist church was organized in Myanmar’s capital, Yangon. Australian missionary Eric B. Hare and his wife, Agnes, helped establish the Karen Mission Station in Ohndaw in 1915.
The Adventist Church grew, and by 1939 there were 25 schools, 43 teachers, and nearly 1,000 students in Myanmar. Adventist missionaries stayed in the country during World War II until early 1942, when they had to flee to India. Following the war, cross-cultural missionaries returned until 1962, when the military junta took over Myanmar. At that time the 26 missionaries left the country.
The diversity of the country makes modern Myanmar a very difficult place to share the gospel. Because of this the Adventist Church’s frontline mission arm, Global Mission, is vital to church growth. Global Mission sends lay church members, called pioneers, to serve as frontline missionaries within their own people group. In countries such as Myanmar, Christians are often misunderstood and are often considered a Western aberration. Through their work people groups are being reached that have never before heard the gospel.
When Cyclone Nargis swept through Myanmar on May 3, leaving more than 134,000 people dead or missing, and at least 2.4 million homeless, the Adventist Church’s global humanitarian organization, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), took action. Since then they’ve met the needs of survivors in southern Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta region and provided food aid, shelter materials, hygiene kits, medicines, and improved access to water and sanitation.
To learn more about the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s work in Myanmar please visit: www.AdventistMission.org.