(Cover photo by Paul VanDerWerf) (Story photo courtesy Vision Beyond Borders)
Burma (MNN) ― Vital aid is finally making it into thousands of isolated villages hit by a powerful earthquake in eastern Burma nearly three weeks ago.
So far, there are roughly 18,000 people affected in 90 villages, with widespread damage to roads, bridges, schools, churches and monasteries. In some villages, more than half of the buildings were destroyed or were heavily damaged by the tremors.
While there are stories of effective government response, that's not the case for everyone--especially the Christians. Dyann Romeijn with Vision Beyond Borders says, "There are at least four churches that have been completely destroyed, and over 250 Christian homes that have been destroyed in four different towns. We're trying to rebuild there."
One church building in the Lahu ethnic community collapsed while a large gathering was inside, and the government has yet to respond. When the building collapsed, it killed 20 people and severely injured over 50 people. Many lost their arms and legs. The pastor also died. "There are actually still bodies in the rubble, but the government's not helping the Christians at all,"says Romeijn.
To complicate matters for the survivors, "It's their New Year festival. They call it the ‘Water Festival,' and all the government and businesses will be shut down from now until April 22."
That leaves thousands without access to food, water or shelter, many of them possibly injured. Without help, it is likely they won't survive the "New Year."
Romeijn says, "We talked to our contacts. They're trying to get emergency aid and items purchased so that the Christians can at least go on trying to help people and reach out because the government, obviously, will be doing nothing during that period of time."
It may seem a calloused response to the plight of their people, but again, Romeijn says, "We have to realize that it's an opportunity, as well, for Christians to reach out. With everything else shut down and nowhere to turn, it will be the Christians who are out helping people."
Patrick Klein is in the Burma region today bringing funds to help with the rebuilding. Romeijn says he's also taking in medicine. "He'll be purchasing more medicines in Thailand that our contacts have requested, along with relief items." A supply team is carrying five loaded duffels of medical supplies, seeds, clothing and toys for the earthquake victims.
Interestingly, because it is the believers who are standing in the gap, they've seen a lot of people who are open to the hope of Christ, especially after Cyclone Nargis came through in 2008. "They saw the Christian response when the government wouldn't help, and they call themselves a Buddhist government. A lot of the Buddhist monks were turning to Jesus. There's been a huge revival in Burma and, a lot of people are coming as a result of the crises."
The ministry is getting ready to ship a container with more medical equipment, supplies and relief. Click here to find out how you can help.