Shan-Tai prayer month, day 30
In Shan Buddhist traditions the body of a deceased person is cremated and crowds of people attend the service, the size of the crowd is thought to indicate how good the person was in life. For Shan Christians there is uncertainty as to how to honour God, honour the deceased, and avoid embracing specifically Buddhist practices. The answer is certainly not to simply adopt foreign funeral practices because this can create alienation from the very Shan people the Church is trying to reach. Sensitive and sensible wisdom is required to decide upon appropriate Christian answers to this and many other questions about incarnation of the Gospel message in a manner that is in fitting with Shan culture.
As we say goodbye to this 30 days of prayer for the Shan, I hope some will continue to pray for these people who are under pressure and hardships. I have found this journey very illuminating, humbling and satisfying as I at least offer my prayers for these people who are loved by God and made in His image.
- Shan Christian’s primary identity to lie with Christ and not their culture (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- The church to be sensitive to Shan social norms as it reaches out to the Shan with the Gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:22).
Shan-Tai prayer month, day 29
While there are many challenges facing the Shan of Burma, there is also hope as some Shan Christians are called and equipped to reach their own people for Christ. In some cases these are Shan who initially fled Burma into Thailand and subsequently came to faith in Christ then have responded to His call to follow Him in taking the Gospel back into Burma.
What is remarkable and greatly encouraging to me is that despite their circumstances, culture and challenges being very different to my own, the experience of freedom in Christ as a new believer is the same as I experienced in coming from darkness into the light of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God and rebirth by the Holy Spirit. Salvation comes from God, not our culture or circumstance, true joy is in the Lord so can occur anywhere God is present, the kingdom of God is advancing in the midst of a darkened world.
- The Lord to raise up more Shan who will be trained and sent to plant multiplying house churches in Shan State (Acts 13:2).
- Existing groups to meet faithfully and multiply their witness boldly without the need for an outside pastor (2 Timothy 4:5).
I came across some interesting information yesterday about the Corruptions Perceptions Index for 2010 from Transparency International. As a New Zealander I was greatly relieved to see that our nation is one of the least corrupt, and then was grieved to discover that Burma ranks as the second most corrupt, with only Somalia below it in rank. This emphasizes to me that people like me who live in very privileged circumstances, simply by virtue of God’s sovereign choice to have me born here, have an obligation to use the blessings we have been given to help those who have been born into much more difficult circumstances. One way all of us can help is to offer our prayers to God for our brothers and sisters in Burma, and for those who are not yet in the Kingdom to be given the opportunity to enter it.
Shan-Tai prayer month, day 28
Many Shan Christians attend churches that are not based upon Shan culture but rather the culture of the missionary(s) who planted the church. This leaves some Shan Christians feeling ambivalent about church and really wanting to embrace their own culture but unsure if this is permissible. There is an urgent need for churches that are distinctly Shan.
- God to show the Shan that they too can worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).
- The Gospel to be presented in culturally appropriate ways so the Shan will realize they can believe in Jesus and still continue to be who God created them to be (Mark 10:45).
Shan-Tai prayer month, day 27
A tattoo is a permanent mark on the skin of a person, but in Shan culture the practise of tattooing may be starting to fade.
Traditionally Shan men have believed that tattoos protected them from harm, whether keeping evil spirits out of their body, keeping knives from cutting them, or giving protection from poison. With increasing influence of Western culture and modernisation, Shan men are getting tattooed less, though it is still common practise to have some tattoos to ward off particular dangers or evil spirits.
- Shan to realize that the power for protection only comes from Christ (Psalm 91:14–16).
- The Lord to answer cries of Shan in distress and for Shan to take refuge, spiritually as well as physically, in the Lord (Psalm 7:1–2).
Shan-Tai prayer month, day 26
Many Shan people dream of the opportunities awaiting them over the border in Thailand. Unfortunately these dreams are very rarely fulfilled in any positive way, often the reality turns out to be more of a nightmare.
Even getting across the border is risky and difficult, requiring travel through jungle and avoiding detection by both the Burmese army and the Thai police. If that hurdle is crossed, finding work is just as difficult – as illegal migrant workers the Shan are often abused and exploited, who will they complain to?
- The Shan to look to the Lord to meet and fulfill their hearts’ desires (Psalm 37:4).
- Shan families to proclaim God as Abba, Father (Galatians 4:6–7).
Shan-Tai prayer month, day 25
“Is Christmas the American New Year?” Asks a Shan young woman when invited to a Christmas party. Many Shan have heard of Christmas but have no idea why it is celebrated and have never heard of Jesus.
As people who love festivals, Shan people are often curious about Christmas and have seen some of the trappings of it, creating an ideal opportunity to invite them to Christmas celebrations and explain to them about our Savior.
- The Shan to realize this “good news of great joy” is for them (Luke 2:10).
- Creative, meaningful Christmas outreaches and effective follow-up to all who hear the story of Christ’s birth (1 Thessalonians 3:2).
- The Holy Spirit to guide the Shan to accept God’s offer of salvation (1 Thessalonians 1:4–5).
Shan-Tai prayer month, day 24
Many Shan people live in areas that might as well be on the moon for the difficulty of getting the gospel to them. For villages that are beyond any roads, within a war zone, cut off from access to foreigners and riddled with land mines, the dangers of reaching them with even essential supplies are prohibitive. Yet what is more essential than the gospel?
Whether a soul is across the room, across the street, across the oceans or across a jungle full of soldiers and land mines, the necessity of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ remains the same. Some Shan are prepared to die to fight for political freedom for their people. And a rare few are prepared to die to take the message of eternal life to their people. We must pray for these courageous Christians who are taking risks to spread the gospel amoung their land.
- More people to be willing to take risks, doing whatever it takes to bring the Good News to those who have not heard in difficult to reach places. Praise God for those who are already doing this (Romans 10:14–15).
- Peace and infrastructure to reach the Shan (John 16:33).
The title of this post is taken from a chapter title in the book Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. The premise of that book is that there is something more valuable than keeping our lives on earth, and something much worse than dying.
Shan-Tai prayer month, day 23
A young man who is a Buddhist monk risks losing all by deciding to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. The hardest persecution to face can be that from one’s own family, the people you love most reject you for your love of Christ.
- New Shan believers to stand firm as they face persecution and threats (Philippians 1:27–30).
- Persecutors to see Christ’s light in the lives of Christians and be changed by it (Matthew 5:16).
Shan-Tai prayer month, day 22
As migrant workers in Thailand, Shan people often work so hard for such long hours that it is very difficult to interact with others and participate in community. As outsiders this leaves them very isolated, with a language barrier to overcome but no time to learn Thai. For Christians the sense of isolation can be even greater, attending church is difficult because of the need to work, and then there is a new language to learn.
One helpful solution is lay-led evening house-churches in the Shan language to strengthen and disciple migrant Shan believers.
- Local non-Shan believers who are reaching out to the Shan, to understand their situation and be willing to adapt their model of church to suit the needs of the Shan in those areas (Romans 14:13).
- Believing Shan who are not part of any kind of church to be empowered to start one in their house with their family and neighbours (Hebrews 10:24-25).