This article appeared in the Methodist Church in Britain’s March 2018 World Church News.
The Methodist Church of Upper Myanmar (MCUM) and the Myanmar Council of Churches worked under hostile restrictions for many years, and the Church has suffered more than its fair share of splits. There are currently five Methodist denominations, the latest split coming when the ‘Wesleyan’ Methodists formed their own denomination in 1996. MCUM follows the British tradition, proud of the missionaries who founded it and the current partnership.
Irish Methodist World Mission Partnership (WMP) has taken the lead on our partnership with MCUM over the last two years and will do so for one more year. This has been very successful in many ways, both in Myanmar and in Ireland.
Tamu District is in Chin State, where there is a comparatively high number of Christians, maybe 45%, among a total population of 115,000. It has 14 congregations grouped into 5 circuits with 8 ministers and about 4,000 members. The district has started two mission fields with a missionary in each. Mission here begins by establishing a children’s nursery offering education to all. The Synod has just decided that a new mission field is to start next year in Rakhine State, where there is so much need and tension.
Over the years, the district has taken steps to buy rice fields. Church members then provide labour, and when the rice is sold, the income is used for mission work. The latest field was bought with £17,000 from the Irish Methodist WMP. The majority of funds for mission, however, continue to be generated by a ‘handful of rice’. Each time a church family sits down to eat, they put a handful of rice aside to give to the Church. This generates a huge amount of money, which goes towards mission work.
The same is true of Letpanchaung District, which is largely supported by the profit from rice fields – two of which were bought with grants from the World Mission Fund. Here too, children’s nurseries are a means of outreach into the community. There are three in the town; one is under construction. Each has 3 teachers and 60-100 children. The nurseries seem well run with enthusiastic governors and happy children.
The Revd Van Lal Mal Sawma, a circuit minister with the district, commented, “One of the best things you have done for us is the rice field project. “