This morning, I received a disturbing text message from our local missionary in Myanmar. “David,” he said, “Please pray for us. The bullets are flying over our heads!

Have you heard nothing of the mass genocide taking place among some of Asia’s ethnic tribes?

I know. You’re not to blame. The media machine feeds us a looping sketch of only that which (supposedly) directly applies to your life. And meanwhile, millions of monumental stories go unnoticed as our severely ethnocentric newsreel distracts us from the needs of real people.

The Karen. The Kachin. The Wa. The Rohingya. That’s just to name a few of the ethnic tribes who are being forced to flee their hometowns as the nightmare of war, torment, and torture ensues.

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Image by: Partners Relief & Development

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They are the displaced peoples of the 21st century. They are the helpless ones. They are the marginalized, forgotten, and voiceless, and we as the Christian community are doing little to speak on behalf of their plight.

This morning I received a disturbing text message in Mandarin Chinese from Zhang Rong (not his real name), one of our Within Reach Global local missionaries at The Edge outreach center:

“David, please pray for us,” he said. “The situation here in Wa State, Myanmar is very tense. The Burmese army and the United Wa State Army are firing upon each other right outside our door. They are actually inside our courtyard right now. Over 20 soldiers were killed this morning. Please pray for wisdom for us. We are considering crossing the border back to the safety of China.”

Bullets are flying over the heads as we speak. I hate the thought of it. As their leader and mentor, I hate that I can do nothing to protect them

Zhang Rong has been faithfully planting churches with us among Asia’s least reached people groups for nearly two decades. He is a pioneer, an apostle, a pastor, a mentor, a husband, and a father. He and his wife have 2 children of their own, and 3 adopted Burmese kids. He has been loving the marginalized peoples of Southeast Asia for years.

memoryspace-bookcover-printready8-26-smallYou can read more about Zhang Rong in my book, The Space Between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary.

“Our clothes are packed,” he continued. “We’ll let you know if we need to flee to war zone or not.”

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Image by: Partners Relief & Development

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Image by: Partners Relief & Development

These displaced peoples are no stronger to me. I’ve been traveling among them for nearly 2 decades. In fact, I once snuck across the border from China to Myanmar to translate for Time Asia and was caught by 100 child soldiers with Ak-47s (you can read about that crazy story in The Trouser People by Andrew Marshall).

Maybe you’ve never heard of the Kachin, the Karen, the Wa, or the Rohingya. That’s because they don’t live in your zip code and barely ever (never?) cross the headlines of the daily news. You are not to blame for being unaware of these people. But because they are precious in the eyes of God, you and I both have a responsibility toward them. The first step: pray!

Pray for their safety: many of them are war refugees.
Pray for their salvation: many of them are unreached.
Pray the Lord of the harvest sends more workers into the harvest fields.

And finally, don’t stop with empathy; find compassion for them, for compassion is love in action, empathy with wheels, love which knows no bounds.

Then you might want to give financially to help Within Reach Global bring the life-changing message of the Gospel to these tribes.

In an ever-increasingly ethnocentric media reel, there are some voices out there. Listen to some of the stories at Partners Relief & Development, Free Burma Rangers, Within Reach Global.

More importantly, listen to the heart of God for people he loves. Let’s not let their cries go unheard. Let’s stand together to bless the nations with the blessings we ourselves have received. After all, isn’t that how the Kingdom of God works?

David Joannes
Founder/President at Within Reach Global
David Joannes is the co-founder and president of Within Reach Global, Inc, which serves the advance of the Gospel in some of Southeast Asia’s most difficult places. He is the author of The Space Between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary. David has a love for language, culture, and creative writing, and for the last 20 years, he has witnessed God’s Kingdom established in forgotten parts of the globe. David lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with his wife, Lorna, and their daughter, Cara.
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