Following are testimonies from the Wa people of northern Myanmar concerning being animists and their conversion to evangelical Christianity. Reading on the internet about animists, some writers would lead you to believe that being an animist is a positive thing. The Christian Wa people would beg to differ as the following testimonies reveal:
“My name is Khuat, and I am a 53-year-old pastor. My parents were animists who offered sacrifices to the spirits every month, and our family was plunged into poverty and bondage to cruel demons. In 2001 I heard of God’s love and forgiveness, and I committed my life to Jesus. We smashed all our idols and the Lord blessed us in every way. I was eager to read the Bible, but for years I could not find even one for sale. Now you have brought many Bibles to us, and we are overwhelmed with joy. Thank you! You have done the greatest thing possible.
“My name is Nyi. Everyone in my family lived in fear of the spirits for generations. We did all we could to appease them, but in return we got death and suffering. My mother died when I was a baby, and my father died when I was 8. Then when I was 13 my brother died and there was no one to take care of me. I started using drugs, and at my lowest point a Christian told me about Jesus, and He changed my life! I even graduated from Bible school, and now I serve my Wa people, getting as many saved as I can. The Word of God you gave us is so precious!“
“My name is Moe, and I am 19 years old. My family were animists, so we served the spirits and had never heard about Jesus. My friend told me the Good News, and I went to church with her. The pastor gave me a Bible and I brought it home, but my father was the village shaman so he didn’t let me read the Bible. One day my mother fell ill, and my father spent all our money to try to make her well. He heard that Jesus could heal the sick, so he let her go to the church with me. She was healed that day, and now my whole family are Christians! Thank you for the wonderful Bibles you freely gave us.”
The anthropologist who say that these tribes should be left alone and not evangelized are deceived themselves by the powers of darkness and do not have the spiritual discernment to understand the great spiritual and physical deception that these people suffer under.
Lord Jesus understood it, that is why He said to go into all the earth and preach the gospel and set the captives (of the demons) free!
Has He set you free from the sins or idols that bind you up?
(The Bibles they refer to were printed and donated by the supporters of Asia Harvest.)
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in their hearts”(Ecclesiastes 3:9).
“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being”(Acts 17:26-28).
“The Wa were headhunters. Just once a year, in the planting season, Wa tribesmen felt compelled by bloodthirsty spirits to plant human heads in their fields along with their seeds—just to ensure a good crop. Neighboring tribes always wanted to leave for vacation when the Wa were planting their crops, but unfortunately that was when they had to plant their crops too.
A benign influence, however, was at work within the folk religion of the Wa people. From time-to-time prophets of the true God, whom the Wa called Siyeh, arose to condemn headhunting and spirit-appeasement! One such prophet, Pu Chan, appeared during the 1880s. He persuaded several thousand Wa tribesmen to abandon headhunting and spirit worship on the grounds that the true God was about to send a long-awaited white brother with a copy of the lost book. If he came to the Wa territory and heard that the Wa were practicing evil things, he might think them unworthy of the true God’s book and turn away again! If that happened, Pu Chan warned, surely the Wa would never get another chance to have the lost book restored to them.
One morning Pu Chan saddled a pony. ‘Follow this pony,’ he said to some of his disciples. ‘Siyeh told me last night that the white brother has finally come near! Siyeh will cause this pony to lead you to him. While Pu Chan’s disciples gaped in astonishment, the pony started walking. Expecting the pony to stop at the nearest stream, they followed it.”
Two hundred miles away, an American missionary from Nebraska, William Young, had recently set up base in the town of Kengtung. One day Young went to the marketplace to preach among the people, and he noticed strangely garbed men gravitating toward him out of the throng in the market.
They were not Wa, but were men from the neighboring Lahu tribe, who God chose to receive the Gospel first. The Lahu had also been waiting for a white man to come with a lost book that would reconnect them to the true God, whom they called Gwi’sha in their language. Richardson continues the story:
“They stared incredulously at the missionary’s white face, the interior of the book in his hand, and listened to his description of the laws of God contained in that book. Then, in an outburst of powerful emotion, the Lahu pleaded with Young to follow them up into the mountains. ‘We as a people have been waiting for you for centuries,’ they explained. ‘We even have meeting houses built in some of our villages in readiness for your coming.’
[Pu Chan above and William Young below. Our thanks to Marcus Young, the grandson of William, for providing these two precious photos.]
Some of the men showed him bracelets of coarse rope hanging like manacles from their wrists. ‘We have worn ropes like these since time immemorial. They symbolize our bondage to evil spirits. You alone, as the messenger of Gwi’sha, may cut these manacles from our wrists—but only after you have brought the lost book of Gwi’sha to our very hearths!’
Nearly speechless with awe, Young went with them. Tens of thousands of Lahu became Christians, and it was at that stage that Pu Chan saddled his pony (200 miles away in Wa territory) and told his Wa disciples to follow it to the missing book and the messenger of the True God. When the pony finally arrived at the home of William Young, the Wa asked him: ‘Have you brought the book of God?’ Young nodded. The men, overcome with emotion, fell at his feet and blurted out, ‘This pony is saddled especially for you. Our people are all waiting. Fetch the book! We must be on our way!”
Thousands of Wa heard the Gospel from both the Young family and the new Lahu Christians. They repented of their sins and gave their lives to Jesus Christ. Young’s son, Vincent, later translated the New Testament into Wa.
During much of the 20th century, many Wa people continued to outwardly follow Christ, but their faith generally slipped into dead formalism. A vibrant, life-giving revival was greatly needed among the Wa, lest the amazing breakthroughs of the past would go to waste.
One reason for the spiritual decline among the Wa was the problem with their Bible. Because of their widespread locations and multiple dialects, only a fraction of Wa were able to understand the dialect the Bible was available in.
Some years ago, a Wa Bible committee was set up to address this problem, and a new translation was launched in a common vernacular that many more Wa people could understand.
Asia Harvest has been greatly blessed to provide more than 80,000 new Wa Bibles, free of charge, through our Asian Bible Fund. There are many requests for more, and we invite you to prayerfully consider supporting this strategic endeavor.
During the years when I spoke in hundreds of meetings around the world, I found it increasingly difficult to effectively communicate testimonies from the church in Asia to believers in “free” countries. Often when I spoke in meetings, people looked at me as if I had just dropped in from another planet.
I became aware that the spiritual dynamics of the persecuted church in Asia were completely different from those in western Christianity. The differences were so stark that I sometimes felt I was interacting with two different faiths. Even the most basic understanding of God’s character appeared to be fundamentally different.
For example, on one occasion in China I shared a powerful testimony from the Mru tribe of Myanmar. The Mru number about 25,000 people, most of whom are Buddhist. The gospel had recently experienced a breakthrough among them, and several Mru villages had turned to Jesus Christ. The Buddhist monks were furious when they heard about it, so they hired two gangs of thugs and sent them to the Christian villages to beat the believers, rape the women, and burn down their houses.
Armed with chains and machetes, the first group of thugs made their way on foot to the Christian area. Before reaching their intended destination, however, a freak electrical storm descended on them as they traversed a mountain pass. All of the men were killed by lightning. The lightning also struck the 400-year-old Buddhist temple in the Mru township, burning it the ground.
The second mob of would-be persecutors traveled to the Christian villages aboard a large raft. As they made their way down the river, a thick fog suddenly enveloped them, making it impossible to see where they were going. A barge sliced through the fog, struck the raft, and hurled the thugs into the rapids, where they all drowned.
When news of these events reached the Mru communities, the fear of God fell on them. Realizing that the Living God had displayed his awesome wrath, hundreds of people turned to Christ and repented of their sins.
When I shared this testimony with the Christians in China, they literally jumped up and down with joy and shouted “Hallelujah!” at the top of their voices. They rejoiced in the judgments of God, as the Bible says, “Zion hears and rejoices and the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments, Lord” (Psalms 97:8).
Just a few weeks later I found myself standing in front of a congregation in Texas. As I shared the same testimony from Myanmar, I looked out at a sea of grim faces staring back at me. There was no rejoicing in that meeting and not a single “Hallelujah” was uttered.
After the service, an elderly lady came forward to confront me on behalf of the other church members. She strongly rebuked me with the words, “Our God is not like that brother. Our God is a loving God!” I noticed many people behind her nodding their heads in agreement
Like that congregation in Texas, many believers imagine God to be a cuddly, teddy bear-like figure whose main purpose is to encourage and bless them. They think God is so gentle and loving that he would never harm a fly, and Christians who dared to mention his wrath or coming judgments are often pushed into a corner and considered a threat to the peace of the church.
With such a skewed, chummy attitude toward God, it is no wonder that many Christians no longer fear Him. They love to hear about how John reclined at the dinner table by leaning against his best friend Jesus, but few remember that the two men met again many years later. This time the resurrected Lord was dressed in the robes of a Roman judge. John, who was absolutely terrified, wrote, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead” Revelation 1:17.
Source: Paul Hattaway, An Asian Harvest (Monarch Books, 2017), p.262-264 (Excellent book which I recommend and can be ordered at Asia Harvest.)