Not Without Testimony

Article was written by Pastor Rod Schorr from our July 2001 Messenger Archives

 

     There has never been a people quite as remarkable as the Karen of Burma. For centuries they had always been fiercely resistant to the efforts of their Burmese neighbors to convert them to Buddhism. And the Burmese had hated them for it ever since. The Karen people worshipped Y'wa—the Creator of All Things ... In many ways, Y'wa--not only his name, but also his attributes, was remarkably similar to (Ya'vah) of the Bible! In fact, when missionaries in later years finally cracked the 'code' of Karen language, they found an incredible collection of hymns devoted to their God. Here is a sample from one of them, and remember: we're talking about a people group who had been reached with the Gospel.
     "Y'wa is eternal, his life is long. One eon--he dies not! Two eons--he dies not! He is perfect in meritorious attributes. Eons follow eons--and he dies not! Y 'wa formed the world originally. He appointed food and drink. He appointed the 'fruit of trial'. He gave detailed orders. MuKawle deceived two persons. He caused them to eat the fruit of the tree of trial. They obeyed not; They believed not Y'wa ... When they ate the fruit of trial, they became subject to sickness, aging, and death." 1
     The Karen possessed a remarkable 'Redemption Lore'. Long before any missionaries ever arrived, prophets among the Karen had been telling them that Y'wa would someday send them a messenger--a "white brother from the west" would come, bringing a sacred book: a book that would save them forever from the dangers of the demon world.
     The first 'messenger' to arrive was not a Christian. He was an English officer sent by Lt. Col. Michael Symmes on an exploratory mission to the Karen regions m 1795. Since this officer could not speak the language of the Karen, he had a Burmese translator at his side: a man who himself had nothing but contempt for these primitive people.
     The Karen people were electrified by the arrival of this officer. They greeted him with so much affection and enthusiasm that both the officer and his translator were put off by it.
     "What's going on?" he asked his translator.
     "They say they have been expecting you for many years. They think you are a certain messenger sent to help them."
     "Oh really? And what am I supposed to do to help them?" the officer asked.
     "You are supposed to bring them a book, written by their god Y'wa."
     The officer took a look around at the filthy, uneducated tribesmen and sneered: "Tell them they are mistaken. I have no acquaintance with any god called Y'wa. Nor do I know have the slightest idea who this white brother might be." The Burmese translated the message with a sneer, and then the two of them walked out of the village, never to return again. 2
     No book was given.
     Some twenty years, a Muslim adventurer came into their territory and again they approached him with their hopes for the 'lost book'. This time - man reached into his bag and brought out a book and tossed it to them.
     The Karen couldn't read it of course. So for years, the book was kept in a covered basket in a village high in the mountains, where it was worshiped as a sacred relic from 'Y'wa'.
     Twelve years later, George and Sarah Boardman— the American Baptist missionaries came out to help Adoniram Judson with his work among the Burmese. But during those first few years of training, the Boardman's developed a burden for the Karen instead.
     Later, as they preached from village to village, they began to hear about the "sacred book". The people spoke of it so often that the Boardman' s finally asked to see the thing. And so a guide was appointed to lead them on the a long journey, high up into the mountains to the village where the sacred book had been safely kept-now for twelve years already. And when they brought out the basket and pulled back the muslin covering, there it was: a Book of the Psalms!
     Whew! That was close! That old Muslim could have thrown the Koran their way! But of course, he tossed them a book that he thought was worthless: an old-English Psalmody!
     How delicate is the balance of history!
     The Boardmans sat down and began translating that thing and, before too long, the ancient Karen's dream of Redemption was coming true! The Karens were recognized as one of the strongest Christian people-groups in Southeast Asia. They themselves went on to become missionaries to the Burmese!
     There is a beautiful promise in the book of Acts, that ties in wonderfully with all this: "In the past, God has let all nations go their own way. Yet He has not left Himself without testimony. " (Acts 14:16)
     May I say this to those of you whose hearts are burdened for the lost around you--those of you who long to be used to bring friends and family members to Christ? "God will not leave Himself without testimony." If you take the step to share what you've found in Christ, you will discover that God has already been working to prepare people's hearts to receive it! Working in ways you never dreamed possible!
     Keep watching for open hearts, dear Christian, and be ready with the answers that only Christ can give.

See you Sunday!

 

1. McLeod Wylie, The Gospel in Burma London, W. H. Dalton; 1859, p. 22

2. Don Richardson, Eternity in their Hearts, Ventura, CA. Regal Books, 1981 p. 74-76

 

 

We Will Fight On!