Lal* began his ministry as a pastor at a church in Myanmar in 1992. He enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry program at Central Seminary in 2015 to continue developing his ministerial gifts to serve his congregation of over 2,000 members. In 2018, he completed his dissertation, Spiritual Formation for Chin Immigrants, and graduated from Central. Rev. Dr. Lal, then, returned to his ministry in Myanmar. While his time at Central further prepared him to lead his congregation, no one was prepared for what 2020 would bring.
In March 2020, just like many churches in the U.S. and around the world, Lal’s church stopped holding in-person worship services due to the global pandemic. Many of the children and youth in the congregation could not attend school or Sunday School classes. The church struggled to meet the ongoing needs of their young people because most do not have television or internet access. To deal with these challenges, Lal and other leaders in the congregation invited medical doctors and healthcare workers to offer advice about the best ways to minister to the congregation and community and sought God’s guidance for addressing the physical and spiritual needs of the community. Together they published a weekly bulletin with orders of worship and sermon texts that families could use at home for worship.
Lal also became the convener of a clinic that served the same functions as an emergency room in the U.S. Lal said, “Due to the pandemic, we could have more concern about our neighbors amidst fear and anxiety. We share whatever we have. Our community is like the early church in the Bible. Pastors, deacons, and women’s fellowship all work together more effectively for the church and community.”
But after the coup in Myanmar on February 1, the military occupied the hospital in Lal’s community, and the people no longer had a hospital to serve their needs. The clinic was then converted into the community’s hospital, even while violence and repression remained.
“We are in great fear and anxiety now. Whether we like it or not, we have to prepare for civil war,” Lal shared. The pastors of Lal’s church have been encouraging church members to read the books of Esther and the Psalms and to be “as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves." Lal has also stressed the ways of non-violence by applying Walter Wink’s book Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way. Additionally, Lal authored two devotional guides in the Lai dialect, Seeking God’s Will and Comfort in the COVID-19 Pandemic and Making Decisions with the Holy Spirit in Times of Crisis: A Devotional Guide. He has distributed these devotional guides to church members and others. His ministry is focused on safety, security, and relying on the word of God for wisdom. “We are so grateful to all of you who fervently pray for us and our country. Please continue to keep us in your prayer and support,” says Rev. Dr. Lal.
*Because of the dangerous nature of the situation in Myanmar, identifying information has been removed from this story. Please continue to pray for the people of Myanmar.*