Mourning period declared for cyclone victims; hopes rise for open door

By May 20, 2008

Myanmar (MNN) — Myanmar has
declared a three-day mourning period starting today for its cyclone
victims. Faced with the threat of another wave
of death from mass starvation and disease, they've also tentatively agreed to
accept aid from their Southeast Asian neighbors. There are even reports that
the country is starting to seek medics.  

Global Aid Network or GAiN-USA's
Charles Debter says, "We are working with Burmese locals who are medical
professionals, who are able to go in. And yet we are working with officials in
the country with the Ministry of Health to gain permission–and that's a prayer
request, that that might come about." 

A 30-member Thai medic team
arrived in Yangon Saturday to extend direct aid to victims.  They are the first foreign medical staff
allowed by the Myanmar government to carry out relief work. As the days wear on, it is evident that they
face a gargantuan task.

There are few areas where families were
untouched by the tragedy. Debter
recounts the story shared by one of their workers. When 200 survivors of one remote area were
gathered, a government official asked how many were the sole survivors in their
family.

Roughly half of those in the
group raised their hands. One father said he lost 80 members of his family,
including two of his children who were ripped from his arms during the cyclone. 
Sadly,
his story is not unusual. Even sadder,
the fight for survival robs people like him from grieving their losses. 

Believers are responding with the
love of Christ. Staff members and local
networks of churches and partners are working together to reach out with help
and hope.

To meet the immediate physical emergency,
Debter says they sent six truckloads of food and water filters into the
country for distribution.  The most acute
needs are for water purification tablets, plastic sheeting, emergency food
packets, cookware, mosquito netting, and sanitation kits. 

GAiN-USA is working in tandem with GAiN Australia to assess the needs and to establish a
plan to reach out with emergency assistance. They've already trained 350 pastors and other church leaders to
distribute the relief in specific target area. "By training the local believers to reach out with care, we are
able to demonstrate the love of God through providing tangible help and
spiritual hope among those that survived."

Pray for their courage,
protection, strength and dependence upon the Lord in these challenging days.

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