Myanmar cyclone deaths soar; Christians responding

By May 7, 2008

Myanmar (MNN) — Foreign aid is
pouring into Myanmar after the country's deadliest storm on record. Days after the deluge, over 20,000 dead
were reported, with twice that many unaccounted for.    

There were a few hundred deaths
in the former capital city of Yangon, but a larger tragedy there was averted because
of sturdier shelters throughout the area.

Not so for the rural areas. Bamboo huts provided shelter for many of the
people there. As a result, government
officials believe most of the deaths took place in the delta's swamplands. As many as 1 million people may have been left
homeless.   

AMG International's Roger Thomas
says communication with outlying partners is still down. "They have
not yet heard from the rural area where the Bible school is, where our
children's centers are, and the disability center is, so we don't yet know
about those."

With needs so dire, AMG
has already launched a response. "They have started relief work for the
people in the city. The most important things there were drinking water and
rice for the people. The prices have gone up, particularly gasoline." In some cases, Thomas reports their partner
says the prices have tripled black market prices, especially fuel.   

The United Nations sent more than
$10 million worth of aid, but a lack of specialized equipment slowed
distribution.

Thomas says their aid is part of
long-term ministry vision. This is an area that has been notably hostile
to the Gospel. He says trouble with
harassment in one area forced them to close a sponsorship program. 

However, "This gives us an
open door because the people know it's the love of Christ that constrains us to
go help them." Thomas says their team
purchased generators and gave them to the local Buddhist monks to aid them in
their relief efforts. Why?

Aside from the monks being
influential in the region, they wanted to be a living message.  "We're not after anything; we just simply
want to show God's love to them and help them. They respond, they want to know
why, they want to know more about what makes us do that and about the person
that makes us do that."

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