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Myanmar flooding death toll to rise as damage widens

By August 4, 2015

Myanmar (MNN) — It’s monsoon season, and it’s causing a lot of headaches for India, Pakistan, and Myanmar.

“They’re used to getting the monsoon rains. We’ve been through monsoon rains [before], but typically the rains will come, and they’ll come real hard, but they won’t last continually. What they’ve seen is weeks and weeks of this downpour,” says Dyann Romeijn with Vision Beyond Borders. Add to that grass huts, flash floods, and landslides, and you can see why this year’s rainy season has been particularly hard.

“There was also a tropical storm [Cyclone Komen] that hit one of the refugee camps in Rakhine State. There were already 100,000 displaced, but now they even had to flee the refugee camps.” Dozens are dead, but 200,000 have been adversely affected.

(Photo courtesy Vision Beyond Borders: Just up the street from one of their children's homes)

The impact of flooding near a VBB children’s home.
(Photo courtesy Vision Beyond Borders)

Romeijn explains that since Myanmar is already one of the 50 poorest countries of the world with not much investment in infrastructure, there’s not been much in the way of recovery from Cyclone Nargis which hit the same area in 2008. The slow pace of recovery has a direct impact on aid efforts. ”It’s also taken out a lot of the railways and the roads, so it’s difficult for people to get into these areas,” says Romeijn. “They’re having to get in by boat. It’s also taken down a lot of telephone lines–communication lines–so it’s difficult to know where people are okay or where they’re not.”

The flooding has hit residents in 11 of Myanmar’s 14 states and divisions, VBB reports. One of their contacts wrote this: “It has been raining continuously for a couple of days in Rakhine State, Myanmar. Now, most of the places are flooded. Our workers in villages have no place to run. They are just living in a thatched house. The water is increasing. If rain does not stop, they will soon be drowned. Most of their belongings were damaged already. Our office…could not contact them anymore. Please pray for the believers and all the people in Rakhine State.”

VBB_young girl praying 12-19-14

In response, the government selected four “national disaster-affected regions” in central and western Myanmar, where villagers have been forced to use canoes and makeshift rafts to escape the rising waters. It’s too early to know what to mobilize, Romeijn adds. ”They’re telling us what they need, what their needs are. It seems that a lot of the time if we respond before we know what their needs are, it makes it kind of difficult.”

Be assured, Romeijn adds, that the time is coming for the body of Christ to put feet to the actions: pray, give or go. Right now, “Pray for the people of Burma, first and foremost, that God would be glorified in and through this. We do see that. A lot of times it’s the hardest, most difficult things that God uses to truly touch people’s hearts for eternity.”

Giving helps them prepare for what to send. Going is still a ways down the line. Why bother with any of it? “In a lot of these countries where the people are oppressed, I think it’s much more noticeable to them. They don’t have an expectation; there’s not an entitlement mentality,” explains Romeijn, adding, “As we bring aid, as we bring help to these people and they’re able to see the love of Jesus, they’re able to see that visible representation of the care and compassion of God.”

These are many of the same people who are being hunted to near extinction by the government. “They’re used to being oppressed. They’re used to being taken advantage of, so when they have people that come in and help them, they’re so grateful and so thankful for that help.”

The contrast presented allows VBB teams to talk about why there’s a difference. Those conversations often end like this: “The love and the compassion comes not from ourselves, but from our love and compassion that we’ve been shown by Jesus.” And it truly opens people up to the Gospel. Want those kinds of moments? Click here to get started.

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