by Nicolette Beharie
Crazy. It’s the word that came to mind when Conrad Kwok Lahu people. With limited resources, he took a step of faith and heard the ambitious goal of Myanmese Pastor Duodu: to bring the gospel to 100 remote Lahu villages in the next 10 years.
“I thought he was pulling my leg or something,” remembers Conrad, who serves as CBM’s Chinese Ministries Team Leader. He first met Pastor Duodu, a visionary with a heart for the Lahu tribe in eastern Myanmar, when a colleague spontaneously invited the pastor to join them for lunch.
Although Conrad initially thought Pastor Duodu’s vision was unusual, he was intrigued and wanted to learn more. “I could feel the love from him,” Conrad recalls of their encounter at Operation Dawn, a Christian drug rehabilitation centre. At the time, Pastor Duodu was visiting his teenage son who was recovering from addiction.
Seated outside under a bamboo shelter, Pastor Duodu shared more of his incredible story. In 2014, he was serving as a local pastor when he sensed a call to reach the Lahu people – an ethnic minority group that maintains a traditional farming lifestyle. The Lahu people live in the remote, mountainous region of Myanmar’s Shan State. They have a poor supply of food and water. They also have no access to education or medical care.
Since Pastor Duodu was trained in medical mission through a leprosy organization, he decided to offer free medical care to the
began leading a small team from his church up into the mountains. Since that initial trip, more than 300 Lahu people have expressed faith in Christ and have been baptized.
“Because of love for the Lahu people, I am able to serve them, be generous and sacrifice for them,” says Pastor Duodu.
Conrad felt compelled to see the work first-hand. A few months after his chance encounter with Pastor Duodu, Conrad found himself doing something “crazy”, too: embarking on a dangerous three-hour trek up the mountains to reach the Lahu people. Although parts of the region are accessible by motorbike, much of the journey must be done on foot.
“It was beyond my imagination,” Conrad remembers of his four- day trip with Pastor Duodu. “There was no electricity, no water and no sanitation. They just seemed hopeless.”
The Lahu villages in Shan State are situated in the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia. This region – where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet – is a hotspot for large-scale drug production and trafficking. Armed militia are also present in the area. As a result, the Lahu people are often at risk of violence and exploitation. But Pastor Duodu offered them something very different: unconditional love.
“When Conrad came back, he told me that people would just line up when Pastor Duodu was providing medical services,” says Fiona, Conrad’s wife. “People just love him so much. I think it’s because he loves those people, so in return they love him.”
While economic growth has renewed hope in recent years, Myanmar still faces many challenges. Civil unrest and violence continue to threaten parts of the country. Chronic poverty and a lack of access to essential services are also prevalent, particularly among isolated communities like the Lahu tribe.
“These people are ignored and forgotten,” says Fiona. “We would like to help these villages.”
Last year, CBM began partnering with Pastor Duodu to support the needs of the Lahu people. While the Myanmese pastor works toward bringing the gospel to Lahu villages, CBM is bolstering his efforts by supporting community development – to share the love of God in both word and deed. “Our goal with the villages that accept the gospel is to make an integral mission project where the whole village can be transformed sustainably in the long term,” says John Chan, CBM’s Director of International Partnerships.
Before launching the Lahu Village Project, CBM staff consulted with community members and leaders. “We asked them how we could best help,” says Fiona. “Surprisingly, they told us that they want us to help them build a church.”
The Lahu villages have no public buildings. That means there is no communal place to congregate, provide medical care or education.
Although primary education is free in Myanmar, children living in remote areas struggle to access local schools in neighbouring towns. According to information from UNICEF, only half of Myanmar’s children reach adulthood with a complete education.
Through the Lahu Village Project, CBM aims to build a church in each village that would serve as a church, school and medical clinic. The building would also be used to host training programs and community development projects in the future. “These church buildings are not just for Sundays,” explains Conrad. “They will be multi-functional community centres.”
To the Lahu people, these buildings will also symbolize the transformation that has taken place in their lives. “If they build a church high up in the mountains, with a cross up there, this is a witness to all the other villages that they are different,” says Fiona. Conrad agrees, adding it will show others that they have “love and hope because of the gospel”.
With the support of generous donors, CBM helped construct the first building for the Lahu people last year. The next phase is to further community development initiatives. Plans are underway to improve their water supply, farming techniques and access to medical assistance.
“My hope and dream is for the Lahu people to be saved – to progress physically, mentally and spiritually,” says Pastor Duodu.