Bringing Hope to the Nation of Myanmar
Myanmar, also known as Burma, is one of the poorest countries in the world.* It’s poor not only economically, but also in terms of life expectancy, literacy, education, standards of living, and quality of life. Many of the country’s 60 million people live in poverty, some eating only one rice meal a day. The rural poor often farm subsistence plots of land, and some children drop out of school by the third grade to help in the rice fields.
Myanmar Hope Christian Mission, a non-profit organization based in central Illinois, is striving to make an eternal difference in the lives of people who live in Myanmar. Nicknamed MyHope, the organization spreads the gospel in Myanmar by addressing people’s spiritual, physical, emotional, and educational needs.
Since MyHope began, it has dug wells for villages to provide clean drinking water, rebuilt damaged homes, provided rice to hungry people, obtained medical care for people needing treatment, and helped establish a boarding school for children in the city of Yangon.
“Our goal is to bring the eternal hope of the gospel to the whole nation of Myanmar,” says MaryAnn Cherry, the ministry’s secretary and treasurer. She and her husband, Chuck Cherry, travel to Myanmar regularly and organize mission trips that allow others to serve in the predominantly Buddhist nation. Robin Pickett, a Brotherhood Mutual agent, has traveled twice to Myanmar.
On a recent trip, Pickett and his daughters interacted with several children who would have died without the care and medical attention they received at Hope Boarding School. He speaks highly of the work being done in Myanmar with support from MyHope.
“This one’s the real deal,” Pickett says.
The seed for MyHope was planted in late 2006, when the Cherrys agreed to host a foreign exchange student pursuing a doctorate degree at nearby Lincoln Christian University. Chuck and MaryAnn’s four children were grown, so they had an open bedroom that would be available for the next two years.
In March 2007, the student arrived. Nehkholal Khongsai, better known as Palal, was a soft-spoken and well-educated young man who pastored Yangon Christian Church in his native country. Palal left his wife and infant son back home in Myanmar to pursue his studies more than 8,500 miles away.
Initially, he was reserved, not wanting to share information that might trouble his American hosts. But the Cherrys kept asking questions about life in Myanmar, his wife Vahneikim (Kikim), and his son Solomon. Eventually, Palal started telling them about what it was like to grow up in a rural village in northwest Myanmar, where eating one small meal a day was considered to be doing well. As Christians, he and his family members often faced discrimination when seeking jobs and education. Christians make up only 4 percent of the nation’s population.
“We would go to bed at night and just cry,” MaryAnn Cherry recalls. “We’d say, ‘these are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to do something.’”
The Cherrys didn’t have a lot of resources, but they did have friends in ministry. So they established the non-profit Myanmar Hope Christian Mission in May 2007 and began helping Palal share his story.
On July 1 of that year, Palal made his first “official” presentation to about fifty people at the Cherry’s church: West Side Christian in Springfield, Illinois. Within a short time, donations started arriving to help the people and churches in northwest Myanmar. A year later, the Myanmar government granted permission for Palal’s wife and son to travel to America while he continued his studies, and the family began living in an apartment within the Cherrys’ home.
In 2009, Palal returned home to Myanmar with a doctoral degree in ministry and a new mission organization supporting his family and community.
What began as hosting a foreign-exchange student has grown into something far larger than the couple could have ever envisioned.
“We want to build schools, health clinics, old-age homes, churches, and family homes for the people of Myanmar,” Chuck shares in the inaugural edition of the MyHope newsletter. “Yes, it is a big job, and a seemingly impossible task—but we know our God, and we know that the word ‘impossible’ is not a part of His vocabulary!”
MaryAnn sums it up by saying: “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
* “The World Factbook,” Central Intelligence Agency, March 27, 2014, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bm.html
Myanmar Hope Gallery