All of us who followed the story were touched by the suffering caused by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar on May 3, 2008. I had to look it up to get a fix on the location east of India and Bangladesh, south of China and west of Thailand. 1.5 million people were severely affected and estimates of fatalities went as high as 100,000. With winds up to 120 mph, this was the worst cyclone to hit Asia since 1991, when 143,000 were killed in Bangladesh.
What is worse than the storm is the military rulership’s refusal to allow foreigners to help distribute aid to the victims. Nearly a week after the cyclone, limited supplies had been allowed in and no outside workers. No doubt the country was on the verge of a medical catastrophe, but the junta in power seemed threatened by offers to help and more concerned about an upcoming election. In fact, western aid experts in Bangkok were having to wait at least four more days because the Myanmar embassy in the Thai capital took a local holiday on Friday, May 9. Thousands of corpses floating or spread on riverbanks, with stench beyond words, starving people without clean water, many children orphaned, and embassy officials took a holiday!
A Norway-based opposition news network, the Democratic Voice of Burma, provided details of the misery. In the village of Kongyangon, someone had written in Burmese, “We are all in touble. Please come help us.” A video also showed another plea only a few feet away, “We’re hungry.”
It’s too easy to think such suffering is interesting, even outrageous, but too far away to worry about. After all, the leaders were refusing the multimillion dollars worth of aid from the U.N., U.S. and many other countries. What can little ol’ me do anyway, right?
Near the time of that cyclone, I went to a fundraising dinner for a Christian ministry that helps many poor, underprivileged people in downtown Houston. My favorite part was actually the appeal for money. A beautiful little girl who looked about 10 or 11 years old, told her story. Her church was trying to gather 2008 cans of food for this work to give in January of 2008. They announced they were way short of the goal. She turned to her parents and asked if they would take the money they would have spent on her for Christmas and instead, buy canned food for this food drive. They agreed and bought 1700 cans of food. A small group in the church matched that number and they nearly doubled their goal. I thought of Jesus’ statement, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
You may not be able to help the victims in Myanmar with food or medical supplies, but you can pray for them. Eventually, I pray, doors will open and we will be able to help. But, in the meantime, open your eyes and ears, open your hearts and step up like this generous young girl. Her parents were quoted later as saying they had never seen her so happy as when they got all those cans loaded in two vehicles. There is a good cause that needs your joyful help right now and doors are already open.
Article copyright (c) 2009 by Charles G. Mickey. All rights reserved.