A baby slumbers in a net hammock, swaying gently as patches of sunlight flash across his face. Several women and teens chatter nonstop as they chop lunch ingredients and stir them over an open fire. Across the yard a pair of water buffalo slowly amble by, pulling a rough wooden cart.
This is Mile 71 Village, one of several communities I’ve visited while gathering Adventist World Radio (AWR) stories in Myanmar. We’ve nicknamed it Mile 71 Village because there were no road signs indicating its location, and the AWR producers who escorted us had to carefully watch the mile markers lining the highway from the city of Yangon, and turn off at exactly number 71. This village is home to 250 people and is by far the remotest settlement I’ve ever been to.
We’re given a warm welcome by Peter, the leader of a group of about 40 Adventists. “While I was looking for the BBC station, I found AWR’s programs in the Karen language,” he tells us. “Our radio is our friend, our helper, and our only source of entertainment. We connect it to a loudspeaker so everyone in the village can hear AWR. The people enjoy learning about Jesus and how to live healthy lives.”
The main AWR Karen producer, Victor Than, has visited the village several times. He says, “I worry about the people in Peter’s village. Their diet is poor—mainly rice. For income, their only options are to cut bamboo for a few cents apiece or work in the rice paddy. To get to the government school, the children must walk an hour each way.”
We quickly see for ourselves that the nearest water supply is an open well behind Peter’s house that yields buckets of sludgy water. When we ask how the people access medical care or purchase items they can’t make, we learn that the nearest town is 16 miles away—reached by foot, bicycle, or bus.
But the challenges don’t have to be insurmountable. For instance, in the absence of electricity or easy access to batteries, listeners use a solar panel to charge batteries for their radios. Their much larger goal of constructing a church building was a longer process. The members saved for 10 years until they had the US$7,000 needed to purchase land in the village. They were fortunate to receive US$15,000 for construction materials from a generous Canadian donor. The church building is awaiting a few final touches, but the congregation is already looking ahead to building a house and well for a pastor.
Adventist World Radio (AWR) is the official global radio ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Its mission is to broadcast the Adventist hope in Christ to the unreached people groups of the world in their own languages. AWR’s programs can be heard in more than 100 languages through AM/FM and shortwave radio, on demand, and on podcasts at awr.org and iTunes. Thank you for supporting AWR through your mission and world budget offerings.
For more photos of our visit to Mile 71 Village, please visit awr.org/impact/stories/.
To view an exciting 360° video, visit 360.awr.org.
A Local Face
Myanmar producer Chit Hnin Yee Shwe’s parents also live in Mile 71 Village. It took outstanding determination and focus for Chit Hnin to achieve her dreams of a college education. For six years, she worked in a sewing factory, often in shifts that stretched from 8 a.m. to 10 P.M., six days a week. Today, she loves making Bible stories come alive for listeners.
AWR Myanmar Fast Facts
AWR Myanmar celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2015.
Staff in two studios currently produce programs in Burmese, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Mon, Poe Karen, and Shan.
Some of these language groups represent very few Adventists: only five within the Shan tribe, and fewer than a hundred in Kachin.
Most listeners are under 30 years old.
Podcast programs are downloaded 300,000 times a day by listeners around the world.
The team’s dream is to add a local FM station, and AWR is raising funds for that outreach.
Peter’s group has good relations with the village’s head man, so their next dream is to build a school in the village. I can’t help but wonder whether they’ll have to save for another 10 years to achieve this goal.