He stood there, frozen and strangely insistent. But he was, after all, just a statue—a massive, imposing figure of Buddha, clad in gold—pointing a long golden finger out over a city far below. I know that statue, and the city I’m being told to go to, thought Khamh Lian Thang the next day as he relived his vivid dream from the night before. He knew he needed to obey this calling on his life, despite the many people, including his family and friends, whom he knew would be begging him not to go.
Three years later, Sa Myo Aung, a Buddhist monk, knocked at what seemed to be the door to the office of a school. He hoped to learn English, and was curious about a new faith he’d heard was spreading throughout Shan, his home state in Myanmar.
By the time Sa Myo Aung arrived at that door in search of new knowledge, Khamh was well settled with his young wife, Ni Ni, in Taunggyi—a city overlooked by a 50-foot-tall, golden-skinned statue of Buddha pointing with an outstretched arm. After much prayer and seeking, the couple felt led to start a school to train young believers to reach the villages of Shan State and beyond with the message of hope and new life in Christ.
The doors to Shan Missionary Training Center opened in 2007, two years after Khamh’s statue dream. Students began to steadily enroll, and in 2008 came the surprise visit from Sa Myo Aung. Although most believe Buddhist monks to be the staunchest, most difficult to reach with the gospel, many in fact are disenchanted with their faith and are seeking truth wherever it may be found. What started as a brief visit of a couple days turned into weeks and months. After a year, Aung suddenly returned to his monastery.
Khamh was just a boy growing up under the influence of Christian parents in a nation and culture dominated by Buddhism when he had made his own decision to follow Christ. His first call to ministry—via his dream—came many years later as a young adult. Then, after a year with his wife in Taunggyi, he had received his second call, to open a school. And it was as a result of Khamh’s obedience to both callings that Sa Myo Aung returned from his monastery, three months later, joyfully proclaiming that he was now a new creation in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Khamh’s obedience to the Lord has come with a price, however. Since opening the school, he’s received threatening letters and his house has been stoned several times. He’s been spat at, robbed and harassed by local government officials; kicked out of villages, and he’s even found himself in the crossfire, bullets flying, between warring rebels and government forces—all for preaching the message of the gospel. And once, perhaps as the enemy’s most desperate attempt to force closure of the school, a man attempted—unsuccessfully—to kidnap his wife, Ni Ni (with the likely result that she would have been raped and then sold as a sex slave into Thailand or China, a practice not uncommon in their region of Myanmar).
But Khamh and Ni Ni believe the fruit has been worth it all. Fruit such as Sa Myo Aung, who officially enrolled as a student after his conversion and graduated in 2012, then became a missionary. They also rejoice over “second-generation” fruit, such as a woman Sa Myo Aung led to Christ who then later graduated from the training school and is now a missionary herself.
The school continues to grow. Currently there are 40 students from 11 ethnic groups. Among the 86 people who have graduated, 26 are serving the Lord as missionaries. Students are not only taught how to lead others to Christ, but also how to use their God-given talents, such as sewing or cooking, to serve the communities they seek to reach.
Heaven’s Family came alongside Khamh in 2004, and has been helping to support his efforts ever since. And those who have partnered with the National Missionary Ministry have a part in the success of that school—and the fruit that’s been harvested.