The head of a prominent outreach ministry is encouraging believers to pray for and support the people of Burma even as calls for aid to hard-hit Japan continue to make headlines.
Last Thursday, Burma (also known as Myanmar) was struck by a magnitude-6.8 quake that killed at least 74 people, injured over 100, and damaged hundreds of houses. Though not as large or as deadly as Japan's magnitude-9 quake – the fifth largest in the world since 1900 – Burma's temblor was still powerful enough to be felt hundreds of miles away in the Thai capital, Bangkok, and the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi.
On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton offered the United States' "sincere condolences."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragedy," she said in a statement.
Shortly after news broke of the quake, relief groups including World Vision sprang into action, sending in teams to identify the areas of greatest concern and to understand the effects of the quake.
"The most urgent needs now are food, water, basic first aid supplies and temporary shelters since it has started raining," reported Chris Herink, National Director of World Vision Myanmar, which has already distributed 1,500 liters of water and food for 1,350 people.
Also involved in relief efforts is Texas-based Gospel for Asia (GFA), which said it was deploying Compassion Services teams to offer relief.
GFA, which claims to support hundreds of workers in Burma, noted that the quake is the latest in a series of natural disasters to strike Burma, beginning with the deadly cyclone Nargis in 2008 that claimed over 130,000 lives. In 2009, a mass infestation of rats compounded a food shortage in western Burma, where thousands of acres of crops were lost. In October 2010, Cyclone Giri left 104,000 people homeless in the country.
"It's heartbreaking to see the people of Myanmar suffering through one crisis after another," remarked GFA President K.P. Yohannan.
"The test of the depth of our love for Christ is understood in the response to those suffering and who are in desperate need of Jesus' love," he added.
Though efforts to support the people of Japan are still underway, Yohannan appealed to believers to not let the stark contrast between the two disasters sway them from praying for and supporting the people of Burma.
"I know we have lots of problems going on in the world and you may even have your own problems," Yohannan noted in a special video announcement. "But let's think about it. 'For God so loved the world ….' And the people of Burma or Myanmar are precious to God. And you and I are called to represent Him, especially in times of troubles and sorrow for the people.
"Please do pray for our missionaries and workers and pray that the Lord will provide all the needs so that we can continue to serve the poor and the needy. And we do so in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord," added the ministry leader.