In the mission field the work must often be begun in ways that may be thought of as indirect evangelism. Village schools offer the opportunity not only of teaching the children, but of getting acquainted with the parents and gaining their confidence. Medical dispensaries are a wonderful means of breaking down prejudice, clearing away suspicion and fear. Colporteurs meet the people in their homes and offices, and their personal contacts, as well as the literature they leave, have effect.
These and other methods are used in our work in Burma. If properly conducted, they contribute very successfully to the winning of souls. In many instances these avenues offer the only means of approach to the people, at least in the beginning of the work. What would we have done without village schools and dispensaries in Burma as we attempted to offer the gospel to a people who not only did not want it, but were actually afraid of us ? Villagers ran away when the missionary approached. Public meetings were out of the question. But nurses kindly cared for the sick, and village teachers gave their best in unselfish service for the people, sometimes coming to be looked upon not only as teacher, but as preacher, and perhaps as doctor as well.
This quiet work that has gone on through the years, we have reason to believe, not only is responsible for much of the fruitage thus far seen, but also is to some extent back of the greater possibilities in direct public evangelism, and the promising developments of recent months. Regular evangelistic meetings can now be held. Not just two or three meetings over a week end, or meetings the chief pull of which is pictures or a brass band, but meetings every night, week after week, for two or three months. This is a new thing, at least out in the villages, and it brings courage.
Of course it has been possible from the first to hold meetings among English-speaking people, in the larger towns with more or less success, and that method has been followed. A church of three or four score members was raised up in Rangoon by Elder and Mrs. H. H. Votaw and other early workers. And from this church throughout the years have come several workers and many faithful members.
But even in this field of activity we seem to have come to a new day of opportunity. Efforts held in old Rangoon during the past year or two have been better attended and more fruitful than for several years previously. It is large village efforts, with hundreds in attendance, that constitute a new day of opportunity in Burma which should be taken hold of with enthusiasm and zeal.
Efforts of a larger nature in direct public evangelism began about three years ago with E. A. Crane leading out: He called in village school teachers during the summer vacation months to join with the few evangelists available, and meetings were started in several places simultaneously in Lower Burma. Some of these were not very successful, but one or two were, and this brought courage to continue in a determined way to open up this more direct way of giving the gospel to the millions who live in this beautiful but neglected land. The results have been most encouraging. Our membership is now nearly three times what it was ten years ago.
Our native evangelists have had part in making this report possible. One man who has been very active in this program is Evangelist Po Shwe. He has worked earnestly for his people, the Pwo Karens, among whom there seems to be a promising awakening just now. Several times he has seen the power of God work to deliver him from the fierce and cruel wrath of opposing Buddhist mobs.
We rejoice that we are able to tell of this day of greater opportunity for direct riublic evangelism in Burma. But in doing so we would make it clear that we do not despise the day of small-things, nor the methods that had to be used in getting the work started in a land bound down by a religion as stubborn as Buddhism. Nor do we consider it well that even now those methods should be discarded. We give due credit to the courageous men and women who have toiled on for years in Burma without being able to see as much fruitage for their labor as we are privileged to see for ours today. May God help us to take full advantage of this day of greater opportunity.