When 61-year-old Dano* retired from his career as a military man, he had no idea life would take him to an altogether different battlefield: a spiritual one.
Some Background on Myanmar
In Myanmar, where Dano lives, the spiritual enviornment is sometimes disturbing. Many residents follow traditional beliefs. They honor images and statues, bow down to the dead, and even proudly claim to house demons in their shrines.
With this affinity for the spirit realm informing them, the Burmese army began waging war on ethnic minorities, including Christians who are deeply impacted by these attacks. In addition, those who believe in Jesus are also targeted by Ma Ba Tha, a group of radical Buddhist monks, who set up legal obstacles like the “Protection of Race and Religion” that make it purposely difficult to convert to Christianity or marry someone who identifies as a Christian.
Dano’s Conversion and Military Service
Dano doesn’t practice these indigenous religious beliefs because, after years of practicing animism, his parents became Christians when he was still a boy. Dano began attending church on Sundays and learning about God. By the time he was in class 10, however, his father had died and Dano could not afford to continue at school due to his family’s financial situation. But Dano knew who to turn to.
“I accepted Christ as my Savior, and at that time I realized that God called me to work for his ministry.” Dano explains.
Shortly after, young Dano joined the military. After completing his training, Dano was sent directly into harm’s way. He was immediately dispatched to the frontlines in a battle against Chinese rebels. “Our enemies ambushed us, they shot us and landmines exploded.” Dano remembers.
But, somehow, Dano emerged unhurt. “I was positioned on the frontline, there was one experienced soldier before me, and another experienced behind me. The soldiers in front of me and behind me were killed by the explosion of the landmines, the legs of the soldier behind me flew up in the air and he was immediately killed..I found out that 120 soldiers died.”
When Dano walked away from this battle, he had no doubt why his life was spared. “I believe God preserved my life from death on the battlefield for a purpose—because it is written in Bible that God protects those whom He has chosen. I believe God has chosen me to do his work and serve his people.’’
After eight years of service, Dano left the military and obtained a license to operate a timber business. From that point on, he made his livelihood exporting timber to Thailand. Business was good, but Dano continued to sense there was some sort of unfulfilled duty waiting for him. He sometimes felt anxious.
One day, Dano decided to sneak away from work and go see a pastor, who he asked to pray for him. “When the pastor and Sayamah Mimi* prayed for me, I felt all my doubts and worries disappear; my spirit was lifted and I was filled with peace.’’
This experience was just the beginning of the next leg of Dano’s journey however. Not long after visiting the pastor, Dano and his wife were praying and he had a vision. “I was shown a vine full of grapes, fully ripe and waiting to be plucked. A heavenly angel asked me to pluck the grapes and eat them. If I didn’t pluck he would send someone else.”
When Dano told his pastor about his vision, the pastor suggested that Dano should attend seminary before going into the ministry. But Dano was sure he was supposed to begin his ministry right away, so he went straight to the village chief and offered to teach the children in the village free of cost.
The chief and vice-chief agreed to allow Dano to educate their young people, but they gave gave him strict warnings not to preach. They even drafted an agreement stating that the villagers must file a complaint to the military officers if Dano preached the Christian faith.
The agreement, of course, made Dano nervous. He prayed for three days about whether he should sign the agreement or not, but eventually felt assurance from God that he didn’t need to be afraid. Dano went back and signed the agreement and began teaching the children.
While Dano doesn’t formally preach, he teaches the kids small bible verses and songs about God. And he prays constantly.
Praying for a Village
At first, Dano would wake up early at 4:00 in the morning to pray as he walked through the village, but residents soon complained to the Chief. Dano was instructed not to pray anymore.
This did not stop Dano from praying however. “I continued praying for the village,” He explains, “I just decided to pray at midnight.” Just like when Dano was in the military and he would patrol the military grounds, Dano began walking through the dark village claiming the land for the Lord. In addition, Dano’s family fasts every Saturday. And when the people of the village are sick, Dano prays for them and many experience healing.
Mistreated for Their Faith
Because of their Christian faith, Dano’s children are often threatened by other children and their teachers sometimes pressure them to say Buddhist prayers. At times, mobs of people have even gathered in front of Dano’s house. “Many times, the village chief and vice-chief would come and search for me to be tortured and killed. But in some miraculous ways, they couldn’t find me or I would have escaped.”
In one incident, Pastor Dano was held at gunpoint, but the gun did not work. The villagers were so astonished and worried that they left Pastor Dano alone.
Even though Pastor Dano was badly treated, the villagers would sometimes come to him when they needed help. The Vice Chief himself once came to Dano in his time of need. The Vice Chief’s son began staying in the woods by the shrines for demons. His behavior and health worsened and it was believed he was possessed by the demons. But the physicians and magicians that many villagers relied upon were unable to help the young man. When all hope seemed to be gone, the family remembered that Pastor Dano used to pray for the sick. They apprehensively approached Pastor Dan for help, feeling awkward because they had been opposing him.
‘’The Vice Chief’s family thought I would be angry with them and would refuse to help, but I see it as a good opportunity to reach out to them,’’ Pastor Dano said happily. He fasted and prayed for three days. After three days, he went to the young man, but the Vice Chief’s son ran away when he saw him, shouting. “That person is going to catch me!’’
Pastor Dano went out to the shrines at 11:00 at night and commanded the demon to come out. Dano tried to burn the shrine, but at first, it wouldn’t catch fire. Finally, he poured diesel onto it and the shrine burned. He called upon the name of the Lord and the demon left the young man. Even more incredibly, not only did one demon flee, but villagers reported all the evil spirits left the village.
While this outcome seemed positive, some villagers begged Dano to bring the spirits back. The village spirit mediums sacrificed and pleaded for the spirits to return, but they would not. .“They were not happy because their spirit gods had left them. They complained to their Chief and tried to kill me,” Dano explained. Pastor Dano was told to pray in places where spirit shrines are present so he did. The next day all the shrines in the villages had been burned. No one knew how it happened. It was, seemingly, a miracle.
But the bigger miracle was this: the Vice Chief and his family, along with four other families, accepted Christ as their Savior and converted. Slowly but surely other villagers came to know the Lord and accepted Christ. Villagers who had opposed Dano now listen to him and are being led by him. Pastor Dano now pastors a church in his village, and he also has a vision and aims to reach out to another two Buddhist villages.