Growing up in Myanmar, Rev. L was unfortunately exposed to drugs as a teenager. He struggled between drug addiction and rehabilitation repeatedly for eight years. Almost being desperate, he was treated and successfully abandoned his drug habits in a gospel drug rehabilitation center where he learned the Bible. After getting rid of drugs, he decided to open a gospel-centered detoxification center to help people like himself to experience the power of the gospel.
Baptized in 1998, he has been engaged in the rehabilitation ministry through the gospel for 18 years since 2004. He hoped that more people would know about the gospel-centered detoxification ministry and would offer prayers and support for it as well.
In the 1960s, Rev. L's parents came to Myanmar from Lincang, Yunnan Province, to make a living. At first, they lived in the rural area where poppy plants were grown and used. Everything in the surroundings was related to drugs, which naturally he started using when he was fifteen or sixteen years old.
"For the locals, taking drugs was the same as smoking, meanwhile buying and selling drugs was not different from doing business in general. We weren’t aware that it was an illegal and criminal activity," he said.
Later, L moved with his family from the countryside to the city. Before, he only smoked opium which was not that accessible after arriving in the city, so he learned to smoke heroin. As a result, he became addicted to it. "Being addicted to heroin was horribly troublesome, which was like being controlled by the devil," he added.
His elder sister who was doing business outside of Myanmar once met a male believer who had successfully recovered from drug addiction. Sharing her brother's situation with the believer, she was told that he had been detoxified successfully at a gospel drug treatment center called the Operation Dawn in northern Thailand.
Arriving at the chapel after a bumpy journey, L was told by a treatment specialist that detoxification was not by medication but just by relying on Jesus through reading the Bible and praying. He was very skeptical at the time since he had been an addict for eight years during which he had tried numerous times of detoxing with many different medications and doctors. But he decided to give it a try given that he had got there with no other way out.
With the care and help of the staff at the chapel, he personally experienced God's healing. After one month and three days, he accepted the gospel. Through this experience, he came to understand that he could not quit drugs because he had adopted the wrong method before. He realized, "The wrong method returns the wrong result." Drug addiction was directly connected with sins. “Therefore, to stop using drugs, they must abstain from sin by believing in Jesus.”
He came to an idea that after he was clean, he should respond to God by working on the gospel-centered detoxification to help more souls who were desperate and suffering as he used to.
Completing a full session at the chapel, the pastor returned to Myanmar and enrolled in a local Chinese seminary, Burma Chinese Bible College, to receive theological education. After finishing the four-year studies, he sold his family’s ancestral house in his hometown, purchasing a piece of land in Mujie County, where he officially began to engage in the detoxification ministry in 2004.
This gospel-centered drug rehabilitation ministry founded by him is completely free for participants, with daily supplies from donations from churches and believers in various places. The staff and participants of the center also provide for themselves by engaging in some productive labor, such as farming and planting vegetables. In this way, the center slowly went into normal operation.
Physically, gospel-centered detoxification does not apply medications. Participants gradually recover through metabolism boost by doing some daily regular work, for which there is about three hours’ work time every day. Psychologically, participants benefit from counseling based on the truth of the Bible and feel the love and care of counselors with their own personal experiences who serve as role models. Spiritually, participants study the Bible in four lessons every day at the center. The daily schedule is studying the Bible for about four hours, plus working for another three hours, resting, and exercising. In addition, there are also some vocational skills training, such as electric welding and carpentry.
Due to the epidemic, there are only 27 local Chinese participants and eight specialists at the center. "These specialists all have attended the three-year discipleship training after their successful detoxification at the Center, staying here to serve," Rev. L introduced.
Normally, after participants come to faith, the center will gradually hand them over to the local church where the pastors can disciple them. The center will keep in touch with the local pastors so that counseling will be immediately applied once there are problems. "Or we call them back for some more treatment."
"Actually, in terms of the evangelism ministry, gospel-centered detoxification is the quickest and most effective way of preaching the gospel, because the whole family suffers if one member takes drugs, nevertheless the whole family is blessed if one member repents."
"At the Gospel-Centered Detoxification Center, they will experience the power of the gospel, feeling love from others. Though they cannot take medicine, they can receive encouragement, care, and prayers from us when they hurt. Most arriving here penniless, drug addicts are admitted and helped here, with their hearts changing because of love."
"We are able to carry on because of God's calling us to love this unlovable group," Rev. L said. It turns out that this ministry generally encourages people with similar experiences to respond to God's inspiration of doing tfhe ministry. "Without similar experiences, there is no way to understand this peculiar behavior of drug addicts."
The operation of the center mainly relies on the offering and support of some churches and believers. However, because of the pandemic and the war in Myanmar, the overall situation is very difficult. When talking about this issue, Rev. L smiled, saying, "Even though the situation is not good, we just need to be more economical, slowly going on like this. Just like the Israelites who had to pick up manna every morning in the wilderness, we also look to God to meet our needs at every moment." He believed that God would have prepared what we had needed. "God is Jehovah Jireh means ‘the Lord will provide'."
Now in southern Myanmar, Rev. L is leading his church staff to set up another detoxification center through the gospel.
"In fact, the whole of Myanmar is in need of the gospel-centered drug rehabilitation ministry. Yet, it is difficult to find such workers." He concluded that doing this ministry required living a simple life, which was indicated in the Bible: "But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Timothy 6:8)
- Translated by Shuya Wang