Chapter 4: No Separation

An Asian Woman’s Journey into Pastoral Leadership

Alma Kyaw Thura

Kyaw Thura, we are sorry. But you are going to have to make a decision. You will either have to bring New Life in Christ ministries under the authority of the church, or you will have to find somewhere else to conduct your ministry.

“Remember, we pay your husband’s salary. You answer to us.”

Sadness and anger ran through me as I listened to these words. I was sitting in the parsonage that my husband Wesley and I shared at Yangon Methodist English Church, where he had been pastor for 12 years. Surrounding me was a group of church leaders and elders. They had come to inform me that the ministry God had given me was no longer welcome at the church.

What should my husband and I decide? If I insisted on continuing the ministry at the church, it could mean Wesley’s dismissal as pastor. But if I agreed to their terms, I would lose any authority I had been given by God to reach out to poor and marginalized Buddhists with the love of Jesus Christ. And I would be bowing to the authority of “leaders” who, despite their church titles, had no viable ministry or witness.

As Wesley and I listened and prayed, I reflected on the journey that had led us to this confrontation. It was a long, twisting path that God had placed me on in my childhood. And it led not only to this tense meeting, but to a new awareness of God’s call on my life as a wife, mother…and minister of the gospel.

TURBULENT UPBRINGING, GLIMMERS OF FAITH

THE OLDEST OF THREE children, I was born into a dynamic, interfaith household. My father, a high-level government official, was Buddhist. He converted to Christ when he was 45 years old, living as a Christ follower until his death at 70. My mother, who is still with us, was a believer who grew up in a Christian family. She was also an accomplished track and field athlete, winning three gold medals in the Asia Games.

When I was a baby, my father was arrested and imprisoned for five years on a corruption charge. The offense had been committed by an officer under his authority, but because it had happened under his watch, my father took the blame for his junior officer’s crime.

With my father in prison and my mother away pursuing her athletic career, I was brought up by my grandmother. She had a strong Christian faith and a pure British culture. She trained me to be Western in my thinking and behavior, which is much different from the traditional Burmese style. I gained a natural self-discipline and set of manners that do not usually exist in Burmese culture.

When I was four years old, …


About the Author

ALMA KYAWTHURA is pastor of New Life in Christ Ministries, based in Yangon, Myanmar. She lives in North Dagon Township, Yangon, with her husband Wesley, their son Trust, and their daughter Phobe.

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