Jubilee Thanga completed his Masters of Divinity degree at Asia Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary in 2002, and he is one of the first graduates of the institution from Burma, now known as Myanmar.
Myanmar has been the face of abject poverty in the South East Asian region, and the ones who are in the farthest periphery are the Burmese children. Jubilee shares that a 2010 survey in Myanmar says that 85%-90% of the 38 million Burmese children are living in poverty, and only 60% of these children are likely to finish primary school. Furthermore, the spiritual and moral decline Jubilee has seen in his people is of greater concern for him. Jubilee cites that 80% of rape victims in their county are children below the age of 15. He adds, “Seeing these factors, I was moved to take a risk to minister to these helpless and hopeless children. Our passion and vision is the restoration of the image of God in Myanmar by evangelizing and discipling children and teens for Christ.”
Filling the position of a senior pastor, Bible school administrator and professor placed Jubilee at a comfortable and respected leadership position; hence, many were confounded when he chose to focus on ministering to children. Jubilee shares, “When we started, I did not receive much appreciation and encouragement from my relatives and our district. Being a minister for children is still a foolish thing to do in Myanmar.” Nonetheless, Jubilee persisted and turned to the young people for help in realizing his vision. “God worked in the heart of the Nazarene Youth International in our district. We raised funds and ministered to hundreds of children in Yangon slum area in 2009. We all enjoyed serving these needy children. When my local church saw the result, they were also willing to support the ministry activity. Since then, I commit myself to pursue this foolish vision.”
As the ministry increased, the burden of catering to the children also grew. “We needed materials for children, transportation for leaders, accommodation and food for all of us.” Eventually, God opened the heart of Jubilee and the volunteer’s families and relatives to join in the sacrifice for the ministry. They offered free motor bikes for the transportation, and helped create tools and equipment for Sunday school materials out of recycled goods. Even the children were empowered to collaborate in the fund raising effort. “Each child brought rice and firewood, some farmers brought vegetables and some parents cooked for us. In such way, we started our ministry by resourcing from the community,” Jubilee recalls. When an international Christian organization learned of the potential growth of the ministry happening in Myanmar, they decided to commit financially to expand the work done by Jubilee and the NYI volunteers, “When we step forward by faith for clear kingdom purpose, God always provide our needs on time.”
Today, the ministry started by Jubilee and a handful of young people serves not only the children of the Church of the Nazarene, but also those coming from other denominations and non-Christian backgrounds. Jubilee reports, “We facilitate annual training for over 1000 teachers and run salvation camps for 10,000 children. Most importantly, we are running 283 weekly discipleship kids’ clubs for 13,000 children. More than half of the number of the children we serve had not even heard of the love of Jesus prior to joining the camps and kids’ clubs.” In addition to these, Jubilee and his team have been actively advocating the right and safety of children and the 4-14 window movement to 2000 local churches for the past 7 years.
Jubilee’s grand vision is for Myanmar to be a nation for Christ, a nation freed from the slavery of overwhelming poverty and sin. And if you ask him, he would say in a heartbeat that this could only be done when the budding generation of the Burmese nation is reached by the gospel. “We envision reaching 20 million children by 2060. We want to see new God-fearing generations in Myanmar by discipling children and teens with biblical values, and see our nation transformed by the power of God. I believe that these children are the solution of our prayer for the nation.”