Joseph Horevay

Y’wa formed the world originally,
He appointed food and drink.
He appointed the “fruit of trial”.
He gave detailed orders.
Mu-kaw-lee deceived two persons.
He caused them to eat the fruit of the tree of trial.
They obeyed not; they believed not Y’wa.
When they ate the fruit of trial,
They became subject to sickness, aging, and death.

So recited the Karen village elders to their people during a typical evening teaching session around the crackling campfires. Their village prophet, called a Bukhos, would stand and recite before the village the story of Tha-nai and Ee-u, who Y’wa made and placed in a garden saying, “In the garden I have mad you seven kinds of trees, bearing seven kinds of fruit. Among the seven, one tree is not good to eat. If yo eat, you will become old, you will sicken, you will die – eat and drink with care. Once in seven days I will visit you.” After a time, Mu-kaw-lee came to the man and woman and said, “Why are you here?” “Our Father has put us here,” they replied. “What do you eat here?” asked Mu-kaw-lee. “Our Lord Y’wa has created food for us, food without limit.” “Show me your food,“ said Mu-kaw-lee. They showed the fruit saying, “This one is astringent, this is sweet, this one is sour, this bitter, this savory, this fiery, but this tree, we know not whether it is sweet or sour. Our Father, the Lord Y’wa said to us, ‘Eat not of this tree. If you eat you will die.’” Mu-kaw-lee replied, “it is not so. The heart of your Father Y’wa is not with you. This is the richest and sweetest…if you eat it you will posses miraculous powers. You will be able to ascend to heaven. If you will each eat the fruit as a trial then you will know all.” The man refused to eat and walked away. The woman, Ee-u, stayed and gave in to temptation, ate the fruit and then enticed her husband who then ate. The next morning Y’wa came to visit them, but they did not follow Him singing praises as usual. Y’wa asked, “Why have you eaten the fruit of the tree that I commanded you not to eat?” Y’wa cursed man and departed. Sickness, aging and death entered the world. That is how the Karen people became separated from the true God and were forced to serve Ju-kaw-lee and appease demons.

Yet a prophecy came to be handed down generation after generation which promised that someday white wings would bring a white man who would have a book that would explain how to return to Y’wa. As village elders and sages taught each succeeding generation, the Karens waited and waited for this messenger of Y’wa. IN a thousand or more villages, scattered throughout Burma’s hill country, 800,000 Karen tribesmen waited.

In 1817, a young American missionary, Adoniram Judson, began his missionary labors in Rungoon, Burma. There he carefully studied the Burmese language and set out to translate the scriptures into the native tongue. For se e long years, Judson preached and worked on the Burmese translation of the Bible. During that time only one Burmese Buddhist was converted. Yet everyday Karen tribesmen walked past his home singing hymns to Y’wa on their way. Had he only known.

One day a rough living and looking Karen man stopped by Judson’s house looking for work. Ko Thay-byu was a violent man who was estimated to have killed around thirty men during his career as a robber. Judson and his helpers began to witness to Ko Thah-byu concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ. Progressively, he began to express interest about these white foreigners and the book they brought. Suddenly, it all fell into place! Ko Thah-byu received Jesus Christ and the gospel, for it was clearly the fulfillment of everything the Karen prophets had foretold. He became preoccupied with the Bible, learning it as quickly as Judson could translate it from Burmese into the Karen tongue. Ko Thah-byu realized that he was the first of his people to learn that the lost book had arrived in their land. H was soon baptized and then set out immediately to carry the good news to the Karen villages.

George and Sara Boardman, two of Judson’s co-workers, had just established a mission outpost in the southern Burmese town of Tavoy. So they were deluged with hundreds of Karens who wanted to see the white brother who arrived with the lost book, all the fruit of Ko Thah-byu’s preaching. Invitations came pouring in from Karen villages for Boardman to come and teach Y’wa’s book. In the village, Karens turned to Christ and were baptized. Nearly as soon as they were converted and baptized, they would spread the good news among other Karen villages. One such village called Bassein, 300 miles from Tavoy, ad 5, 000 Karen converts awaiting water baptism upon the arrival of the American missionaries. The Karens didn’t keep the good news to themselves – other tribal groups were being preached to and reached. The Karens were becoming the backbone of the missionary force in that region. Ultimately, their witness is the case of there being nearly six million Christians in that region today.

Adoniram Judson was, of course, pivotal in first “chancing” upon Ko Thah-byu, who in turn “just happened” to become so intensely committed and tireless in his evangelizing efforts that he was dubbed the “Karen apostle.” It also proved to be helpful that for seven years Judson won only one convert, so that in his resulting free time, he took to the task of producing a Burmese Bible translation, which was foundational to their future discipling and teaching efforts. These “coincidences,” when tied to the fact that the Karen people had been prepared for centuries for the coming of a white brother, who would restore to them the missing book of Y’wa and help them return to their God, illustrates to us once again that God’s sovereign hand is forever with us in the harvest. We are a people who have been predestined to good works and as we make ourselves radically available, His purposes come into focus. It may take five, seven, or ten years for it all to make sense, but our lives are being woven into the larger tapestry of His sovereign Kingdom purposes. We may only see a part of it now, but someday it will prove to be a glorious gift to give to our King.

*Researched from Eternity in Their Hearts, Don Richardson, Regal Books, Ventura, California. 1984.