The existence of the people of God on this earth is often one of great difficulty and trial, particularly for a true servant of God preaching the gospel of Christ in a thoroughly pagan land. Rev. Titus Sanceuluai, pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Yangon, Myanmar (PRCM), is clearly an exemplar of this: a man who labors tirelessly for the good of the church he loves and to the glory of the Most Holy God.
Already as a young aspiring minister, Rev. Titus suffered serious consequences for his commitment to learning and teaching the Reformed truth. An excerpt from a letter written by Rev. Jason Kortering, then minister-on-loan to the Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore (ERCS), and published in the March 15, 1997 Standard Bearer, illustrates the situation of Rev. Titus.
I have been keeping you posted on (a) situation in the life of Rev. Titus of Myanmar (Burma). I do this mostly so you can pray for this brother, who is so energetic for the Reformed faith and has to pay such a high cost. Titus returned to Singapore with the urging of his uncle, who is leader of the Evangelical Presbyterian Churches of Myanmar and also head-master of Far Eastern Fundamental School of Theology, that he ought to read other books than by PRC authors and decide where his theological position ought to be. He questioned whether he could be pastor in the EPC or teach in FEFST if he held to the Amil [position] and 5 points of Calvinism.
Titus returned January 2 and felt so guilty for not coming “clean” with his uncle that he decided he had to telephone his uncle and tell him: no more reading, no more study; I am convicted in my conscience of these truths (and) I will bear the consequences. In the Burmese culture, to have a man as important as (Titus’) uncle tell his father that he had an unruly and rebellious son was most humiliating. Only yesterday, his father called Titus to tell him the latest. His uncle refuses to talk anymore with him; no more phone calls. Also, that Titus will be excommunicated from his church and that he will not be allowed to preach or teach again. His wife has to be out of the apartment at the college by (the) end of February or, as he said, “We will throw her out in the street.”
By the grace of God, Rev. Titus willingly endured this persecution and persevered, responding to an inquiry from Rev. Kortering, “I have such sweet peace in my heart.”
Contact with saints desiring the truth in Myanmar began already in the early 1990s between a pastor in the Bible Presbyterian Church (Myanmar) and ministers in the ERCS (Rev. J. Kortering, 1995). This contact was extended and strengthened by the Protestant Reformed churches and the ERCS, most notably by Rev. Kortering and later Rev. Arie denHartog. In 2007, Synod approved Hope church’s recommendation that they be authorized to continue giving assistance to the PRC in Myanmar, accomplished primarily through the newly formed Myanmar subcommittee’s personal communication with Rev. Titus.
With the establishment of this official relationship came a significant increase in workload for the Council of Hope church—an increasingly fruitful and pleasurable work to be sure—nonetheless, much extra. As a result, last year the Council accepted the offer of the Reformed Witness Committee (RWC) of Hope church to assist them in whatever capacity the Council regarded appropriate. Currently, the principal work of the RWC is bringing a greater awareness to the PRCA of the church in Myanmar and the work being undertaken there by Hope’s Council, and of equal importance, to strengthen the bond of friendship between far away members of our Lord’s one church.
Rev. Titus, described as “thoroughly Reformed, humble, compassionate, and a diligent worker” by delegates of Hope’s six trips to Myanmar, is the man whom God is using to establish and strengthen His church in a country where Reformed teachings are seldom found and Reformed preachers are few. Despite being isolated as a Reformed minister, Rev. Titus has wholly committed his life to disseminating the gospel. Each week he teaches three catechism classes to approximately twenty children of various ages. Also on a weekly basis, he teaches a Reformed doctrines class to five or six attendees, usually elders and ministers from other churches, who rely on Rev. Titus to extend their knowledge of the Reformed faith. Frequently, he also fulfils various requests to come and either preach or conduct seminars both in the Yangon area and in other outlying areas—by no means an easy task considering the means of travel in the country. In addition, Rev. Titus travels once or twice a year to the northern region of Myanmar to bring the Word of God, teaching along the way both to his regular stops and to those who have requested his help. These trips generally last a few weeks and require a great amount of effort, and they often generate new contacts that Rev. Titus is very willing to accommodate. The congregations of Kyangin and Lemah in the Irrawaddy Division and the churches in Falam, Kale, and Nagaland are some of the places Rev. Titus has recorded visits to in his monthly reports.1
Being fluent in English, Chin, and Burmese, and academically capable of achieving the work, Rev. Titus has undertaken the monumental task of translating into Burmese many important, written works. Most essential on the list of works being translated is the King James Version of the Bible. Rev. Titus currently has translated and is re-editing the entire New Testament as well as the first five books of the Old Testament. Each week he circulates his Sunday Digest, which currently includes a translated section of For Thy Truth’s Sake written by Prof. Herman Hanko. Concurrently, Rev. Titus is translating Come, Ye Children by Gertrude Hoeksema, as well as Unfolding Covenant History by Homer C. Hoeksema. Many of the catechism books used by our churches for many years he has translated and is currently using to teach his regular catechumens. These books include “Essentials of Reformed Doctrine, A Guide in Catechetical Instruction”; “Heidelberg Catechism”; and “New Testament Story.” Listed above is a sampling; many other works Rev. Titus has translated, too many to list in the confines of this article. 2
The commitment Rev. Titus has to teaching the truth of the gospel is exceedingly apparent from his heavy, weekly schedule, but even more so when considering the Buddhist culture and the former, authoritarian government of Myanmar. With a population comprised of ninety percent Buddhists, the country is largely and openly opposed to Christianity, especially Reformed Christianity. 3 Rev. Titus has reported in the past of efforts made by Buddhists to interrupt or halt the worship of God: spying on neighbors and reporting Christian worship to the government; playing loud music in the streets that made preaching nearly impossible; extreme monks heavily influencing the government against Christian churches; and even Buddhist monks constructing a pagoda in the yard of a church. The military government, while influenced by Buddhism, had itself been anti-Christian for many years, and it actively persecuted Christians throughout the land. A quote from Rev. Titus reveals the reality of Burmese Christians:
From 1965, General New Win chased all Christian schools from Burma, confiscated Church properties, Christian school buildings. And Christian people, we became second-class citizens. We are like no-existence; anytime, anywhere army people could make problems to us. On Sunday when we worship, every time we worry whether or not military police come; are we informed by our own neighbors or 10 home chief [a low-level military government official]? When we send our children to school, will they be treated by teachers badly? We pray with tears all the time.4
It is clear from Rev. Titus’ recent writings that the change in the government of Myanmar is of great importance to the PRCM and has directly affected their everyday life. Significantly, he reports that the church now feels “liberation in worship.” No longer does he fear that some who come to him with questions or visit worship services may be spies working for the government. In addition, Buddhist monks have lost much of their anti-Christian influence. Rev. Titus gladly notes the second vice-president of the country is Chin (Rev. Titus is of the Chin tribe) and of greater importance, Christian—a first in Myanmar. Although the full impact of the change in government is yet largely unknown, Rev. Titus and the PRCM plainly feel a sense of relief and joy in their ability to worship God far more openly and with a greatly decreased fear of persecution.
Rev. Titus is a stalwart of the gospel of Jesus Christ. With the increasing religious freedom in Myanmar and the growing interest in Reformed doctrine found there, a native man with a deep understanding of the Reformed truth is of incalculable value in the spreading of the gospel. The work is increasing, not decreasing, and much support and assistance are yet needed and longed for. Rev. Titus is one of few Reformed preachers in Myanmar, and being native to the land, of greater value than any foreign missionary could be. The knowledge of this weighs heavily on the Council of Hope PRC; one of its primary future goals of the work in Myanmar is planning for the succession of Rev. Titus. This and many other important topics will be discussed when Hope’s delegates arrive in Myanmar in May. The PRCM and Rev. Titus always receive the support, assistance, and especially the time spent with delegates with much joy and humility. We encourage you to read the monthly reports, note well the work being accomplished, and experience a bond of friendship with the saints in Myanmar. To God be all glory, forever and ever.
—Mr. Nathan DeVries
2 For a more complete view of this work, go to http://www.cprf.co.uk/languages.htm and click Burmese.
3 Approximately 4-6% of the population identifies as Christian with the vast majority either Roman Catholic or Baptist.
4 Taken from Rev. Titus’ monthly reports to Hope PRC.