Khin Maung wanted to be part of something bigger than himself. After completing high school, he joined the Myanmar Army and quickly rose through the ranks, eventually reaching the level of lieutenant colonel. As an officer commanding his own battalion, he developed a reputation for brutality toward his soldiers, reserving his harshest treatment for Christians.
Khin had learned to hate followers of Jesus at a young age. He was raised in a rigidly Buddhist, Burmese family. At age 11, he spent nine months as a novice, wearing the traditional maroon robe and living among adult monks at a local monastery. He was taught that Jesus was a disciple of the Buddha and that He was crucified for disobeying instructions forbidding Him from preaching. In addition, he was taught that when Jesus died, He became an evil spirit.
“From that moment, I thought Christians were crazy and I decided that I didn’t want to have anything to do with them;” he said.
Khin took every opportunity to publicly mock and embarrass the Christians in his battalion. In his hatred of Christians, Khin often forced pastors to get drunk in order to ruin their reputation, and once he oversaw the demolition of a church.
Hearing that Christians believed Jesus was still alive, Khin even devised a plan to persecute Him if he ever met Jesus in person. “I told Jesus, ‘You need to be on guard,’” he recalled. “‘If I ever see You, I will shoot You.’” But Khin was soon to face extreme discipline himself, exposing the fragile loyalty among soldiers.
After a night of heavy drinking in 2003, he awoke after midnight and found that his gun was missing. He knew he was in trouble; there’s a common saying in the Myanmar Army that “the value of a soldier’s gun is equal to 10 lives.”
Khin dutifully reported the missing weapon to his superior, who immediately accused him of selling the gun to a rebel army. Three officers tied Khin’s wrists together and stood him on a chair before hanging him from the ceiling by his wrists and kicking the chair out from under him. They then beat him for hours with metal rods. The beatings continued on and off for three days, during which time Khin was provided no food or water. By the third day, his body was so swollen and bloody that he could no longer feel pain. “I wanted to die,” he said.
Then, around 1am on the third day, after his torturers had left, Khin had a vision. “I could see Jesus,” he said. “He was on a cross in front of me. There was also a lot of blood coming from many parts of His body, just like me. I thought, ‘This can’t be true.’ I looked to my left and then looked to my right, but I always saw this vision of Jesus on the cross no matter where I looked. At that time, I had goose bumps and I started to shake all over my body.”
After about 10 minutes, the vision faded and a commanding officer from his division entered the room along with those who had been beating him. “Let him down!” the officer demanded. “We are all soldiers. He has been serving in the military for 30 years. Why are you treating him like this?” The commanding officer then arranged for Khin to be taken to a hospital for treatment.
After being released from the hospital, Khin was sentenced by a military tribunal to two years in prison for allegedly selling his weapon. He was one of 40 prisoners in his cell, which he remembers as dark, dirty and crawling with bugs. And his only comfort was a blanket to cover himself with as he slept on the cold, hard floor.
Among those crammed into Khin’s cell were six Christian pastors. He challenged them when they shared the Gospel with him, but they always responded to his attacks with patience and love. They answered his questions about Jesus and pointed him to passages of Scripture refuting what he had been taught as a child.
On 9 June 2003, Khin made a promise to the men. “I told them, ‘If Jesus is a true saviour, if He can save me from my suffering, then I will serve Him until I die,’” he said. The pastors surrounded and prayed for Khin. During their three months together, they developed a strong friendship that made Khin feel comfortable asking deeper questions. Then, one evening at about 9pm, Khin’s friend died in his sleep.
Shortly after his friend’s death, the case against the remaining five pastors was resolved and they were released from prison. For two months, Khin felt completely alone. Then, on 11 December 2003, prison officials led him to a small courtroom outside the prison, where he was surprised to see an old friend — the owner of a liquor store he had frequented.
The store owner had come forward and confessed to taking Khin’s gun. He told Khin that he had borrowed the gun to go hunting, intending to return it later, but that when he returned he saw the officers beating Khin and was too afraid to admit he had taken it. The judge ordered Khin’s release, bringing an end to his six-month imprisonment.
“Hallelujah!” Khin cried out, giving his life to Christ in that moment. Shocked by his choice of words, everyone in the room glared at him.
“Are you crazy?” one soldier asked. “Are you mad?”
“I’m not mad,” Khin said. “I asked Jesus to do something, to release me, and He really did it!”
The judge told Khin that he was cleared of charges and that he would receive a promotion and be moved to a new battalion. But Khin declined the promotion. “I made a promise to Jesus,” he replied. “I don’t want to do this anymore, even if you promote me.”
Military authorities gave him a month to think about his decision, but Khin was resolute. “The moment they released me, I did not think about that anymore,” he said. “I went right away to the church.”
When Khin met with the church’s pastors, they offered him clothes and food. But he was quick to correct their misperception. “I did not come here to get support from you,” he explained. “I just want to hear more about the Jesus that I was told about in the jail.” Excited by Khin’s zeal for Christ, the pastors decided to help him attend a Bible school for two years.
Khin entered the Bible school essentially alone. His wife had left him while he was in prison, and all but one of their six grown children had stopped talking to him because they were ashamed to have him as a father.
Still, Khin cherished the opportunity to study Scripture. And as he studied, he began to learn more about the persecution of Christians throughout history. “The important thing is that they remained faithful,” he said of the persecuted.
After graduating from Bible school, Khin hiked up a small mountain nearby and camped for three days, submitting fully to Jesus Christ and praying for guidance. “I wanted to confess and ask forgiveness for the very bad things I had done to many Christians,” he said. “I also wanted to dedicate all of my life to the Lord. I promised to God on that mountain that no matter what happens, even if I need to die, I will do what the Lord wants me to do.”
While praying on the mountaintop, Khin made the transition from Myanmar Army officer to soldier for Christ. “I risked my life shooting guns and killing other people, but this war is not important,” he said. “The more important war I am fighting now is against the devil. It is the war I will fight, even though I suffer, the rest of my life.”
Pray that the Burmese people will come to know Christ.