In Myanmar, a Christian mother and wife blazes a trail for other women in her community despite opposition
Each day this week Christian Today is sharing stories of persecuted Christian women who have found strength in Christ to face incredible hardships. Today, we share the story of Lydia, a Christian mother, wife, businesswoman blazing a trail in her community despite huge opposition to the faith in her country.
At 35, Lydia* is courageously bucking the trend in her community in northern Myanmar.
As well as being a mum and wife, she is also a farmer, Christian leader, businesswomen and teacher.
Lydia is one of the women which anti-persecution charity Open Doors UK & Ireland is honouring by celebrating the way they have faced persecution with courage.
Her walk with Christ has not always been easy. Christians are a minority in Myanmar, making up about eight per cent of the population.
Those who are known for sharing the gospel face opposition, and believers who leave the majority Buddhist faith to follow Jesus particularly face persecution.
"Being a Christian is difficult anywhere in our country, especially if you want to share the gospel," says Lydia.
"In my community, people might not be so offended if I say I am Christian, but when I try to tell them about Christ's love, they become angry.
"We have some believers in our church whose families disowned them when they chose to embrace Christianity.
"Nevertheless, we continue sharing the gospel slowly and carefully. We are always vigilant, and we use more creative ways to show Christ's love – firstly by helping people in the community and if I feel confident, by talking to them about it as well."
Lydia is incredibly busy and is up each day at 5am to manage all her different tasks and roles.
"After prayer, I finish all the cooking and cleaning," she says. "At 8am I send the kids to school.
"Then from 8am to 12pm I might visit houses of church families and pray with the women. After that I come back home for lunch.
"After lunch, I sit to work for my basket and jewellery business. Sometimes I make jewellery, other times I make colourful baskets depending upon the demand.
"I've also learnt how to make soaps so sometimes I make soap bars and sell them as well.
"Then I manage the poultry and pigs in the evening before I go to prepare dinner for the family."
It was through a seminar run by Open Doors partners that Lydia decided to step out of her comfort zone and try her hand starting her own business and teaching other women about God.
"Through the seminar God changed my whole perspective on life," she says. "Previously I thought women should not engage in any work outside the house. This is a common perspective in the minds of women here.
"The pressure also increases because of the mentality in the churches, which also discourages women from working and regards them as weak.
"In this way they are confined to their houses and any woman who wants to earn and help the household suffers a lot of mental pressure.
"However, when I attended the women's seminar, I felt I should help my family and do whatever work my hands can find so I decided to use all my skills and talents for my family and church.
"I often use the money from my businesses to host training sessions for the women in my community.
"Afterwards I also started encouraging women to join me in basket making and the jewellery business to earn money for their families."
Lydia even arranged for a nursery school where someone would take care of the children so the women could work.
"I wanted to teach other women. God needs all of us to serve his ministry. Ephesians 2:10 spoke to my heart strongly at that time.
"The verse says, 'For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do'.
"I was inspired to be an empowered woman, doing everything that I can do with all my strength for what God had prepared for me in advance to do."
*Names changed for security reasons
As part of Open Doors' Rise with Courage week, the charity is sharing stories of inspirational Christian women who have been courageous in the face of persecution.