ANAHEIM, Calif. (BP) – The Asian Collective Kickoff in the days before the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting celebrated the emergence of the Myanmar Southern Baptist Fellowship, the SBC’s Diaspora Missions Collective and an Asian-specific Cooperative Program video.
The Sunday, June 12, gathering at the Anaheim Marriott drew an overflow crowd of several Asian ethnicities, including Filipino, Vietnamese, Burmese, Korean, Chinese, Hmong, Japanese, Laotian and more to the three-hour event.
“It is exciting to all be together,” Peter Yanes told Baptist Press with a wide grin. Yanes, who last year started and both years hosted the event, is the executive director of Asian American relations and mobilization with the SBC Executive Committee.
“This gathering is for everyone,” Yanes said in his opening remarks. “Of course, you have to be loving Asians,” he continued, to laughter that spread across the Marquis Ballroom.
Yanes spoke of the 27 different Asian ethnicities gathered in more than 2,000 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention. “We love the Great Commission,” he said, adding that Asian churches gave more than $3.3 million to missions through the Cooperative Program in 2020, according to ACP data.
“We want to be engaged in Southern Baptist life and ministry,” Yanes said. “Asians work hard. We love the Gospel. [The SBC] wants to hear from us.” He encouraged Asians to get involved in their local Baptist association, as well as state convention and SBC entity boards.
Hoon Im from GuideStone Financial Resources, Jeremy Sin from the North American Mission Board and Ezra Bae from the International Mission Board each spoke of ways their entities could assist local churches.
“We can sit with you, listen to you, and find solutions for you,” Im said.
Interspersed with music from Chinese, Filipino and Vietnamese groups were highlights related to Asian ethnicities, such as June 12 being the 124th anniversary of Philippine independence after 300 years of Spanish rule.
“We’re better together,” said guest speaker Willie McLaurin, interim CEO/president of the SBC’s Executive Committee. He preached from Acts 2:1 and other Scriptures about the need to be unified around priorities for the furthering of the Gospel.
“The early church was effective and efficient because they were always working together for one common cause,” McLaurin said. “People need Jesus now.”
He closed with the same words used when he began: “We’re better together.”
Yanes then called all the Asian ethnic groups to pray over McLaurin and his leadership of the SBC.
Hre Mang, the national coordinator of the emerging Myanmar Southern Baptist Fellowship, announced the formation of the group that will spend the next year developing a constitution and bylaws.
“We’ve been 20 years on our own,” Mang told Baptist Press. “It’s time to organize.” He spoke of 128 churches that worship in a Burmese/Myanmar context that were coming into the SBC as a result of the fellowship being formed.
Myanmar refugees began immigrating about 2008 to the United States. About 109,000 immigrated between 2008-2014, including Mang, who became a Christian in a refugee camp.
Most of the Burmese churches are small and disconnected, Mang said. By networking together, helping each other in local ministry, going together on international mission trips, plus pastoral, youth, women and Sunday School training, the churches and their leaders will be strengthened.
“Next year we will have Myanmar people here,” Mang said. “Now we are helping our churches become engaged with the SBC.”
Terry Sharp, who heads IMB’s State and Network Relations group, spoke of the Diaspora Missions Collective, a new group designed to be a resource for individuals, churches, associations and state conventions wanting to minister among immigrants, refugees and international college students.
“Diaspora refers to a population that shares a common heritage who is scattered in different parts of the world,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
In development over the last two years by people from IMB, NAMB, WMU, seminaries, state conventions and associations, the Diaspora Missions Collective is to be a “one-stop shop,” Sharp told Baptist Press, “so churches can have one place to go to, for resources to help them reach out in ministry to the diaspora around them.”
The Diaspora Missions Collective won’t be creating resources; it will be collecting them “so they are easily accessible,” Sharp said.
The Diaspora Missions Collective has planned a “Reaching the Nations” conference for March 9-11, 2023, in Alpharetta, Ga. For more information see dmcollective.org.
“The Asian American Collective, a missional network of diverse Asian churches, is committed to advance the Great Commission in partnership with all associations, state conventions, and entities,” Yanes said. “We are here to cooperate and engage our denomination’s challenges. Let us serve, lead, and be an agent of reconciliation to our convention because we are your family. We are Southern Baptists!”