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Myanmar Baptist churches follow missionary’s example

Singers from Calvary Zion Baptist Church perform before Myanmar leaders sign a Memorandum of Understanding between Judson Bible College and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary at the second annual gathering of Myanmar Baptist churches. Photo by Josselyn Guillen

INDIANAPOLIS – Churches and members affiliated with Myanmar Baptist Churches USA, a Southern Baptist Fellowship, showed up in force during Crossover Indianapolis and at the 2024 SBC Annual Meeting. 

Aslam Masih, a church planter with the North American Mission Board, speaks during the second annual Conference of Myanmar Baptist Churches in Indianapolis on June 10. Photo by Josselyn Guillen

Over the preceding weekend, student rallies, door-to-door evangelism and 16 professions of faith in Jesus took place, and up to 200 Burmese (Myanmar formerly was named Burma after its largest ethnic group) were present June 9-12 at several events related to the annual meeting.

“‘Reaching all people with the gGospel’ was our theme, from the Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20,” Hre Mang Ph.D., executive director of the Myanmar Fellowship, told Baptist Press. “We are here for our second annual meeting to celebrate with our Southern Baptist brothers and sisters and to show we are working in partnership for God’s kingdom.”

The Myanmar annual meeting took place Monday afternoon, June 10, at the Indiana Convention Center. Nearly 200 people gathered for the three-hour event.

Mang and President Thuam Cin Khai, pastor of Siyin Chin Baptist Church in Laurel, Maryland, and president of Judson Bible College, brought greetings followed by worship and prayer. 

In his report, Mang said at least 140 churches affiliated with the SBC worship in a Burmese or related ethnicity context.

“Many others are not engaged yet,” Mang said. “The MBCUSA has been working to help other local churches engage, participate in the SBC’s Cooperative Program, and partner with SBC entities. 

“The MBCUSA has engaged with IMB, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and other SBC entities, working with other SBC ethnic nationalities for the Great Commission,” the executive director added. “For the first time in SBC history, we have a booth for Myanmar Baptist Churches USA during the convention, which makes the Myanmar ethnic nationalities feel at home and share ownership of the convention. Everyone loves it.” 

Mang spoke of fellowship leaders visiting the International Mission Board and “viewing Adoniram Judson’s handwritten notebook.” Judson was the first Baptist missionary to go to Burma; he stayed 40 years and translated the Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew into Burmese.

“Two hundred years ago Christianity came to Burma with Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson, and this year we have sent out the first missionary couple,” Mang said. Like Judson, the couple left their homeland – in their case, both Myanmar and the United States – for a “distant shore.” For this couple from Falam Christian Church in Indianapolis, it was to an unreached people group in North Africa.

James Amar, lead pastor of Elim Church International in Atlanta, spoke at the Myanmar annual meeting about the spiritual needs of people in Myanmar and of Myanmar immigrants in the U.S.

Of the 149 people groups in Myanmar, 52 as yet have not been reached with the Gospel, or about 83 percent of that nation’s nearly 55 million residents.

People from 93 of Myanmar’s people groups live in the U.S., and 44 of those are as yet unreached by the gospel, Amar continued.

“The purpose of my presentation was to encourage the Myanmar churches to participate in mission work where we come from and to invest in kingdom work,” said Amar, who also serves as treasurer of the Myanmar fellowship. 

Burmese residents began emigrating soon after the first of its civil wars started in 1948, but “the large number of Burmese refugees start moving to USA since 1996 from Guam, Malaysia, Thailand and India,” Amar later told Baptist Press. “The largest populations [of Myanmar immigrants] are in Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, and Oklahoma.”

Tinpaul Kawbawi, a member at Zotung Baptist Church in Baltimore, Md., and general secretary of the Zotung Chin Baptist Association, led in a “mass prayer” for Myanmar and its people world-wide. A mass prayer is when everyone voices their prayer aloud at the same time.

Also at the annual meeting, a “memorandum of understanding” was signed by leaders of Judson Bible College, a Myanmar school, and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

“The MBCUSA recognizes Judson Bible College as an institution that follows the Baptist Faith and Message,” Mang said. “The MBCUSA leadership team visited Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and initiated an affiliation between the two.”

Several SBC leaders, including SBC President Bart Barber; Greg Mann, director of the IMB Asian Pacific affinity group; Aslam Masih from the North American Mission Board; Gateway Seminary President Adam Groza; SEBTS Asian director Minwoo Jang; Charles Grant Jr, associate vice president for Convention Advancement and Relations with the SBC Executive Committee; Asian Baptist leader Peter Yanes; and Asian NextGen leaders, brought greetings to the Myanmar gathering, and Victor Chayasirisobhon preached from 1 Peter 4:8 about the greatness of God who brings unity through his love.

Chayasirisobhon, of Thai descent, who today is director of missions for the Orange County Southern Baptist Association in California spoke of long-time strife between two Asian nations.

“Myanmar and Thailand are historic enemies,” he said. “They [Burmese] burned our capitol [when the country was still called Siam] and it is now a historic world site that only bats live in.”

God desires that all Christians love each other with an intense love that is above culture, politics, denominations and personal opinion, Chayasirisobhon continued.

“Intense love is a deep love that bonds people together with each other through God,” the California leader said. “Hold fast to this love that covers historic pain, heals scars and allows us to work together for a better tomorrow as a family.

“We can do it because God is with us.” 

Officers last year were elected to a two-year term and Mang for a 5-year term.

People from Myanmar also were present at the All Asian Kickoff Celebration, ministers’ wives luncheon, the pastors’ conference, all sessions of the SBC’s annual meeting, in the exhibit hall with a Myanmar station at the All Nations area across from the CP stage, and Mang was one of the participants during a panel discussion on the Cooperative Program.

“The Cooperative Program is the way we work together,” Mang said. “We have to work together to have progress for the Kingdom of God.”