RICHMOND, Va. (BP) – As new International Mission Board missionaries gathered for a special commissioning service near Richmond on Dec. 7, six representatives of the Myanmar Baptist Churches USA fellowship traveled from Maryland. They were on-site to support one couple who represents a historic milestone for the Southern Baptist Convention.
The latest group of newly trained IMB missionaries includes 108 adults and 41 children ready to take the Gospel to people in 37 countries. Among this group are the first Southern Baptist missionaries sent through IMB by the new Myanmar Baptist Churches USA fellowship, which conducted its first meeting at the 2023 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in New Orleans in June.
In one sense, this Burmese American missionary couple represents Southern Baptist missions “coming full circle,” said IMB President Paul Chitwood, referencing one of the first Baptist missionaries from America, Adoniram Judson, who took the Gospel to Burma (modern-day Myanmar) in 1812.
Representing the cross-cultural heart of the Myanmar fellowship, the missionary couple commissioned Dec. 7 will be taking the Gospel to North Africa. They are being sent by Falam Christian Church of Indianapolis, where Hre Mang serves as senior pastor. Mang also is the executive director of Myanmar Baptist Churches USA.
“Today takes on a new significance as it marks a milestone,” said Chitwood, sharing the words of Adoniram Judson as recorded in the book To the Golden Shore, as he reflected upon the sacrifices required of his missionary service and the results he hoped for.
Judson said: “The poor Burmans are entirely destitute of those consolations and joys which constitute our happiness; and why should we be unwilling to part with a few fleeting, inconsiderable comforts, for the sake of making them sharers with us in joys exalted as heaven, durable as eternity! We cannot expect to do much, in such a rough, uncultivated field; yet, if we may be instrumental in removing some of the rubbish, and preparing the way for others, it will be a sufficient reward. I have been accustomed to view this field of labor, with dread and terror; but I now feel perfectly willing to make it my home the rest of my life.”
“Judson and his family answered God’s call and did the work God called them to do,” Chitwood said. “What does that have to do with December 7, 2023? Today marks the first time in history that Burmese Southern Baptist churches here in the U.S. will send out missionaries through the IMB to foreign fields,” he said to the applause of those in attendance at the commissioning.
“Because Judson and others went to the Golden Shore to share the Gospel, believers today, in a round-about way, go from the Golden Shore to take the Gospel to others so they, too, can be ‘sharers with us in joys exalted as heaven, durable as eternity!’ So today we celebrate this ‘full circle’ of Baptist missions.”
Before the service, the new missionary couple welcomed supporters from the Myanmar fellowship who made the journey south to Virginia as a show of support for the new Burmese American missionaries and to learn more about how they also can send cross-cultural missionaries through the IMB. The group included pastors Cin Do Thawng, George Cin Za Mang, and Thuam Cin Khai, as well as Khai Cin Pau, Thawng Hauzelal, and Mang Lamh Huam-Khai.
“It is an honor to be here, and very important,” said Cin Do Thwang, pastor of Sizang Burmese Mission Church in Catonsville, Md. “God has been working in this way for over 200 years. And God is still doing great things through Burmese people.
“We have a heart for missions. The American missionary had a heart for Burmese people, and now Burmese people need to send others to the nations, too.”
Pastor Thuam Cin Khai, pastor of Siyin Chin Baptist Church in Laurel, Md., encourages other Burmese American Baptists to connect with the IMB to learn more about how to partner and send missionaries to the nations, building on Judson’s legacy. In addition to his senior pastor role, Khai is president of the Myanmar Baptist Churches USA, and president of Judson Bible College.
“We need to connect with our Baptist heritage,” Khai said. “The lessons Adoniram Judson left us are living among us, and we would like to share that with other people. The next generation of Burmese Baptists needs to understand the Great Commission — and they need to respond to the Great Commission. We don’t want the Burmese Baptist heritage to end with us. We want the next generation to carry it.”
For IMB’s first Burmese American Southern Baptist missionaries, the on-site support from the Maryland churches was a welcome surprise on their commissioning day. The couple noted that Myanmar — their family’s homeland — was once an unreached nation until Judson and others took the Gospel there.
“Now we have a chance to go to an unreached nation,” they said. “We will carry on that vision.”
If you represent a Burmese American church who would like to connect with IMB in partnership, email [email protected].
The work of the IMB is made possible through generous giving to the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®. During this Lottie Moon season, please consider sending and supporting more missionaries like the ones preparing to go now.
The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® is a registered trademark of Woman’s Missionary Union.
Julie McGowan is AVP of Public Relations and Corporate Communications for the IMB.