VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 2/22/12)—American Baptist International Ministries (IM) celebrates the life-changing visit to Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand just completed by a delegation from Central Baptist Seminary. From February 2-13, 16 pilgrims, including President Molly T. Marshall, Vice President John Gravley (former IM missionary to Hong Kong, China), and two more faculty/staff, as well as 10 master of divinity students from Central Baptist Theological Seminary, journeyed to Thailand and Myanmar (Burma).
IM Global Consultant Dan Buttry and his wife, Rev. Sharon Buttry, joined the group there. For the past three years, first-year master of divinity students in the create program have traveled to Myanmar to learn about the ministry of the people there. This opportunity has been made possible through a grant from the Luce Foundation. The students learn about the history of Baptist mission, experience firsthand the witness of Baptists today in the predominantly Buddhist culture, and gain a greater understanding of why so many refugees from this country are ending up in Baptist churches all over America.
The pilgrimage was also an opportunity to strengthen collaborative educational initiatives with the Myanmar Institute of Theology. This year included learning of the expansive work of the Myanmar Baptist Convention, an American Baptist mission partner whose roots go back to the first American Baptist missionaries, Adoniram and Ann Judson. The Judsons sailed for Asia almost exactly 200 years before Central’s current pilgrims boarded their flight to Bangkok.
While in Thailand the group visited sites in Bangkok to get a taste of the culture, attended worship at the Maitrichit Chinese Baptist Church (the oldest Chinese Baptist church in Asia), and visited the Than Him Burmese refugee camp on the Thai/Burma border. From there they journeyed to Burma, where they attended lectures and interacted with faculty and students at the Myanmar Institute of Theology in Yangon, visited Buddhist sites in Yangon and Bagan, and visited the Myanmar Baptist Convention and other historical sites related to the ministry of the Judsons.
Upon their return, in partnership with the Bethel Neighborhood Center, the students are completing 90 hours of volunteer service to assist Bethel’s ministry to the refugees from Burma now living in the Kansas City area. The desired outcome of the global immersion experience, and the further interaction with refugees from the place to which the students have just completed their journey, is transformation.
IM is excited to see the work that Central is doing to equip students–through coursework and immersion experiences such as these in Asia and Kansas City–to see the unity of Christ’s mission worldwide. In our globalized world, cross-cultural sensitivities and skills are crucial for ministry in every context. The call to cross-cultural boundaries for the sake of the gospel that carried the Judsons to Burma is just as vitally important in our day as in theirs… and perhaps, even more so!
American Baptist International Ministries was organized in 1814 as the first Baptist international mission agency in America. It began its pioneer mission work in Burma and today works in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas serving more than 1,800 long-term and short-term missionaries. Its central mission is to help people come to Christ, grow in their relationship with God, and change their worlds through the power of the Spirit. It works with respected partners in over 70 countries in ministries that meet human need.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with 5,500 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.