VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 7/2/13)—In a historic announcement, the General Secretary of the Myanmar Baptist Convention (MBC), the Rev. Dr. Yam Kho Pau, extended an invitation for American Baptist International Ministries (IM) to renew its ministry in Myanmar (Burma). This deeply moving event took place at the June 18-20 IM board of directors meeting. The meeting preceded the June 21-23 American Baptist Churches Mission Summit/Biennial in Overland Park, Kansas.
Two days later at the Mission Summit, Pau brought warm greetings to the approximately 650 guests attending the IM luncheon. The leader of the MBC concluded by reading a letter stating that Myanmar Baptists believe God is opening the door for IM to once again join them as co-laborers together in Myanmar.
The welcome invitation brought a storm of applause from those in attendance at the IM board meeting and at the ABC Mission Summit/Biennial events in which Pau presented. “I am deeply moved to see how the Lord has worked to sustain his people,” commented the Rev. Dr. Reid Trulson, IM executive director. “God has shown his enduring faithfulness to Christians in Burma even during their darkest decades. The followers of Jesus in Burma found strength in their faith and the Holy Spirit has added to their numbers in a remarkable way.”
One of the missionary alumni/ae present at the IM luncheon to hear Dr. Pau’s invitation was the Rev. Bryant Currier. Currier and his wife, Sara Jean, served in Burma for five years and were among the American Baptist missionaries expelled from the country in 1966 at the onset of military rule.
In a spontaneous gesture before a gathering of hundreds, Currier was invited to join Pau and Trulson on the platform as the invitation for American Baptists to return to Burma was announced to this broader audience.“It was a pivotal moment when past, present and future came together in a symbol of unity. What a joy!” recalled Trulson.
In a newsletter following their 1966 departure, Currier wrote, “Several days before we left Burma we called in the home of Samohlen Aye. He and his wife are in their eighties, and though their hair is white, there is still a bright sparkle in their eyes. After prayer with them he said,‘The kingdoms of this world will come and go, but the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ will never end.”
All Christian missionaries, including American Baptists, were expelled from Burma in 1966 in the early years of military rule. The country’s name was changed to Myanmar in 1989. During those difficult decades, the practice of Christianity was curtailed. Yet the number of people who accepted Christ continued to grow. Today, Myanmar, a predominately Buddhist country, has 1.6 million Baptist Christians and more than 4,700 churches.
The connection between Burmese Baptists and American Baptists includes a long and rich history. The first American Baptist missionaries on Burmese soil were Adoniram and Ann Judson in 1813. This year, American and Myanmar Baptists celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Judsons’ arrival in Burma.
Trulson plans to travel to Yangon, Myanmar in December 2013 for the MBC’s celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Judsons’ arrival in Burma. He anticipates meeting with Pau and other Baptist leaders at that time to further discuss the manner in which IM can work in partnership with Baptists in Myanmar in the future.
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 faith in Jesus, 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 is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.