VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 11/22/13)—“This was an historic, precedent-setting trip from start to finish!” said Ann and Bruce Borquist, of their recent teaching trip to Myanmar—a visit made more significant by the Myanmar Baptist Convention’s recent request to renew and expand its partnership with American Baptist International Ministries (IM).
The Borquists—IM missionaries who currently serve in Brasília, Brazil—recently told of the enthusiastic response they received during their month-long visit to Myanmar in August 2013. Their work there was sponsored by IM, Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand and the Myanmar Baptist Convention, and was done in coordination with IM’s partner the Convenção Batista Nacional do Brasil.
“This was God bringing together our partners in an amazing way, a living parable of the Body of Christ working together,” said Ann. “We received so many comments and warm hand shakes from our brothers and sisters in Myanmar saying ‘we’re so glad you’re here.’ Prayer times often included thanks to God for our presence and American Baptist Churches’ long relationship with them.”
In many ways, it was a pastoral visit of encouragement and solidarity, communicating the message: “American Baptists are with you. We haven’t forgotten you. We haven’t been able to do a lot with you for the past 40+ years (since all missionaries were expelled from the country in 1966). But we are delighted to be able to walk closely with you again.”
Bruce and Ann’s visit came during a year of celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the Adoniram and Ann Judson’s arrival in Burma in 1813. This sparked the 1814 formation of the Triennial Convention of the Baptists of the United States (today, American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, currently known as International Ministries).
Social Entrepreneurship and National Development
In Yangon, the Borquists taught an intensive course called “Social Entrepreneurship for NGO Leaders” at the request of Payap University located in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In another “first,” the event was hosted by the Royal Thai Embassy at invitation of the Ambassador himself.
This event marked the first foray outside of Thailand for Payap University—a Christian school eager to extend its reach to provide services in Myanmar and throughout South East Asia.
In the Social Entrepreneurship course, Bruce and Ann offered practical steps to develop a business that creates social benefits as well as financial profit. Course participants included leaders from 11 Christian and secular organizations, including the International Refugee Committee (IRC) and Karen Baptist women’s organizations related to the Myanmar Baptist Convention.
“People were really excited and inspired,” said Ann. Some participants said they would be able to immediately apply these principles to their own businesses. Others, especially those in teaching positions, said ‘this is this is fantastic because now I can pass this on to my students.’
“And our colleague from the IRC (the International Refugee Committee) is considering the possibility of offering this kind of training to refugees in camps on the border between Myanmar and Thailand.”
The Myanmar government expressed enthusiastic support for the course. Dr. Aung Tun Thet—chairperson of the country’s National Economic and Social Advisory Council—told the students during the opening ceremony that “Social Entrepreneurship is a tool that could transform the country.”
The Rev. Stan Murray, IM’s area Director for Southeast Asia and Japan echoed the importance of this training: “The infrastructure is very poor due to so many years of being a closed country, so this kind of ethical training is critical.”
Cross-cultural missionary training and next steps
While in Myanmar, Ann and Bruce also taught short courses for the MBC’s “Basic Evangelism and Mission Training” course for national cross-cultural missionaries. They presented modules in servant leadership, spiritual journeys and evangelism and discipleship to a group of 24 pastors and missionaries representing at least six ethnic groups in the Convention.
In addition, they were invited to preach at eight different churches and seminaries. “In each case,” they said, “we sensed a great deal of warmth, as if we were part of a long awaited family reunion.”
In a meeting with the General Secretary of the Myanmar Baptist Convention, Dr. Kim Yam Kho Pau, Ann and Bruce reported that he reiterated his desire to renew a “hands on” partnership with IM.
Dr. Pau extended the first formal invitation to IM to return to Myanmar at the American Baptist Church’s 2013 Mission Summit/Biennial in Overland Park, Kansas. “Dr. Pau is thinking of bringing international partners to be physically there in Myanmar to cooperate more closely with its member conventions on their various ministries, from church planting to evangelism to cooperatives and women’s shelters,” Ann reported.
Preparing for 200th Anniversary Celebration
In the meantime, preparations are nearly complete for the year-end celebration marking the 200th anniversary of Adoniram and Ann Judson’s arrival in what was then called ‘Burma.’
“At the end of August when we were there, one coordinator mentioned that they already had 10,000 people signed up for the celebration – which is taking place in December,” said Bruce.
“They’ll probably get twice as many people,” he added. “Everyone is looking forward to celebrating this historic moment, which will include worship services, ethic dance and music programs, handicraft programs and more. They are making huge preparations to receive foreign visitors and representatives of churches from all over the country.”
American Baptist International Ministries is a Christian mission organization connecting U.S. churches and individuals to holistic ministries around the world. Organized in 1814, IM is the first Baptist mission agency formed in North America. It serves more than 1,800 short- and long-term missionaries annually, bringing U.S. and Puerto Rico churches together with partners in over 70 countries to share the good news of Jesus Christ in word and action.
American Baptist Churches USA 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.