Hebrews 13:2 exhorts the faithful: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Over the past few days, Central has welcomed 26 refugee pastors from Myanmar (Burma)for two continuing education courses in Ministry Ethics and Baptist Polity. Dr. Maung Maung Yin, Vice-Principal of Myanmar Institute of Theology, whose sabbatical has been sponsored by Central, was one of the instructors. He taught in Burmese, the language understood by the majority of the 135 ethnic groups in Myanmar. Those who attended were primarily of Karen and Chin ethnicity, two major tribal groups in Myanmar (Burma). These pastors have suffered as internally displaced persons within Myanmar, moving from camp to camp along the border with Thailand; finally, they received permission to immigrate to the US. Some have been here for over a decade, others have been in the US for less than two years. Many of these pastors had completed theological studies in Bible colleges and schools, and a couple of them had completed seminary degrees. All but one had been ordained in their homeland and now were serving congregations stretched from Minnesota to Texas, Maryland to Arizona.
Approximately 17,000 refugees a year are coming from the beleaguered nation of Myanmar (Burma). The great majority of these who are coming are Baptists, the spiritual legacy of the Judsons who began their work in Burma in 1813. The refugees have suffered greatly as their villages have been burned, their homes and personal belongings destroyed (including records of their academic work). They have been forced to serve as porters for the military, walking long distances burdened by the gear of soldiers. Post-traumatic stress syndrome is common in their congregations as they seek to recover from inhumane treatment.
Working with American Baptist Home Mission Societies, Central is seeking to be of assistance to these leaders as they minister in new contexts with new challenges. As we shared meals (we finally cooked enough rice!) and worship, we discovered that these good brothers are “no longer strangers and aliens, but … members of the household of God” as are we. Indeed, we were blessed by these “angels,” messengers of God who taught us about deep faith and perseverance in the harshest of circumstances. Their joy in Christ is palpable, and they believe in a hopeful future in their new land.
Molly T. Marshall
To learn more about Central’s engagement in global Christianity, please visit our website www.cbts.edu