March 9, 2013

Praying for Burma

           March 10th is the Global Day of Prayer for Burma, and I want to invite Central’s many friends to join me in praying for that progressing, yet still beleaguered nation.  As ABC/CBF missionary Duane Binkley observes, “Positive changes have occurred over the past months at a blistering pace and there is a feeling of hope for much of Burma that has long been absent.”  While we are hopeful as we read the news, we are also aware that conflict remains in the far reaches of the northwest and mountainous north.
            On Tuesday of this coming week, Doctor of Ministry students and faculty head to Burma/Myanmar for seminars with their doctoral colleagues at Myanmar Institute of Theology.  Teaching the cohorts together, Dr. Heather Entrekin, Dr. Ruth Rosell, Dr. Jeff Woods, and I, along with faculty colleagues from MIT, will seek to foster rich intercultural conversation as it relates to congregational health.

            Before the classes begin, students from the US will have opportunity to visit Judson sites as well as Buddhist sites.  The stories of these two ways of faith are richly intertwined in the religious history of Burma.  When Aung San Suu Kyii visited the US this past year and addressed the Pan-Asian gathering, she recounted her mother’s experience in a girls’ school sponsored by American Baptists.  She said, “The Baptists respected the Burmese culture.”  My mother was grateful for her time among these kindly friends, she remarked.
            She also told of growing up with the “Judson Dictionary,” a labor of love that took Adoniram Judson thirty years to complete. Whereas Americans grew up with Webster, we grew up with Judson.  (She also laughed as she stumbled over pronouncing his first name; “that is an unusual name,” she chuckled.)  

            Once again, we go as pilgrims to Myanmar, eager to learn and experience what it means to be a religious minority in a land where Christian faith is an enduring presence for over 200 years.  Baptists there cannot escape challenges of religious pluralism, and they must hone their understanding of the incarnation of Christ against the backdrop of culturally imbedded Buddhism.
            Returning to the same place each year offers a deepening awareness and compassion of “the situation,” as our friends there put it.  While feeling powerless to effect much change on that political landscape, the very fact that we sustain these collaborations with our partner school reminds them they are not forgotten, and it calls us to humility as we think about the shape of the church there and at home.
            So pray for Burma/Myanmar tomorrow—and always.  Pray for Central pilgrims as we once again seek to enter into the realities of the lives of our sisters and brothers there. 

            Molly T. Marshall
Central cares deeply about global Christianity.  The church that is coming to be encircles the globe, and we have much to learn.  Visiting to learn with us.

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