December 6, 2013

Greeting the Baptists

            The great celebration has started, and many more have come than expected.  Is it possible to get too many Baptists together in one place?  We shall see.  We could hardly get near the building as the thronging crowds pressed close together, hoping to find entrance.  (I wondered if some might try to let folk down through the roof, as in Jesus’ time.) From all over the world—the expanse of the Baptist World Alliance—people have come to Yangon to acknowledge the enduring witness to the Gospel in this land.

           As we entered the grounds, we became minor celebrities as many sought to have their pictures taken with our tall, pale-skinned contingent.  We were taking pictures, too.  The colorful traditional dress and headpieces that identify the varied ethnic groups are visually stunning.  Earlier, some of our pilgrims encountered some Lisu women while visiting the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, and their red and blue and pink dresses and accessories are luminous.
            While the great hall is not quite complete, much progress has been made since last March when Central students visited it.  The reality that Baptists in Myanmar are self-governing and self-supporting is in full view as we see the preparations made to welcome their guests.  The logistical arrangements are staggering: construction, programming, hospitality, and transportation.  Normally, the streets of Yangon are glutted with traffic, and during these days, even more so.
            People are glad to be here!  Many have traveled long distances to attend this historic gathering, and it is like a huge family reunion.  I have already encountered one of the Doctor of Ministry students Central and MIT share.  I knew it was only a matter of time until I encountered some of these treasured friends, and it occurred on the first day.  I surely hope to greet others.
            Smiles are in abundance as people recognize their spiritual kin.  There are encounters that transcend language, and we have been a part of many today.  The hosts are especially solicitous of their guests and want to express their pleasure that so many have joined their celebration.  We sense deeply the truth that all are one in Christ Jesus.
            On Friday morning I will have opportunity to bring greetings to the assembly.  On behalf of Central, I will express our heartfelt congratulations on this bicentenary—most of us will only attend one!  I will speak of the collaborative work in leadership development with MIT.  Finally, I will draw attention to Central’s educational ministry with resettled refugees, through the Judson Communities.
            The program is crammed full of opportunities to reflect on heritage and give voice to the promise of the future.  I give thanks to God for unspeakable faithfulness in this remarkable land.

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