November 9, 2015

Saints Among Us


            I had the privilege of presenting Ministry Studies Certificates to 30 Karen in Portland, OR, yesterday afternoon.  These learners have completed 14 courses in Bible, church administration, conflict transformation, and congregational leadership, among others.  Some have driven 6-8 hours each way to be a part of this very practical learning experience.  I am astonished by their commitment and grateful for it.  No wonder the host church was packed to the rafters!

            Usually when I offer a message at one of these occasions, I use Paul’s ringing exhortation:
  . . .  be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
The investment they have made in these studies will bear enduring fruit.

            Duane and Marcia Binkley have organized six of these FOUNDATIONS Judson Communities around the country, and 243 persons have completed certificates.  Several of these learners are already serving as pastors, but they come and encourage members of the churches to participate alongside them.  This makes for a rich shared learning, and together they strengthen their congregations.
            One pastor gave his testimony at the graduation ceremony, recounting the real suffering that had driven his family from their land in Burma (Myanmar), their harsh time in a refugee camp, and their eventual immigration to the US.  He gave thanks to God for preserving their lives and for giving them a new land.  Many in the congregation nodded appreciatively; it was their story, too.  They attribute their resilience to the power of the Spirit.

            The Binkleys know and love Karen people, and they make these celebratory events the very finest occasions possible.  From ordering robes to preparing gifts to arranging the sanctuary to photographing the event, they go the extra mile in serving these eager learners.  Lovingly they support and encourage them as they make their way in their adopted homeland, finding ways to preserve a much of their culture as they can while doing the hard word of assimilation.

            Central is uniquely positioned to collaborate in leadership development initiatives with people of Myanmar—both those remaining there and those resettled here.  Indeed, we have greater credibility as a seminary because we work with both constituencies.  In some instances, we are the interface between varied forms of ministry preparation, which not only involves Myanmar Institute of Theology, but those Bible colleges where Doctor of Ministry graduates teach, and those equipped to serve as instructors here in FOUNDATIONS.
            I count the Binkleys as saints among us, and through their important work I am meeting other saints whose lives bear the light of Christ.  The Judsons’ legacy continues, and Central helps extend their faithful work.

            Molly T. Marshall

Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.

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