Myanmar is the newest of nine Asian ethnic groups that have formally entered into a Southern Baptist fellowship, out of a total of 27 that worship in their cultural context within the Southern Baptist Convention.
The others, in alphabetical order, are Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Laotian and Vietnamese. Closely related: Native Americans, believed by many to have come from Asia.
The Myanmar Baptist Churches USA fellowship met June 12 in the New Orleans convention center, as part of activities related to the 2023 annual meeting of the SBC.
“Two hundred years ago Christianity came [to Burma with Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson] and yet now only 6 to 8% of the people are Christian,” said National Coordinator Hre Mang of Indianapolis. He told his listeners, members of the 128 Southern Baptist Myanmar churches across the United States, that they have the responsibility to reach their friends, neighbors and coworkers with the gospel as well as people still in Myanmar.
Later in the two-hour meeting, Mang was elected to a first five-year term as the Myanmar Fellowship’s executive director. Thuam Cin Khai, Ph.D., pastor of Siyin Chin Baptist Church in Laurel, Maryland, was elected to a two-year term as president. The Fellowship’s bylaws were approved as printed.
Mang thanked Peter Yanes for his help in getting the fellowship started.
Yanes, the SBC Executive Committee’s associate vice president of Asian relations and mobilization, said he was glad to be a part of the Myanmar Baptist Churches USA inaugural gathering.
The men prayed and planned for three years in the formation of the Myanmar fellowship, Mang said.
Yanes said Mang taught him “much” about the many ethnic groups in Myanmar, previously known as Burma, after one of its minority ethnic groups.
“We believe by coming together we can do more,” Yanes said. “We are here to serve, to lead, to bring positive change to Southern Baptist life. We now have 32 ethnic fellowships and networks” also including Black and Hispanic groups.
The Asian Collective met June 11 for the second year as a combined “Kickoff” for the next year of activities. Representatives from at least eight of the SBC’s 27 Asian language groups were present for the three-hour event.
“We are in a new day of unifying, of becoming one,” Yanes said. “We want to hear Asian voices being heard throughout the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Leaders from several SBC entities spoke about what they could contribute to help the Asian groups meet their goals, including the SBC’s first vice-president, Victor Chayasirisobhon, who closed the gathering in prayer.
In order of appearance, each of the following spoke to the nearly 200 present for the Asian Collective Kickoff gathering:
Jack Hunter, New Orleans Baptist Association executive director; Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Chu Soh, chief operations officer (COO) of GuideStone Financial Resources; Jeremy Sin, national church planting catalyst for the North American Mission Board; Ezra Bae, Asian church mobilization strategist for the International Mission Board; Minwoo Jang of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; John Barnett of the IMB; Minh Ha Nguyen, with the SBC’s Ethnic Research Network; Willie McLaurin, president and CEO of the SBC’s Executive Committee; Bart Barber, SBC president; and Ed Litton, former SBC president, speaking on behalf of himself and New Orleans Pastor Fred Luter, also a former SBC president, about the Unify Project set for that Monday night (June 12) to bring together people of all races.
On June 12, about 100 second-generation Asian pastors and their families gathered in the New Orleans convention center for the second annual Asian Collective NextGen Pastors Network luncheon.
This gathering, for and led by English-speaking pastors, is to help bridge gaps that often exist between first-generation immigrant pastors most comfortable with the homeland’s ways, and their second-generation offspring, most comfortable with American ways.
Each of the luncheons was to have a general theme, said the Network’s two national coordinators, both California pastors: Hyung Lee and Terrence Shay.
“This is one of the best resources to … encourage fellow Asian pastors,” Shay said. “Encouraged pastors lead to encouraged churches, and encouraged churches lead to an encouraged convention.”
This year’s topic: Counseling in the local church and how it can be used in Asian contexts to equip, empower and encourage God’s people.
Deepak Reju, co-author of “The Pastor and Counseling: The Basics of Shepherding Members in Need,” and two other panelists discussed the subject.
Professional healthcare providers might give an hour a week to help a person through issues they struggle with, but a church has the capability of surrounding a person throughout the week, Reju said.
More than 100 people met June 12 in the convention center for the annual meeting of the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship of North America.
Though loosely organized in 1993 if not decades earlier, the Filipino Fellowship officially was founded in 2015. Dan Santiago has been its volunteer executive since then.
Meeting on June 12 presented historic opportunities because June 12 was the 125th anniversary of Filipino independence from Spain, Santiago told his listeners.
“Freedom is not free,” Santiago said. “Jesus died for our freedom.”
Singing the Filipino national anthem followed several praise songs, some of which were in Tagalog, a Filipino national language.
Praying for pastors
The Filipino Fellowship’s annual meeting included time for prayer “for the homeland. There are a lot of pastors struggling over there,” President Felix Sermon told his listeners.
Pablito “Lito” Lucas was elected president. He is pastor of Philippine International Christian Fellowship in Lakeland, Florida.
FoNAC, the Fellowship of Native American Christians, also met Monday, June 12, with attendance swollen by people who had talked with FoNAC members in the “One Peoples” booth area in the exhibit hall.
“I was encouraged by that,” Executive Director Gary Hawkins said. “They were people who wanted to learn more about ministry with Native Americans.”
Guest speaker was Mike Keahbone, an Oklahoma pastor who last year brought “Resolution 4” to the SBC annual meeting, which addressed the forced assimilation and conversion of Native peoples in the 1800’s and 1900s.
Arizona Pastor Jordan Kanuho continues another year as president. A regional gathering is to take place in September in Oklahoma, with additional ones possible for the Southeastern as well as Northeastern United States.