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The Next Chapter of an Ongoing Story

At the end of August, we shared an inspiring service of worship in the company of many Burmese Christians. The sermon was shared in both languages, and several remarked about how the experience confirmed the unity of the church that comes by the power of the Holy Spirit. That promise is ours to claim or pass over. I am so glad we claimed it!

The Burmese Christian Congregation at Yates has been meeting for some time on Sunday afternoons in the Fellowship Hall. As time has passed, we have found ways to work together for common ministry. For instance, the children of the Burmese Christian Congregation attend Sunday School with Yates as well as participate in the English language services on Sunday mornings. When the Burmese Congregation felt led toward a weekend of revival, Yates Baptist Church was able to support their vision with hospitality and space. This is what we do for one other as sisters and brothers in Christ.

The relationship between Burmese and Baptists is not a new one. In fact, the missional relationship between Baptists in America and the Burmese is among the oldest in the history. As the worship service unfolded on August 28, 2022, I couldn’t help but think about a young married couple named Adonirum and Ann Hasseltine Judson who set out on mission to India all the way back in 1812.

The Judsons were Congregationalists who carefully studied the baptismal positions of the English Baptists over their four-month journey to east. By the time they arrived at Calcutta, they found that their convictions aligned most fully with Baptist principles and were baptized by William Carey upon their arrival. The Judsons resigned their commission from the agency that sent them and helped lay the groundwork for the creation of a Baptist mission society in the United States. However, political events in India necessitated a hasty exit from their newly established presence in India, so the Judsons sailed to Burma.

The story of the Judsons’ evangelistic mission in Burma is an incredible story of adversity, imprisonment, disease, courage, resiliency and creativity. It would take too much space to capture it all in this short article. What I remembered on Sunday was the passionate love the Judsons held for the Burmese people and the deep dive they made into the life, culture and traditions of the Burmese. I think it was the same ethic that the Apostle Paul once shared with the church in Corinth:

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

The Judsons are remembered by Burmese Christians as the people who brought the Bible to Burma. They labored to translate the life-giving word of Scripture to a language and a people who had never before heard it. In fact, when Ann died in 1826 (when she was about 38 years old), the last words on her lips were Burmese. Such was the way the Gospel knit her to the people she was called to serve.

How wondrous, then, to hear the Scriptures read in Burmese in our Baptist church, and to remember that this was not new. Instead, it was the next chapter in a story of relationship that’s been written for over two centuries. Can you imagine the Judsons in that cloud of witnesses seeing Yates on Sunday? Can you hear them cheering on the work?

We never know how the service we offer in Christ’s name and for his sake will continue to unfold across time. Someone may plant a seed, another may water it, but it is God who gives the growth. What remains for us is the call to respond when we are sent out into the world to make disciples. Let us continue to be faithful to the task and be a part of the story of faith, hope, love and salvation God is writing through us.

Grace & Peace,

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