Building inclusive communities encouraged during retreat for pastors with ministry to Burma refugees, immigrants
Building inclusive communities was the focus of the “Together in Ministry [TIM] Retreat for American Baptist Churches USA Pastors Ministering to the Burma Diaspora Community” April 23-25, 2012, at the National Christian Conference Center, Valley Forge, Pa. Sponsored by a partnership of American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) and the Ministers Council, and supported by the Burma Refugees Task Force, this TIM retreat was the second one tailored to pastors who minister to immigrants and refugees from Burma, now known as Myanmar.
“Let’s find a way for Chin, Karen and American Baptist pastors to work together,” stressed Dr. Joe Kutter, executive director of the Ministers Council, adding, “Calendar-permitting, I will meet you anywhere to have that conversation.”
The event featured a panel presentation about Burma refugees’ journey to America.
“The retreat was very good and provided a way for people to come to know each other,” says the Rev. Biak Mang, pastor of Myanmar Christian Church of Greater Chicago. “I learned about the Karen Christians in Thailand and in the Karen State inside Burma, who are different than the Karen Christians in Rangoon.”
Karen and Chin pastors, along with pastors of churches that host immigrant congregations, discussed issues that cause confusion in ministry in these cross-cultural settings.
“The retreat was helpful to our Karen leaders. We learned how to connect with other churches and build relationship,” says the Rev. Hsa Moo, pastor of First Karen Baptist Church, St. Paul, Minn. “It’s important for us to learn that, in order to stay in the United States.”
The Rev. Saw Ler Htoo, pastor of Calvary Burmese Baptist Church, Washington, D.C., presented a case study that highlighted cultural differences between Karen and American marriage practices and the conflicts that can occur when these values clash.
“I learned cultural aspects I didn’t know before—aspects that I really need to know to minister to Karen people,” says the Rev. Karen Sensenig, pastor of Habecker Mennonite Church, Lancaster, Pa.
The Rev. Rollin Van Bik, pastor of Lai Baptist Church, Gaithersburg, Md., presented a case study on how Chin funeral rites and practices can result in misunderstandings and conflicts with neighbors. Pastors are called upon to help resolve these conflicts, while trying to minister to grieving families.
The Rev. Dr. Brenda Halliburton, ABHMS national coordinator of Intercultural Ministries and black churches strategist, shared a presentation about “Building Inclusive Communities.”
“Brenda’s presentation on how to be intercultural gave us a foundation on how to build inclusive communities, and her exercises helped us begin to do it, while Joe Kutter’s style of interactive informal Bible and worship added much to our time,” says the Rev. Carol McVetty, co-pastor, North Shore Baptist Church, Chicago. “We learned much in having cases presented by ethnic pastors. I have learned and grown at this retreat. It is the most important continuing education I have participated in the last two years.”
The Rev. Aundreia Alexander, ABHMS national coordinator of Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services, spoke about grant opportunities to support churches ministering to refugees and immigrants.
For more information, contact the Rev. Rothang Chhangte, ABHMS liaison for Burma refugees, at Rothang.Chhangte@abhms.org or 1-800-222-3872, x2426.
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