It you have traveled across Asia in recent years, you will notice that Asia has growing rapidly. Many cities are crammed, congestion of vehicles have become the new order, thousands of people crowd the streets like an endless stream of water flowing through a narrow canal.
According to World Population Data sheet, the population of the world as of 2019 is 7.7 billion people. Of which Asia has grown to 4.6 billion people with an increase in the past 10 years from 4.1 billion in 2010. Asia is considered the largest and most populous of earth's continents comprising a full 30% of the world's land area with 60% of the world's current population (populationof.net).
The challenge for Asians as our population keep increasing therefore is both a challenge and an opportunity. More people mean there are also more opportunities out in our doorstep to present the gospel. Despite all these challenges of population growth one must thank God that there has been substantial growth of believers in countries like India, Myanmar and China with the potential of millions of Baptists in Asia who can bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. And, indeed God is actively working in the Asia Pacific and Baptists in particular must take this opportunity to activate the work of missions. We must realize this is an opportune time to unite, gather our resources and work together to fulfill the Great Commission our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has entrusted us. Here are some glimpse of God's work in Asia.
BAPTISTS IN THE LAND OF DIVERSITIES - INDIA
The tag line for Indian tourism is 'Incredible India'. As a sub-continent in itself rightly so India is incredible. A mosaic of culture, religion and ethnicities of people India is truly a land of diversities. A glimpse of this uniqueness however was witnessing the unity of Baptists at the 2nd India Baptist Summit where all these people from all over India came to worship God and fellowship together. The India Baptist Summit whose purpose was to foster unity among the Baptist Churches in India brought around 2000 Baptists Pastors and leaders in the city of Hyderabad from October 3-7, 2019.
A strong APBF delegation - Rev. Edwin Lam, President, Mr. Bijoy Sangma, Vice President, Rev. Dr. Bobby Lee, Co-opted Member and Rev. Dr. Vee Tetseo, General Secretary came to support the India Baptist Summit in Hyderabad. According to the Summit Handbook, India has about 5 million Baptist making it the second largest Christian denomination in India. The Summit ended with a high note that a united India Baptists can be a force that can be unstoppable when each Baptist will carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to its villages, towns and cities. The vision for the proclamation of the gospel has been undeniably felt and at the heart of every Indian. While Christians continue to face persecution, hundreds and thousands of churches are keeping their faith alive, strong and growing amidst the circumstances! Pray for Indian Baptist's as they take the gospel to the nation! The India Baptist Summit organizers have done an excellent job so did the initiative of the American Baptist Churches, USA for partnering with the India Baptist Summit! International invitees from Nepal, Hongkong, Korea, Singapore and delegates from the Board of International Ministries USA also joined the Summit.
The brief outcome of the Summit can be best reflected in their four-fold Resolution:
1. To form "National Council of Baptist Churches in India/National Baptist Union of India" to promote fellowship and common Christian witness in the changing world.
2. To strengthen networking of human rights advocacy especially of Christian lawyers, mobilizing resources and training on religious freedom, and other common life-threatening issues.
3. To strengthen and support the Commissions on Women and Youth in their programs on capacity building and empowerment.
4. To create a Commission of Mission and Evangelism in the ministries of IMCC to strengthen our common witness in fulfilling the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.
BAPTISTS IN THE LAND OF SMILES - THAILAND
Winding the India Baptist Summit, the second leg of APBF ministry visit for the General Secretary was to visit Thailand to prepare for the May 12-13, 2020 APBF Leader's Summit in Bangkok, Thailand. This will be held at the historic church located in the iconic town called China Town in Bangkok. The church is called Maitrichit Chinese Baptist Church. Rev. Rawee Bunupuradah, Missionary with Maitrichit Church reports that MCBC is the oldest diaspora Chinese congregation in the world and arguably the oldest surviving Baptist church in Asia. The church was originally founded in Bangkok, Thailand by missionaries recruited and sent from Rev. Adoniram M. Judson ministries in Burma. Upon arrival, they found Gospel receptivity amongst Teochew speaking Chinese in Bangkok and in 1837 with 11 members the American Baptist Mission Board ordained the founding of this church.
Maitrichit Chinese Baptist Church is now located in the iconic Chinatown district of Bangkok. Rev. Rawee Bunupuradah, adds, "Over 180 years later, God's work has brought growth. Maitrichit by God's grace has become a large family focused on God's word and God's mission. From its humble beginnings as a church of 11 members, now, Maitrichit has over 5000 members. Moreover, with thanksgiving, the Maitrichit Church Network numbers 26 churches, 29 church plants/mission posts, 105 ordained ministers, and 41 missionaries."
The APBF Leaders Summit will also give Baptists in the Asia Pacific the chance to witness the tremendous work of our Baptist missionaries like Adoniram Judson and the rich heritage of mission work in Thailand.
BAPTIST CONVENTIONS IN DISTRICT OF CHIANG MAI, THAILAND
Baptist conventions affiliated to APBF in located in Chiang Mai are Thailand Karen Baptist Convention and Thailand Lahu Baptist Convention. What a blessing it was to re-connect with Bro. Prateep Dee who is the General Secretary of Thailand Karen Baptist Convention. A 5 hour pleasant drive in a simply scenic beauty to visit Moosehkii, one of the 12 associations of TKBC was refreshing.
Bro. Prateep Dee reports that the gospel reached the Karens in Thailand on January of 1881 with its first Baptism taking place on April of 1881. The first Karen Baptist church (Baan Nok) was established in February, 1882. Thailand Karen Baptist Convention which was established in 1955 is celebrating their 64th year.
There are 500,000 Sgaw and Pwo Karen in Thailand of which 20% of them are Christians. Of the plan to establish 211 mother churches by the end of 2019, the TKBC is full of praise to God for establishing 218 mother churches with 449 active daughter churches. (Daughter churches are a congregation of more than 30, less than 50 members and without a church building). TKBC hopes to add another 2000 baptized members to an already 38,500 baptized members.
Thailand Lahu Baptist Convention is also headquartered in Chiang Mai. Thailand Lahu Baptist Convention (TLBC) We have 87 churches and 25 evangelic communities (EC). These churches and EC are divided into 7 areas/districts. The Thailand Lahu Baptist Convention has 15,931 Baptized believers.
Do remember the Executive Members of Thailand Lahu Baptist Convention. They are Rev. Suradej Visuthichon, President, Mr. Phanthawat Akkharasiriwanna, Vice President, Mr. Pricha Duangsaeng, General Secretary and Mr. Philip Singkor, who serves as the Treasurer. Thailand Lahu Baptist Convention and Thailand Karen Baptist Convention shares the same office building.
BAPTISTS IN THE LAND OF THE GOLDEN PAGODAS - MYANMAR
The final leg of APBF visit was with the Myanmar Baptist Convention. Significant to this visit besides a full day meeting with Myanmar Baptist Convention leaders, was the visit to Naypyitaw, the capital of Myanmar to meet with the government leaders of the Republic of Union of Myanmar and pray for them; to encourage the process of democracy in Myanmar; to pray for the government to ensure freedom of religious expression for Christians and other religions.
Union of Myanmar is a country in South East Asia with a population of 51.4 million. It is a multi- racial country of 135 national races with Barnar being the majority. While there is a presence of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and traditional faiths Buddhism is the main religion with 89.9% adherents.
After five decades of military rule the present civilian government came into power in Myanmar after landmark elections in 2015 but the country's complex ethnic internal conflicts which dates back to the end of British colonization of Burma are so complex that the present government's attempt to resolve the conflicts has not been very fruitful. Although some rebel groups have signed a cease-fire deal under the leadership of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, there are still many groups whose underlying conflicts have made it impossible for dialogue. Efforts for peacebuilding continue among the ethnic armed groups as nationwide ceasefire initiated by the government hangs on a tightrope.
At the backdrop of all this the delegation of APBF (Asia Pacific Baptist Federation, Asia Baptist Women's Union and Myanmar Baptist Convention) was honored to be allowed the audience of the State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at her residence. On a cordial note she mentioned since her grandfather was a Baptist she was happy and pleased to meet Baptist leaders of the APBF at her residence. She acknowledged the work of the Baptists around the world and encouraged Baptists to be more united both in Myanmar and in the Asia Pacific. She lamented that her government who are still working hard towards the process of full democracy in Myanmar needs more cooperation internationally and locally. She confided she believes in prayer and therefore requested the APBF to remember her, the government and the nation in prayers. The cordial meeting ended with Rev. Edwin Lam, calling upon God for her, the nation of Myanmar and her government. The APBF is grateful to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for giving an hour of her valuable time to meet with the APBF delegation.
Besides meeting with the State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the APBF delegation met with two prominent Baptist who are leaders in the government of the Republic of Union of Myanmar. They are Mr. T. Khun Myat-Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, Speaker of Assembly of the Union of Myanmar and House of the Representatives and Mr. Mahn Win Khaing Than - Amyotha Hluttaw, Speaker of House of Nationalities. The APBF delegation was cordially received at their office.
MYANMAR BAPTIST CONVENTION
Myanmar is considered the second largest country in South East Asia in terms of land mass. It is a beautiful, mineral rich country which is also home to more than 2 million Baptists.
Myanmar Baptist Convention is the largest body that represents most Baptists to the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation and Baptist World Alliance. According to website of Myanmar Baptist Convention the first Baptist mission to Burma was through English Baptists missionaries Dr. Felix Carey (Eldest son of William Carey who served as medical doctor) and Chater who began mission work as early as 1807.
Due to difficulties in their mission work and making no progress both Chater and Dr. Felix Carey left the mission soon after the arrival of the Judsons and passed on them. The Protestant mission work therefore is dated with the arrival of the American Baptist missionary couple, Dr. Adoniram and Mrs. Ann Judson on July 13, 1813.
The Judsons were the first American Protestant missionaries to reach Myanmar. They learned Burmese, and by 1816 Adoniram was fluent enough to preach and began translating the Bible. (His translation, along with his Burmese -English dictionary, is still in use today.) Myanmar Baptist Convention records:
The Judsons preached the gospel for many years before the first convert Maung Naw who was baptized in 1819. The gospel spread very slowly among the Barnar Buddhists but was joyously accepted by the Kayin, Kachin, Chin and other ethnic minorities who adhered to traditional faiths. The rapidly growing number of Christians finally led to the formation of the Burma Baptist Missionary Convention on 15th December, 1865, later known as Burma Baptist Convention and today as Myanmar Baptist Convention (MBC).
Myanmar Baptist Convention is a body of Baptists from 14 language based Conventions (Akha, Asha Chin Chin, Chin, Kachin, Kayin, Lahu, Lisu, Mon, Myanmar, Naga, Pwo Kayin, Shan, Tedim, Wa), 4 Regional Conventions (Northern Shan, Southern Shan, Shweli Shan, Rakihne State) and two direct affiliate churches, Immanuel Baptist Church and Judson Church. Myanmar Baptist Convention has 18 conventions, 119 associations, 4951 churches and 2420 mission fields.
While Buddhism claims 89.9 % adherents, World Watch Monitor suggests that 'Christianity remains the most popular religion in Myanmar.' Christianity has grown to 6.2% (More than 3 million) compared to 4.2% in 1983. World Watch Monitor reports that half of Myanmar's three million Christians live in the states of Shan, Kachin and Chin. According to the 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census, Youths between 15-35 years makes a third of the population at 35.58%. Pray for the Baptist Youths in Myanmar that they will be the bridge and carrier of the gospel to the majority Buddhists in Myanmar.