During my recent sabbatical I had the privilege of traveling with faculty, staff and D.Min. students from Central Baptist Theological Seminary (CBTS) to Myanmar. CBTS has established a dynamic relationship with the Myanmar Institute of Theology (MIT) in Yangon. One might ask why such a relationship is so important that a U.S. based seminary and a Myanmar based seminary would do the hard work of creating a cooperative program. (CBTS and MIT have cooperated at both the M.Div. and D.Min. levels.)
The answer is likely in the reason why I asked to accompany the group. My own ministry within the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin is multi-cultural and has been heavily influenced in recent years by Chin and Karen Baptists who have settled in Wisconsin and established Baptist congregations here. The world has been coming to the U.S. for a long time—my European ancestors came over 100 years ago. In my early years of full-time ministry, Cuban refugees we welcomed to the faith community I was serving.
Through the years “God’s world of magnificent differences”—a phrase coined by a ministry college in early years—has provided an on-going cross-cultural experience. It is my belief training and experiences through such programs as CBTS is providing are vital to the building up of the community of faith with all its “magnificent differences” we have here in the U.S.
To sit in a classroom and hear CBTS and MIT students share case studies from their context it became clear many issues are similar but different cultures react in different ways in seeking the mind of Christ. In exploring pastoral counseling in a cross cultural experience it was apparent it is only possible for each of us to have a broad understanding of how to respond appropriately and meaningfully if we spend time learning from one another.
Myanmar with its rich Baptist heritage dating back to 1813 when Ann and Adoniram Judson arrived is an ideal setting for cross-cultural explorations. My own interactions were primarily outside of the classroom as I met with Chin Baptists who had family ties to Wisconsin Chin Baptists!
Studying together, praying together, singing together, talking together…every facet of the Myanmar experience built deeper relationships and deeper understandings which will lead to more effective ministry and a more healthy response to new persons who come to our shores and to our churches.
Arlo Reichter, Executive Minister, American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin