FOUNDATIONS Judson Communities Program Impacts Karen Baptist Churches in the US

On September 14 a new group of Karen refugees from Myanmar (Burma) will begin classes in the FOUNDATIONS Judson Communities (FJC) ministry certificate program.  This group will meet at First Baptist Church, a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship congregation in New Bern, NC.  This church makes the third new location to hold FJC classes this year.   The group which met at the first location in Fort Wayne, Indiana, graduated in May.  A second group which meets in Utica, New York, will finish in November.  Next year a fourth group will begin in St. Paul, Minnesota.

FOUNDATIONS Judson Communities_New Bern

The FJC program, led by ABC/CBF Missionaries Duane and Marcia Binkley working with Central, has had a significant impact on both the hosting churches and the churches of the ministry leaders taking the classes.:

In Fort Wayne Hti Mu, an elder member of the hosting Karen church, was eager to have the classes held there so the church members and leaders could be better trained and the church could grow.  She coordinated all the meals and housing for traveling students, found local resources when needed, helped keep the attendance records, and made sure the building was open at class times.  She also helped translate when needed and even helped pay the fees for some of the students so they could attend.  In every location where FJC classes are held, someone like Hti Mu makes it all possible, and the hosting church is blessed. 

Not only hosting churches have been impacted, however.  Students have travelled from Indianapolis and Logansport, IN; Milwaukee, WI; Bakersfield, CA; Syracuse,

Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Rome, Sauquoit, and Utica, NY; Hartford, CT; West Springfield, MA; and Winooski, VT, to participate in the ministry certificate program and then returned to their faith communities to share what they’ve learned. 

Gie Dor, the pastor of the Karen church in Hartford, CT, and his daughter Tawmu Ku drive about 4 hours to get to class in Utica, and, after the Saturday class ends at 5:00 p.m., head back to Hartford to lead services on Sunday.  Gie Dor hopes his children can get as much theological training as possible.  Tawmu Ku, a sophomore in college, sings in the English choir at church, participates in the bell choir, and is in the youth group. 

Nay Blut drove more than eight hours to Fort Wayne to attend classes and never missed a session.  His mother, who promised to raise him to be a servant of God, was eager to have Nay Blut participate in the program.  Nay Blut, aware of his mother’s promise and hope, was also eager to dedicate himself to the Lord’s work. He is quiet, but is recognized as a leader and was chosen by the other students to speak for them at the FJC graduation service in May.  He is active in his local church in Syracuse and leads the youth ministry and is applying what he learned in Ft. Wayne.  His parents are now themselves part of the program in Utica and have not missed a class.

Ne Blue Soe’s family helped pay for him to fly from Bakersfield, CA, to classes in Fort Wayne, the furthest commute any student has made to a site.  He never missed a class and is now applying what he learned at his church in Bakersfield.

In August, Central DMin student and Pastor of Journey Community Church which meets on the Shawnee campus, Rev. Wallace Smith, taught the session on Youth Ministry in Utica. The following Sunday the Binkleys went to the Karen church service in Syracuse where Pastor Noe, one of the Utica students, was leading the service.  He used one of the scripture passages that Wallace had used the previous day and was giving the congregation a review of some of what Wallace had taught the day before!

Naw El Si is naturally friendly and outgoing and proud of her faith.  While taking the classes in Ft. Wayne, IN, she also befriended members of a Karen family from a Buddhist background who had recently arrived in Fort Wayne.  Applying the lessons she was learning, she explained the Christian beliefs to this family.  Two members of the family were new Christians and decided to take part in the FJC ministry certificate program so they could better understand their new faith. Now two more members of the family have embraced the faith and been baptized. 

With the new classes beginning in New Bern and the promise of the expansion to St. Paul and other locations, the impact of the program will continue to be felt in the Karen communities.  It is obvious that these classes are making an impact on the ministry leaders who are taking part – an impact that is making a difference in others whose lives they touch.