Below is the first part of a sermon Pastor Bill has prepared for his visit to Thailand. He will be preaching it at First Baptist on December 28th and then again in the camps in Thailand during the following week. Click here for part two of the sermon.
Part One of Two
Da Buh Way Mu Kwa ler Kri Ah Bu (Brothers and Sisters in Christ)
I don’t know you. You don’t know me. But I know that we are Da Buh Way Mu Kwa Ler Kri Ah Bu.
I have known about Burma since I was a boy. The pastor who baptized me Easter 1965 was Reverend Ray Beaver. He served as a missionary to the Pwo Karen for several years. In the early 1960s when the dictators came to power he and his family were forced to leave Burma with all the other Westerners. He served at my home church in St. Paul for several years. I would hear stories about Burma and the Karen. Years later when I went for training at seminary I served my church as the Hmong liaison pastor. Hmong people from Laos began arriving in St. Paul in large numbers in the late 1970s. I learned about the challenges of refugee resettlement during those years. (There are now 60,000 Hmong who live in St. Paul). God has moved in mysterious ways to prepare me for ministry.
I bring greetings from your families and friends in MN. You are not forgotten. Every week we pray for you. When you pray on Sunday mornings for freedom and democracy in Burma we pray 13 hours later for the same things when we gather for worship.
I have a DVD from Karen churches in St. Paul to share with you. It was recorded by Thrado Hsa Moo (at this time I will present the disc to pastor).
When I found out that I was coming to Thailand I began asking my Karen friends “If you were going with me what would you tell the people?” I will share with you what they wanted me to tell you.
Thirty four Karen leaders from around the U.S. recently travelled to the Holy Land. They spent one week in Israel visiting the places where Jesus was born and lived. They took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee (they had a Karen flag waving from the mast of the ship). Two young Karen women were baptized in the Jordan River. They visited Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Capernaum and saw all the places we read about in the Bible. No one got lost. Everyone returned safely.
They shared their photographs at our Sweet December celebration. It was a sweet celebration.
Eighty local Karen leaders faithfully attended fourteen weeks of advanced Bible study and church history classes. We celebrated their graduation just two weeks ago at First Baptist Church, St. Paul. The certificates they received were granted by the Central Baptist Seminary. I taught the classes on preaching and Sunday School lessons. It is important that Karen people seek out training and are able to interpret and apply Scripture to their new life situations in the U.S.
The day before I left St. Paul there was a big Karen New Year celebration. There are about 8,000 Karen who live in St. Paul. Many of them came together to celebrate the year 2754. There were traditional dances and songs performed. There were many speeches in Karen and some in English so that everyone could learn and remember Karen history and culture. And of course there was rice and noodles served.
Your brothers and sisters have not forgotten you or your heritage. They continue to teach the young people to read and write Karen. The Karen Organization of MN and Karen Community of MN have been created to help new arrivals adapt to their new lives.
Karen Baptist Churches/USA unites all the Karen Baptists in the U.S.
Many have gotten jobs, become citizens and have bought their own homes. My associate pastor used to own an elephant in Burma now his family owns 2 cars. (Elephants don’t do well in MN, it’s too cold and there is no sugar cane treats for them).
Almost every Karen person I have known has told me at one time or another that the reason they came to the U.S. was for their children could get a good education. Many young people are going to college and graduating with professional degrees. I am proud of how hard the young people work to achieve their goals.