by Sandra Hasenauer
It was pretty amazing, although “amazing” doesn’t even begin to cut it as a descriptive term for what I experienced: Over 6,000 Baptist women singing, praying, laughing, and crying with one another, gathered in the name of Jesus Christ in a very small village in the countryside of the Kachin State in Myanmar (Burma). I had the privilege of being a guest speaker at the 2016 Kachin Baptist Women’s Conference, hosted by the Kachin Baptist Women Department of the Kachin Baptist Convention in Myanmar. I traveled to Myanmar with my friend and fellow American Baptist woman, Hkadin Lee, also ethnically Kachin and now a U.S. citizen after having relocated to the U.S. in 1990. She and I were invited guests of the Kachin Baptist Women Department for this incredible event the week after Easter this year.
Early on the day the conference began, our guides took us on some pre-conference sight-seeing. As our car bumped and jostled our way over an unpaved road through farmlands, we passed caravan after caravan of vehicles (mini-vans, cars, pick-up trucks, motorcycles, and a few ox-carts) heading in the opposite direction toward the church campus where the conference was being held. It was pretty easy to tell they were heading for the Kachin Baptist Women’s Conference, as the vehicles were loaded with women of all ages and many of the cars had flags with the Kachin Baptist Convention’s logo fluttering on their hoods. We found our anticipation of the event rising as we passed so many about-to-be-conferees, especially seeing their smiles and laughter as they journeyed on their road trip. Many women had walked for several days from their villages just to get to a point where they could be picked up and driven the rest of the way. Attending this gathering of their Baptist sisters was worth the sacrifice for each of them.
When we attended the opening session of the conference, I was hit with a wall of sound as the 6,000 attendees all stood and sang praise songs with exuberance (accompanied by an excellent praise and worship team). I may not have been able to understand the language they were singing, but some things need no translation: They sang of their love for, and trust in, their Creator God and his given son, Jesus Christ. They sought God’s wisdom and guidance. They sought the comfort of Jesus and the challenge of the cross. They shared their burdens and fears and they multiplied their joys by singing their praise and worship.
Hkadin and my participation in the Kachin Baptist Women’s Conference was part of a Women’s Leadership Exchange, a grant-funded project between American Baptist Women’s Ministries and the Kachin Baptist Women Department of the Kachin Baptist Convention, Myanmar. Zahkung Ja Ing, the director of the Kachin Baptist Women Department, and Lahtaw Ja Nu, an advisor to the Kachin Baptist Women Department, will be attending 3D: Dwelling, Discovering, Discipling / Dedicando, Descubriendo, Discipulando, the national event for women and girls sponsored by American Baptist Women’s Ministries in Washington, D.C., July 21-24, 2016. They will be speaking during an evening session and facilitating a time of table conversation one afternoon. Additionally, Ja Ing and Ja Nu will be participating in one of the
optional after-events of the conference, a two-and-a-half day seminar, “How, Then, Shall We Lead? Leadership Capacity Development.” We are looking forward with great anticipation to welcoming them to the U.S. and this great opportunity to build deep, meaningful relationships with our Baptist sisters from overseas. If you’ve already planned to join us at 3D, I hope you’ll be sure to greet Ja Ing and Ja Nu, hear their stories, and share yours. If you’re not yet registered for 3D, there’s still room! Click here for more information.
By leaders in women’s ministries learning from one another across national boundaries, ethnic/racial boundaries, yes–even language boundaries, we all expand our capacity for leadership in ministry tenfold. God blesses us through one another, and may God bless us through this exchange.
The Kachin are an ethnic group of Myanmar. The Kachin State is in the far northern reaches of Myanmar, and is bordered by China and India. It is estimated that 99% of Kachin are Christian, and of the Christians, the vast majority are Baptist. Baptist Kachin in the United States have formed their own churches and associations. Like the Chin Baptist Churches USA and the Karen Baptist Churches USA, the Kachin Baptist Churches USA were recently welcomed as an Associated Ministry Organization of American Baptist Churches USA.