Karen Baptist Refugee Resettlement Project
Web site with a lot of information about this subject
The Story in a Nutshell
Article taken from the Karen Konnection web site.
The Karen people are an ethnic group in Southeast Asia enduring an ethnic cleansing program in eastern Burma. The result is between 500,000 to 1 million Karen people living in hiding within Burma. In addition, a series of nine refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border house some 155,000 mostly Karen refugees. Thousands more live in refugee-like situations in Thailand and Burma, and millions of other Burmese from a variety of ethnic groups seek refuge and a way to make a living in surrounding countries.
No end to the difficulties is in sight for Karen refugees, so governments around the world are beginning to accept Karen people from the camps in Thailand for resettlement. Several thousand Karen from Tham Hin, the southern most camp in Thailand, were brought to the U.S. in 2006. In 2007, the goal is to begin Karen resettlement from the Mae La camp as well. Tens of thousands of Karen will likely be coming to the U.S. over the next few years.
The Karen were some of the earliest converts to Christianity in Southeast Asia, and one of the fastest-growing churches after American Baptist missionary efforts began with the arrival of Adoniram Judson in Burma in 1813. The excitement and interest of these early mission efforts were the reason Baptist churches in the U.S. formed societies to work together that led to the formation of our Baptist denominations that exist today. For nearly 200 years, the Karen have been graciously receiving our missionaries and their message, and they are proud of their links to Baptists in America. Now it is our turn to receive and help them become a part of our American communities.
It is with sorrow we see the Karen forced from their homes in Burma, but it is with great joy that we welcome the Karen people to America.
Recently, the Karen people have been arriving in the Pennsylvania and Delaware region. It is with great excitement and anticipation that we are presented with an opportunity here and now to help the less fortunate right here in our very midst. As we continue to learn more about the Karen refugees, we will be sharing excerpts of messages (below) that have been received in an effort to keep our region up-to-date on personal basis as to where the Karen refugees will be arriving. Seeking God's perfect guidance and through His love, we hope to encourage our American Baptist family as we find ways how we can embrace and minister to these wounded people, our Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
(June 2007) -- Bill Offutt, IM, Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Bear DE, 585 Friendship Avenue, Lancaster, PA 17601 717-824-3003
Our first Karen family from the refugee camps along to Burma/Thai board will arrive in Harrisburg, PA on Tuesday, June 12, 2007. This refugee family after fleeing the Burmese army in Burma (Myanmar) have no church sponsor as they arrive. Only the staff person from Church World Service will be there to greet them. Church World Service has rented a place for them for the first month at 340 College Ave., Lancaster, PA 17601. They will need language training along with the many other material and social services a refugee family needs when arriving in a strange country. Since American Baptist International Ministries has re-assigned our missionaries to Thailand, Duane and Marcia Binkley, to work with the resettlement of what is expected to be as many as 19,000 Karen refuges coming to the USA by the end of 2007, I am asking for prayer for the Binkleys and for the 100 Karen refugees arriving in Lancaster, PA. Duane and Marcia believe the majority of the refugees are Baptist Christians along with another third or more with other faith orientations. Sponsoring churches are urgently needed. For more information contact Denise Buckwalter (717) 381-2897 firstname.lastname@example.org at Church World Service of Lancaster, PA. (Note: Included in Bill's note was a request for donations. This is being researched and possibly set up through International Ministries and WMS. Details about giving to this missionary effort will be coming soon. Thank you for your patience.)
(June 2007) -- Duane Binkley, AB Missionary in Thailand/US
We have been IM missionaries to Thailand more or less since 1982 where we have worked with the Karen people. Now, with Karen refugees from Burma being resettled in the US, we have been reassigned to the US to introduce churches here to the Karen, encourage our churches to provide a church home or find other ways to connect with the Karen. This is a joint effort of IM with National Ministries and the Office of the General Secretary. We are also connected with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. With their Christian roots going back to Adoniram Judson and a strong Baptist identity that remains today, the Karen are generally eager to connect with Baptist churches here. If you would like detailed information, go to www.karenkonnection.org, or feel free to phone (330) 699-4174. Karen are due to arrive in Pittsburgh and York. Tens of thousand of Karen are likely coming to the US over the next few years. This is certainly a new kind of mission work for us and new for the denomination. So we look forward to seeing how the Lord leads us in this work and appreciate any help, guidance and encouragement ABCOPAD can provide.