During a recent sabbatical, I had the privilege of traveling with faculty, staff and doctor of ministry 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.
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 multicultural 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 more than 100 years ago. In my early years of full-time ministry, we welcomed Cuban refugees 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 ongoing cross-cultural experience.
It is my belief that cross-cultural 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.
Sitting in a classroom and hearing CBTS and MIT students share case studies from their context, it became clear that 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 became apparent that it is only possible for each of us to have a broader 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, praying, singing and talking together – every facet of the Myanmar experience built deeper relationships and deeper understandings. This 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 is the executive minister of American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin. A version of this column first appeared on Central Baptist Theological Seminary’s “Encounter the World with Central” blog and is used with permission.