Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Remembering Uncle Penn

Uncle Spencer Zan, affectionately known by everyone as Uncle Penn, was one of the founding fathers of Philadelphia Burmese Baptist Church. From the inception of PA-NJ Burmese Christian Fellowship to the day this Fellowship became Philadelphia Burmese Baptist Church, Uncle Penn had always supported it wholeheartedly. He had never failed to be present at all monthly prayer meetings of the Fellowship.

Even though Uncle Penn was there at every meeting when PBBC was at its embryo stage, guiding and giving valuable advice, it is sad for us that he did not live to witness PBBC officially become a church in November 2008 as he went to be with the Lord in February that year.

Although he is not with us today, he is always remembered by all founding members of PBBC who will carry on his legacy to generations to come.

In remembrance of him, a tribute by his family is reproduced below.

Spencer Zan – A Family’s Tribute

Spencer Zan, an ethnic Karen, was born in Burma in 1923 during the British administration. He was a devoted son, dependable brother, loving husband and eventually a doting father. In the latter part of his life, he became an uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather. Through all his roles in life, his greatest love and the one he drew his inspiration and strength from was his Heavenly Father. In everything he said or did, Spencer tried to honor and bring glory to God, and much of it was manifested in his passion to help those who were helpless. Where there was someone in need, Spencer was there. Where there was a crisis to be resolved, Spencer was there. In all these things, he looked first and foremost to God.

As his life unfolded it became clear that he was destined to do great things. He was a polarizing force against a brutal military regime, so much so that he had to escape to another country for the sake of his family. He planned their exodus from Burma like a military commander, but that of God’s army. In all these things, he looked first and foremost to God.

While in neighboring Thailand, Spencer continued to help those in Burma who were persecuted for their political beliefs. Using the long arm of his influence he was able to help countless people looking for safety and asylum. His work bore fruit, not in the context of fame or wealth but in the context of witnessing to others on the saving grace of God and enabling others to do His work. In all these things, he looked first and foremost to God.

At the end of his days, Spencer knew in his heart that he had woven a tapestry of love, faith and hope throughout his family tree and that his legacy would be carried on by his children and his children’s children.

He had his memoirs published to be read by generations that never knew their own history. Spencer touched and shaped many lives, especially those of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The dawn of 2008 saw Spencer ailing and growing weaker each day. It has become evident to us now that Spencer knew his time on this earth was coming to a close and that his earthly body was giving way to time and hardship. In the final days, he must have suffered greatly but did much of it privately and silently in the still of the night. He never wanted to be a burden to anyone, especially his family.

We shall miss him deeply, but it is great comfort and joy to know that he has his final reward for a job well done and is walking in the presence of his Heavenly Father. There is a peace in our hearts to know that in his most difficult time, he looked first and foremost to God.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Judson Day at PBBC

On Judson Sunday, July 12, 2009, the nearest Sunday to the day Rev. and Mrs. Judson landed in Burma, PBBC had a special service to commemorate the day. The messa
ge that day was given by Rev. Rothang Chhangte, who has recently been appointed liaison for refugees from Burma, at the National Ministries, American Baptist Churches, USA. This was her first visit to a Church from Burma after her appointment. She took the text from Ephesians 3:15-19, the prayer by the Apostle Paul for the Ephesians. This was the favorite passage of Rev. Judson in his mission in Burma where there had been many trials and tribulations he had to face. This prayer gave him strength to never give up. Likewise she urged the church members, especially the refugees, to remember this prayer and gain strength, trusting God to provide for them in their needs.

Emerald Cribb shared some highlights of Rev. Judson’s life, his mission and accomplishments in Burma. Rev.
Adoniram Judson and his wife Ann, landed in Burma from India on July 13, 1813. After persevering for six years, on June 27, 1819, his first Burmese convert, U Naw was baptized. Since the majority of the Bamar people are Buddhist, the Gospel spread very slowly. However, among the Karens, Kachins, Chins and other ethnic people who are adherents of traditional beliefs the G
ospel was joyously accepted. On May 16, 1828, Ko Tha Byu became the first Karen convert who was zealous in evangelizing his own people. The Judsons left a living legacy to the people of Burma. They brought us the “light”, and because of this we no longer live in darkness. Dr. Judson gave us the first and best translation of the Bible that took him 21 years to translate. He also completed the first English-Burmese Dictionary which was published in 1849 and is still use by many in Burma.
The Baptists in America owe their formation into a denomination to the Judsons. Their mission work also awakened mission consciousness of a fledgling nation. In May 1814, the Baptists organized “The General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America for
Foreign Missions” in Philadelphia. The Judsons and Luther Rice were the first missionaries appointed by this Convention to Burma.
Now the ‘fruit’ of Rev. Judson’s labor have arrived not only in Philadelphia but have also spread all over North America. This is our common history but it is much better known by the Burmese Baptists than by the American Baptists evidently because the Myanmar Baptist Convention designates the Sunday nearest to the day of the Judsons’ arrival in Burma (July 13) as Judson Sunday when all Baptist Churches in Burma and those in the US hold special services to remember and honor the memory of Rev. Adoniram Judson for his selfless dedicated mission work in Burma. The Baptists of Burma wherever they may resettle will always treasure the priceless legacy of God’s love and redeeming grace left by the Judsons.

After the service, Rev. Rothang talked with the new Americans from Trenton and Camden, New Jersey, and Philadelphia to learn about their problems and see how she could render help.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Is your name in the Book of Life?

What is your name? It is usually one of the first questions people in America will ask. But, I know that for some coming from the refugee camps in Thailand or from Burma , it isn’t an easy question to answer. I know some who were given names by a UN worker that didn’t understand or wasn’t too concerned about listening to the name they were being told. So now, the person has a name that means nothing to them. Then there is the confusion when Americans want first names, middle names and last names when Karen and Burmese usually just have a name. Even in English, Paw Wah (White Flower) sounds like a single thing. But in American style, Paw (Flower) becomes the first name and Wah (White) becomes the last name whether we like it or not.
The Bible tells us that names are important. God’s name is described as “majestic” or sacred and Jesus’ name is above all names and at the sound of it, we will all bow down. And as for us, Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be more desired than great riches.”
Lately, I have helped some Karen and others from Burma find some jobs here in Akron , Ohio . We have the usual struggles filling out the forms including getting the names all straight. But finally when the boss offers the job there are smiles all around. For some, they have told me this is the first job they have had so it is very satisfying for me to see them be able to start working. So far, I am also very happy to say that as Proverbs says, those in these jobs are making “a good name” for them selves and for the Karen people. A few people started a seasonal job on a farm. The farmer was so happy that he told a vegetable packaging plant about the good workers from Burma . The packaging plant owner told another business and a couple more are working there now. This business has recommended another place that needs workers so we will go there next. In the meantime, a roofing company will be hiring 6 more people. At a time when the economy is bad and in Ohio where the economy is supposed to be worse than other places, it is exciting to have these jobs open up. It also shows the power of making a “good name” for yourself and your people.
Even more important than making a good name for ourselves where we work though, is keeping our name in the “Book of Life”. No matter what the UN official wrote on our form, the Lord knows our name and knows all we think and do. America is a land of opportunity but also a land of temptations. Once getting a job and getting some money, then we need to make good decisions about how to use that money and how to use our time. Looking around, we can see many in America who make poor decisions and then struggle with problems in life. So may we bring honor to the Lord and make a good name for ourselves by working hard and keep our name in the Lord’s Book of Life at the same time.

Duane Binkley

Friday, July 10, 2009

Let Your Light Shine

Light in the summer months is longer and brighter in this part of the world. It uplifts our mood, helps the trees and plants to grow, and reminds me of some of Jesus’ sayings. When he referred to darkness and light, it was not just the sun, but often a reference to Himself and Son of God. And when we are connected to Jesus Christ, God’s Son, we truly reflect what Jesus is all about to others. Matthew 5:16 says: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” And, as he was often referring to himself, Jesus said” I am the Light. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the Light of Life.” As His disciples, may our lives shine with Christ’s love for the world.”

Rev. John Craig Murrow
Associate Executive Minister
Philadelphia Baptist Association.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Friday, July 3, 2009

Dr. Dingrin La Seng - Interim Pastor

PBBC held an installation and consecration service of its new Interim Pastor, D
r. Dingrin La Seng, on Sunday June 28, at St. John’s Baptist Church in Philadelphia. The service was led by Rev. Dr. Yahalaylayla and Rev Saw Ler Htoo both history makers of PBBC. Rev. Saw Ler Htoo gave a charge to the pastor and Dr. Yahalaylayla led the consecration prayer.

Dr. Yahalaylayla, Head of Department of Practical Theology at Karen Baptist Theological Seminary in Insein, first started the prayer meetings for folks from Burma at different houses during his stu
dies at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary now Palmer Theological Seminary. After he finished his studies and left for Burma, there was a brief break. But in 2001, when Rev. Saw Ler Htoo arrived in the US as Pastor of Calvary Burmese Church in Washington DC, he, together with the PBBC founding members resumed the Fellowship with people from Burma residing in Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey with regular monthly prayer meetings at different houses.

Regular Sunday worship services began in 2006 led by Thra Lincoln up till July 2007 during which refugees from Thai-Burma started arriving to resettle in US, and the Fellowship grew to a congregation.

When Thra Lincoln finished his studies and returned to Burma, God sent Saya Sanno Thuan who was studying at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia to take over from him and served as interim pastor from July 2007 to February 2009. At that time Dr. La Sen
g was a fresh graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary with a Ph.D. degree. When Saya Sanno Thuan left to pastor a church in Maryland, the elders of PBBC approached Dr. La Seng to be interim pastor.

He is first and foremost, a scholar interested in research studies, writing books and articles on theology. However, without any hesitation, he accepted the proposal as he perceived it to be God’s commission to him - to serve his people in this capacity besides his other pursuits.

May God grant him wisdom and guidance in leading and developing the spiritual growth of PBBC.