SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Members of University Heights Church here have opened their doors to a refugee congregation from Burma (Myanmar) — Chin Community Church.
Since April 27, the group worships each Sunday afternoon in the University Heights chapel. On May 4, UHBC members welcomed the Chin during the congregation’s annual Missions Recognition Service. Afterward, they honored the group with a reception sponsored by Woman’s Missionary Union.
American Baptist missionaries, following in the footsteps of Adoniram and Ann Judson, went to the Chin homeland in Northwest Burma more than 100 years ago. They saw God move, and now some 80 percent of the Chin people are Christian.
Being Christian and an ethnic minority have been very difficult in Buddhist Burma, especially since the military took power in 1962. Policies of oppression and persecution led to violence and war in this nation of 1.5 million, causing thousands to flee for their lives. The situation became so bad that the American government granted refugee status to allow the Chin to come to the U.S.
Ngun Iap, pastor of Chin Community Church, came as a refugee, graduated from an American seminary, and then came to Springfield for a business opportunity to sell sushi. Seeing the need, he organized a church to minister to incoming Chin refugees.
The group grew to more than 150 and needed a larger and better place to meet than the gym in another church.
“We who are your children are very grateful for University Heights Church letting us use your beautiful chapel,” Ngun Iap said on May 4.
“You are not our children, but now our brothers and sisters in Christ,” University Heights Pastor Danny Chisholm responded.
For the reception, WMU Director Lois McCullars brought a large cake with the words “Warm Welcome to Chin Church” in the Chin language written on it. She reminded everyone that UHBC has been a missions-supporting church since its beginning in 1945 and has especially focused on Burma.
The church supported the Hackett family for many years and employed Bill Hackett on its staff after his retirement as an ABC missionary.
Church trustees, chaired by Patti Penny, are working to renovate the chapel basement so that the Chin may use it for children’s ministry and social activities.
This new cooperation between a missions-minded American church and a congregation of refugees promises to be a blessing to both. It adds new meaning to the Bible’s words, “Cast your bread upon the waters and you will find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11:1).