In the past decade, dozens of Adventist congregations have sprouted across the region.
On the first weekend of June 2019, almost 600 people from around the United States gathered for the North American Division’s bi-annual Myanmar Multilingual Convention, held at Timber Ridge Camp in Spencer, Indiana.
Organized by Indiana pastor and church planter Samuel Ngala, the convention drew such speakers as, among others, evangelist John Kitevski from Australia, North American Division (NAD) Multilingual Ministries director Tony Anobile, and Andrews University religion professor A. Rahel Wells.
Nine different languages from Myanmar (previously known as Burma) were represented at the convention. Visitors who represented parts of Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America also attended. The weekend included joint worship services with hymn singing, special messages, and praying together. A baptismal ceremony for five young people crowned the event.
The number of refugees in the Lake Union of the United States — a region that encompasses the U.S. states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and a portion of Minnesota — has grown significantly. Just ten years ago, the Lake Union had no Myanmar congregations. Today there are ten. An urgent need for ministry laborers has arisen in that and other regions of North America, leaders said.
In 2019, two initiatives were begun at the convention that are designed to bring spiritual revival and equip laborers with tools needed to continue the work within the refugee groups.
Over the past several decades, many have fled Myanmar to seek asylum in neighboring countries. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, between 2017 and 2018 a total of 3,555 refugees from Myanmar were settled in the United States.
Relying heavily on church plant consultants, Terri Saelee, Ministry Special Project Coordinator for refugees and immigrants in the North American Division Multilingual Ministries office, said that the NAD believes in empowering people from the different refugee groups. “By doing this,” she said, “you bypass language barriers and cultural misunderstandings.”