Floods ravage western Uganda, BWA sends aid

The Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) sent an initial sum of US$5,000 to assist victims flooded out in the East African country of Uganda. At least six people have been killed while others remain missing.

A number of Baptist churches in the affected regions are sheltering persons displaced by the disaster, including one that houses more than 360 persons.

On May 1 and 5  heavy rains fell in Kasese District in western Uganda causing flash floods that led to loss of life and destruction of property. Almost 4,000 houses in 57 villages were affected, displacing more than 25,000.

Four rivers, Nyamwamba, Mubuku, Bulemba and Kitakena burst their banks and destroyed surrounding homes, hospitals, gardens, roads and bridges.

Kenneth Wafula, general secretary of the Uganda Baptist Convention told the BWA on May 6 that the "River Nyamwamba has burst its banks for the second time since last week, and has so far claimed many lives and displaced thousands of others."  Baptist teams on the ground, he said, are "worried that the disaster may worsen if the river continues to flood."

Many residents heeded warnings to vacate the area but those who opted to stay were affected by the floods that sealed off a number of roads and submerged several bridges, cutting off whole communities. Mountainous areas experienced severe landslides, destroying homes and farmlands.

Wafula said there is urgent need for food and relief supplies such as water purification tablets, blankets and mosquito nets, among other items.

Donations to the Uganda flood relief effort may be made online at the BWA website.

Baptist World Alliance®
© May 9, 2013

Pastors welcome document that guides relationships between Baptists

Several pastors in the Washington Metropolitan Area welcomed a document laying out principles and guidelines for relationships between Baptists.

BWA General Secretary Neville Callam introduced the document at a reception for pastors from Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC, at the BWA international offices on April 25. He said that though it was created specifically to guide relationships within BWA organized life it could prove useful in other contexts.  This view was affirmed by participants at the meeting, stating that the document could be modified so that it could be used by local churches while, at the same time, taking care not to water it down.

It was also proposed that the guidelines and principles form the basis of a Bible Study to be used by churches. One pastor indicated that his church just considered the problem of divisiveness within church life and felt that this document could form the basis for discussions on the matter. Two pastors representing two separate churches informed the meeting that they were contemplating merging into one congregation. They indicated that the document could serve as the starting point on which to forge congregational unity and that it would be an important resource in the drafting of a vision statement.

The view was that the document was long overdue and that it reflects a collaborative and servant leadership model that is worthy of emulation and adoption.

The document, Principles and Guidelines for Intra-Baptist Relationships, was unanimously endorsed by the BWA Executive Committee in March. It is to be presented to the BWA General Council for ratification at its meeting in Jamaica in July.

Principles and Guidelines for Intra-Baptist Relationships is currently being translated into 27 languages for dissemination around the world. Baptists are encouraged to have it translated into their own local language.

The document takes into account the great diversity that exists among Baptists, particularly within the BWA, which has 223 member organizations in 120 countries. It seeks to forge an understanding of how such diversity may work itself out into a unity that, according to Callam, "is not mono-layered but is thick." This diversity, Callam said, is God's gracious gift, but so is the unity among believers. The challenge is to negotiate the living out of these two gifts – diversity and unity – within the life of the church.

Callam emphasized the need for a consensus approach to decision making within church life rather than a majoritarian approach. Worship, Callam believes, should be at the heart of church life, including in the decision making process. When decision meetings are held, they would not fall captive to or be based solely on a particular constitutional order that is culture-bound, but would be done in an atmosphere where participants seek to apprehend the mind of Christ. In such a setting, there would be love, mutual respect, a willingness to receive each other, a desire to look out for the interests of others and a commitment to accomplish the will of God more fully.

The reception on April 25 was part of a series of meetings hosted by Callam on an annual basis, usually in the spring and in the fall, for Baptist pastors in the Washington Metropolitan area.

Baptist World Alliance®
© April 26, 2013

BWA sends aid to refugee fire victims

The Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) sent an initial sum of US$20,000 to assist Karenni refugees whose homes were badly damaged or destroyed in a fire in a refugee camp in Thailand, killing 37 persons.

The Karenni are a subgroup of the Karen people living mostly in Kayah State (formerly Karenni State) of Myanmar. Many of the refugees fled conflict zones in Kayah and Karen states.

The fire, which occurred on March 22 in the Ban Mae Surin camp in Mae Hong Son province of northern Thailand, was extinguished about two hours after it began.  Approximately 200 people were wounded and hospitalized. At least 2,300 persons were left homeless.

"Our prayers are with the people who have lost families and loved ones and we ask the Baptist family to continue to support them in their prayers," said Baptist World Aid Director Rothangliani Chhangte. "Some children have been left orphaned and there is need for our continued prayers and support for the people."

Blooming Night Zion of the Karen Women's Organization (KWO) told the BWA that among the facilities destroyed and damaged were a church, a clinic, a hospital, two schools, two food warehouses, KWO offices, and many houses.

Mae Surin camp is one of 10 refugee camps on the Thai-Myanmar border, housing a total of about 130,000 refugees.

Baptist World Alliance®
© April 9, 2013

Refugee school destroyed by fire holds graduation ceremony

A graduation ceremony of the Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Bible School and College (KKBBSC) in the Mae La Refugee Camp in Thailand, which was destroyed by fire one year ago, was held recently.

The school was gutted on April 28, 2012, but was partially rebuilt in time for the start of the new school year in July. The Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) donated half the funds toward the rebuilding of the school.

"The building is completed, the students also completed their school and yesterday we celebrated the dedication of the building to God," Saw Simon, founder and principal of the school, wrote on April 15. "I would like to say thank you very much to all of you [for] your visits, your letters, your email, your encouragement, your donations and your prayers."

KKBBSC offers general education to refugees and training to church leaders. Simon, the recipient of the 2000 BWA Human Rights Award, said 58 students graduated. The school, he said, had an enrollment of 420 students for the 2012-2013 school year. Approximately 3,000 persons, most of whom are affiliated with the Kaw Thoo Lei Karen Baptist Churches, a group of Baptist churches founded in the refugee camps, attended the graduation and dedication ceremony.

The April 14 graduation ceremony was the 29th graduation exercise of the school.

The Mae La camp, where the school is located, has an estimated 50,000 displaced persons. It is one of the largest of several refugee camps for displaced persons from Myanmar who fled conflicts in the South Asian country.

Simon and his family fled across the Thai border after the school, which was originally located in Rangoon (Yangon), the former capital of Myanmar, was destroyed. He later restarted it in the Mae La camp in 1984.

Baptist World Alliance®
© April 19, 2013

Youth conference fee discounted until May 31

The conference fee for the 16th Baptist Youth World Conference, to be held in Singapore from July17-21, has been discounted until May 31. The previous deadline was March 31.

Persons from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan, USA and countries in Western Europe can still pay the discounted price of US$190 instead of the full price of US$225.

Those who are from other countries in Asia, Africa, Caribbean, Central America, South America and Central and Eastern Europe are allowed to pay US$165 rather than the full US$200 registration fee.

Other costs for meals, air tickets, airport transfers and hotel accommodation are NOT INCLUDED in the conference fee.

Registration and other information are available at the BWA website.

Baptist World Alliance®
© April 3, 2013