Messengers swarm All Nations booth

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) – Across from the Cooperative Program (CP) Stage in the exhibit hall was the multi-station All Nations booth, where messengers and guests to the 2024 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting could find information and people to talk with about global missions across the United States.

For those who keep up with the news on the world stage, the people anchoring the stations also provided insights from an informed perspective.

Jewish Chaplain Ric Worshill of the Messianic Fellowship and others at that station were kept busy answering questions about the Israeli war with Hamas .

Igor Bandura, vice president of the Ukrainian Baptist Union, spoke at the Slavic station about the “very difficult situation for Ukrainian people” because of what he called the “Russian invasion.”

Hre Mang, executive director of the Myanmar Baptist Churches USA, and others at the Myanmar station spoke of multiple people groups – Burmese, Chin, Karen and others – in civil war for 75 years now, and the floods of refugees to America since the late 1980s from Burma because of armed conflict and numerous large-scale natural disasters.

Wednesday, June 12, was the 126th Independence Day of the Philippine Islands, Dan Santiago told those who visited the Filipino station. Santiago, executive director of the Filipino National Baptist Convention, noted the culture and Catholic religion on the Philippine Islands are said to be tightly intertwined, and the Chinese government over the last year has been facing territorial confrontations in the South China Sea.

Leaders such as Jordan Kanuho, president of the Fellowship of Native American Christians, said there was a steady stream of people coming to their station to ask about FoNAC, the needs among Native Americans and the opportunities for mission trips in the United States and Canada.

“Most people visiting us stated that they were praying for the Jewish people and Israel the nation,” Worshill of the Messianic Fellowship told Baptist Press. “Some told us that they were praying for both sides.”

When asked how the Israelis are holding up since the war began, Worshill said, “The largest fear for the Jewish people in Israel is that the antisemitism in the world has grown exponentially over the years. Jewish people all over don’t feel safe anywhere.  

“One of the things I told our visitors is that people from their church could send cards of support and encouragement to the Jewish synagogues in their area,” the Jewish chaplain continued. “It would be good to let them know that we Southern Baptists are praying for them and their safety.”

Bandura of Ukraine said there are 320 churches in the occupied territories at the far eastern side of Ukraine. He would like to see 300 American churches come alongside Ukrainian churches nationwide and help them return to health once the occupation is over.

There will be needs for outreach at existing churches as well as planting new churches; rebuilding destroyed church buildings; restoring church life and ministries; children’s camps and clubs where English – the language of business and communication in Ukraine – can be taught; and developing work with war veterans and their families.

Most important: prayer, Bandura told Baptist Press.

“Please pray for God to stop the bloodshed and the destruction of our cities and farmlands,” he said.

Myanmar has been immersed in civil war since 1948. Haiti remains on a roller coaster as spring becomes summer, with periods of violence interspersed with extreme and unrestrained violence. Haiti’s history of natural disasters – heavy rain, earthquakes and hurricanes – also plagues the unstable island nation.

On the other hand, despite regional unrest, crime in Brazil in 2023 was down about 5 percent since 2020.

China has become a middle-class nation, according to the World Bank, yet 17.2 percent live below the poverty line. Among issues in China are a lack of religious freedom, fear of arbitrary arrest and disregard for human rights.

But the Burmese (or Karen, or Chin or others of the 149 people groups who call Myanmar home), Haitian, Brazilian, Chinese and all the people standing at their stations in the All Nations area weren’t obviously thinking about the troubles in their homeland. They were laughing, joking and enjoying the many conversations they were having in the freedom that is a Southern Baptist gathering in America.

“It’s all good. We’re having fun,” George Bossy told Baptist Press at the Filipino station.

“We’re here to help each other,” Worshill said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

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