What’s Happening @ Mt Gambier Baptist
Recently a group from Mount Gambier Baptist Church (MGBC) undertook a trip to visit a Karen community on the Thai Myanmar border. Over recent years a relationship has been established between Karen refugees based in Mount Gambier and the church has a number of families who attend. In January of this year through some of the connections that have been developed with the Karen community, a group of six individuals travelled to a small village 50 kilometres outside of a town called Mae Sot, West of the Thai Myanmar border. The group comprised of the senior pastor, a couple, a mother and a daughter and a young man.
The groups aim was to build connections with the Karen community in this area where many of the Karen families from our local church had once lived. Most of the families in the Karen community have come from a Christian background. The group reached out to the community by providing assistance at a local school and a bible college in a neighbouring village.
During the trip MGBC’s senior pastor Cam Buchanan undertook a week’s worth of lectures and provided the students with marriage counselling techniques from a pastoral care point of view. Students were asked to find an example of a marriage in the bible and give a presentation on lessons that could be learnt from this example. The students gave feedback that this highlighted the importance of expository teaching to equip young couples with spiritual tools in the days prior to marriage and when dealing with issues that occur during the engagement and the marriage period. Cam also spoke at two church services in local villages.
The local school, comprised of around 1000 students, some of whom who live in the neighbouring area and some of who travel from Myanmar to the school. The school has boarding facilities enabling students to travel from long distances within Myanmar to access this educational facility.
One of the members of the group ran a week long legal intensive for students of the university, based at the school. The university offers a bachelor of liberal arts. These students range between 21 and 30 years of age and are looking to be the next generation of leaders in the Karen community. The intensive included a comparative study between the legal political system in Australia and that in Myanmar and workshops in contract law and how these principles could be applied in their society. The week concluded with two mock trials one of which was based upon a real case that occurred in Australia in 1902. The students were thoroughly engaged and had the opportunity to explore legal and humanitarian issues that affected them as both residents of Thailand and former citizens of Myanmar.
Three of the ladies who went on the trip spent most of their time in the local school. It was the first week of the school calendar for the year and there was a shortage of staff which gave our volunteers opportunity to teach classes who were without a teacher for the week. One of the ladies, a qualified teacher, taught English classes focusing on English language skills such as phonics, spelling and conversation. Our volunteers also did a few lessons on Australian geography, culture and flora and fauna, which the students were eager to engage in. School relies on volunteer teachers or donations to pay staff.
Another one of the group, a local farmer met with Christian leaders in the local community to discuss areas of support the school and bible college require to run effectively into the future. He was also able to run some devotions with individual classes where he explored Old Testament bible stories and lessons with children of ages.
The people to whom the group ministered were largely refugees from Myanmar that had crossed the border and were living in Thailand as undocumented refugees. Since the conclusion of the trip the group at MGBC has remained in contact with some of the leaders and students and will continue to explore how they will support the community in Thailand. At MGBC we are excited to see how God will continue to develop this relationship into the future.