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Burmese refugee community grows in First Baptist Church

Amanda Greene

Each Sunday a group of about 75-100 Burmese men, women and children – refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar - crowd into the wedding chapel at First Baptist Church during the Sunday school hour for worship in their native Karen language.   Amanda Greene of Wilmington Faith and Values tells how this ministry has grown in the last year and changed lives both inside the church and in the Burmese community.

Wilmingtonresident Thi Ri Shwe remembers pausing for prayer in the jungles of Thailand on her way to a refugee camp.  But she says it didn’t feel like worship to her until she immigrated to the United States and began coming to Burmese church at First Baptist.

“The whole week we work. We work, work work. And on Sunday in the morning some family might read the Bible so that we come together, and we learn something from the pastor’s preaching or the pastor encourage us. So we have energy, stronger.”

Now Thi Ri is the interpreter for the Burmese church, helping English-speaking visitors understand the rhythm of its services. 

Her friend and First Baptist member Robin Manning invited some of the Burmese refugees to the church a year ago, and the congregation continues to grow – filling the chapel each Sunday. 

Amanda Greene posts for Wilmington Faith and Values.