You hear me talk once in a while about Pastor Siang and a Burmese church plant in Indianapolis as well as Pastor Siang’s vision to unite Burmese people into the CRC. Here’s a clear look at his work and the beauty of this for the Christian Reformed Church. It’s been a privilege and joy to work with Pastor Siang and serve as his mentor. I love him and the Burmese people. I hope, work, and pray for the day that the Christian Reformed Church will look like the nations gathered at the throne in the book of Revelation, from every tribe, nation, and language. Wow! And there we together will worship the Lamb who was slain.
Here’s the article published in the Classis agenda for Siang Hup’s CRC ordination interview.
INTRODUCTION TO PASTOR SIANG HUP
Pastor Siang Lian Hup moved to Indianapolis, Indiana in December 2016 to start a Christian Reformed congregation among the growing Burmese population there.
Hailing from Burma (also known as Myanmar), Hup is in the process of seeking to become an ordained CRC minister under Church Order Article 8, which allows for a pastor such as Hup to enter into the CRC. Currently, he is the pastor of an independent Burmese congregation in Knoxville, Tennessee.
“I like the CRC’s worship style, and it has the same confessions and creeds that I have,” said Hup whose father was pastor of a Covenant Reformed Church of a Myanmar congregation.
Hup, who speaks several languages, attended a Reformed seminary in India before coming to the United States to serve as an interpreter for the U.S. State Department and to do ministry with refugees, especially of the Chin ethnic group of Burmese.
“I believe God is calling me to Indianapolis. I have the vision of establishing a church there because there is so much potential.”
Indiana has one of the largest Burmese populations in the United States, and Indianapolis has the most Burmese refugees in the state, tallying more than 13,500. Fort Wayne, Indiana has the second highest number, with about 7,000.
“Most of the Burmese refugees in Indiana are fleeing from government, ethnic, and religious persecution,” said Hup. “They are coming to Indianapolis to be with people who speak the same language and so that they can find work.”
Joel Zuidema, pastor of Pathway Church in St. John, Indiana is serving as Siang’s mentor as he goes through the process leading to ordination as a CRC minister. Zuidema’s church will play a role, along with the Home Missions committee for Classis Illiana, in encouraging formation of the new church in Indianapolis.
Pastor Siang Hup has been preaching to CRC congregations in the classis and sketching his vision for a new church.
Zuidema said Hup’s work is an example of the type of ministry that Christian Reformed Home Missions and Christian Reformed World Missions will be doing once they complete their process of unification.
As one agency for mission, they will be able to combine their expertise to reach out to people, such as the Burmese, who have come to North America from abroad. The new unified agency will also use its resources to build up the church around the world.
“There is so much talk of immigration in our land and in our church, and here we have the opportunity to work with people who have come here because they were oppressed,” Zuidema said.
Joining with Burmese people and pastors such as Hup offers added dimension and diversity to the CRC, and at the same time it promises to expand the church in many ways, including by means of adding congregations, said Zuidema.
“What the Burmese and Pastor Siang bring to us is a contagious enthusiasm for the gospel and a deep desire to be good citizens in their new homeland,” said Zuidema. “They need people in the CRC to surround and support them.”
Last year Siang Hup contacted David Koll, director of the CRC’s Candidacy Committee, to ask about becoming a CRC minister and church planter. Hup made the inquiry upon the suggestion of his brother-in-law who recently became pastor of a Burmese CRC in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Princeton CRC helped in formation of that church.
Koll suggested Hup contact Classis Illiana, the Classis in which he wants to start the church. So Siang contacted the Classis and connected with Zuidema.
“Our Home Missions committee grabbed onto this with full energy,” said Zuidema.
Meanwhile, the Classis heard from another Burmese group in the Syracuse, New York, area that is also thinking of affiliating with the CRC.
“We flew there and met with them, and it went well,” said Zuidema.
The New York group is a set of three informal Christian groups who would like to get a person to be their pastor; they have in mind a person who visited from Myanmar, who is willing to come, but who will need a visa to come for an extended period, said Koll.
These three groups may form into a congregation should that happen. And with the connections through Siang Hup, the CRC in New York Classis Atlantic NE is getting involved.
“So we have three groups now, in three classes — Thornapple Valley, Illiana, and Atlantic NE — it is a wave of excitement,” said Koll.
“These developments offer the CRC a wonderful chance to partner with a group of people who can offer us so much,” added Zuidema.
“It shocks me what a gentle spirit so many of these refugees have. Even though they were driven out of their country, they show no bitterness. They are a sweet, beautiful people.”
An accomplished musician, Hup moved to Indianapolis after serving for two years in ministry with a church in Knoxville.
As he envisions his new church, it will be much more than a place to worship on Sunday. Much of his ministry will take place in the homes of refugees.
“We will teach and preach and visit people house to house,” he said. “Many of the Burmese can’t come to church. They have no car, or they work on Sunday. We want to reach out as a CRC church to people in need.”
Hup will also serve as an interpreter, especially in hospitals and for Burmese immigrants seeking various services and jobs.
And as the church takes hold and grows, he said, “I would like to go and bring the gospel to Burmese people who are Buddhists and Muslims. I would also like us to reach the many Burmese who are now living in Fort Wayne.”