Austin Karen Baptist Church
After visiting a Karen refugee camp in Thailand and sponsoring a Karen family’s move to the United States, Love for Myanmar became involved with Karen refugees already resettled in the Austin, Texas. Among the first goals was to help them find a place to exercise their new freedom of worship.
Formed under the organizational umbrella of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, administered by the Austin Baptist Association, and mentored by the Crestview Baptist Church of Georgetown and the Austin Baptist Church, the Austin Karen Baptist Church celebrated its first church service on May 7, 2009.
At its peak, the Austin Karen Baptist Church averaged 100 attendees in Sunday services. When the U.S. government ended its resettlement program from the Thailand-based refugee camps, however, the number of Karen refugee arrivals dwindled. This event, coupled with the departures of families because of Austin’s high cost of living, led to an average attendance of sixty-five members (2019). Pastor Moe Eh, the first ordained Karen pastor in Texas, is the founding pastor of the Austin Karen Baptist Church. Sadly, Pastor Moe Eh passed away on March 27, 2019.
Although, blessed with access to a church facility shared with several congregations, the Austin Karen Baptist Church has a vision to worship in their own building. Plans are underway to find a suitable piece of property on which to build their church. Having seen their Myanmar homes and churches burned down by the Burmese military, the idea of someday worshipping in their own church is an indescribable blessing!
Most church members are refugees (many now U.S. citizens) originally from the Karen State in Eastern Myanmar. These people fled to refugee camps on the Thailand border with Myanmar because of ethnic cleansing and religious persecution as Christians. The Karen people have battled the Burmese army in what has been called the world’s longest running civil war.