International Ministries missionary, Duane Binkley began 2011 with a service of ordination at Springfield Baptist Church in Akron, Ohio, where Duane and Marcia, his wife, are members. Duane’s ordination comes after more than 20 years of service as a long-term missionary with Marcia for IM in Thailand. The couple serves ethnic Karen (pronounced Kuh-ren’) and Chin refugees from the country of Burma. Living and serving in the U.S. since 2007, the Binkley’s ministry focuses on the tens of thousands of refugees invited to come to the U.S. starting in 2006 though the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program. While in the U.S. the Binkleys also continue to work with those still remaining in refugee camps along the Thailand-Myanmar (Burma) border.
Attendees at the ordination service on January 2, represented many aspects of Duane’s life and ministry. The Rev. Larry Baldridge, pastor of Springfield Baptist was Duane’s sponsor throughout the ordination process in Ohio. Others who participated included, Rev. Robert Hughes, who has known Duane since he was a child; Rev. Roger Alber, a friend from Duane’s teenage years; Rev. Robert Cassady, representing the American Baptist Churches of Ohio; Rev. Kevin Slyh, representing the Akron Baptist Association; Rev. Stan Murray, representing International Ministries; and Rev. Hsa Moo, representing the Karen Baptist Churches of the USA.
The service also included Karen adult and youth choirs as well as a special arrangement of “Be Thou My Vision” sung by Duane and Marcia’s daughters, Erin and Shannon.
Duane’s university education was in soil and water conservation, and it was this background that first brought Duane to Thailand to work among the Karen people in 1982. Decades after this work was begun, Duane is frequently called upon to perform communion, baptisms, weddings and funerals—all of which require an ordained pastor in Karen churches.
Duane comments, “There is a shortage of ordained pastors among the Karen, so many people and churches have to wait a long time before they can have these kinds of services.” He notes that the shortage of pastors even affects Karen people in the US where many forgo weddings because they cannot find a Karen-speaking pastor. Duane sees his ordination as another way he can serve Karen people in the US, Thailand, and Burma.
The Karen people are a hill tribe people many of whom live along the Thai-Burma border. Karen people experience severe persecution in Burma and live either in hiding in that country or as refugees in Thailand. Up to 30% of Karen and 90% of Chin worldwide identify themselves as Christian. In many cases, their faith dates back to Adoniram Judson’s work in Burma in 1813. The Binkleys have worked with the Karen people in Asia and in the US throughout their missionary careers.
The Binkleys returned to Thailand on January 10 after spending two years serving Karen immigrants in the United States. Recent fighting inside Burma has led to a new influx of Karen people seeking safety in Thailand, nearly 50,000 all together. The Binkleys ask for prayers as this group of refugees is caught between two countries. The Thai army is forcing them back into Burma although Burma continues to be a dangerous place for Karen people.