Many Buddhists have come from Southeast Asia to live in the United States over the last forty years. David Takami states: “Never in the history of the United States have so many people come from the same region in so short a time under such dire circumstances as did the Southeast Asian refugees in the decade after 1975. Once in this country, the refugees and their families overcame great obstacles to learn English, educate their children, and achieve a degree of economic success....For 10 years after 1975, 100,000 Southeast Asians per year streamed into the United States” (Southeast Asian Americans, Historylink.org). They are still coming.
When you meet a Burmese, Cambodian, Chin, Hmong, Karen, Laotian, or Vietnamese, many may have an amazing story of heartache, hardship, and perseverance from the Vietnam war era, or much more recently out of Myanmar. Thousands have become Christians. Many more remain faithful to their Buddhist roots. Of the 1.8 million foreign-born Chinese living in America many also practice some form of Buddhism.
Over 70% of the many Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Taoists, and Chinese folk religion believers in North America do not know even one Christian personally. That should highly motivate us to befriend Asians. These religions, though promoting many good moral principles, also teach a method of salvation that is based on what a person can do, usually over many supposed lifetimes.
In America, adherents are estimated at between one and two million Buddhists. Canada reports 366,830 Buddhists. Not all Buddhists are immigrants from Asia. PewResearch says, “In sharp contrast to Islam and Hinduism, Buddhism in the U.S. is primarily made up of native-born adherents, whites and converts.” Many westerners have studied or practiced Buddhism and decided they like it better than what they knew of Christianity. You can help them through prayer.
Resources and Contacts
Buddhism: Stumbling Blocks and Stepping Stones a book by Dr. Paul Dybdahl and Pastor Scott Griswold
Sharing Jesus with Buddhists. Ministry Magazine article by Scott Griswold
Learn about the Buddhist, Confucian, Tao, and Shinto religions. Contact this Global Mission center to learn more how to share God's love with people of these backgrounds.
Register at the Center for East Asian Religions to access specialized resources such as the following:
Winning Hearts Video Training Series - A 14-episode series that takes you through the basics of ministry to East Asians. Topics range from the history of Buddhism and how it impacts East Asian worldview, to understanding why East Asians are not easily reached by the Gospel. We also introduce the CEAR Disciple-making Cycle. Through the series we will help you plan for successful ministry.
GLOW tracts especially written for Buddhists.
Bridge of Hope - 30 Bible topics written especially for Buddhists. Includes script and powerpoint pictures. Useful for public evangelism and for ideas on how to present to a Buddhist audience.
NEWSTART PLUS - A series of PowerPoint presentations designed to meet the physical felt needs of Asian friends using NewStart principles. An excellent resource for small group study or health-ministries outreach programs.
Bridges for Ministry - This is a manual useful for training in ministry among Buddhists. It emphasizes caring action and the presentation of truth in a way that is easier for Buddhists to understand and appreciate. You can also obtain the almost identical resource as Reaching and Winning Buddhists from adventsource.com
Watch Greg Whitsett share his view of Buddhism and how Christians can befriend and reach out to Buddhists.
Article on Biblical and Buddhist Meditation by Scott Griswold