OWENSBORO, Ky. (KT) – Better together.
A new church plant for the Congolese is flourishing in Owensboro through a partnership with Bellevue Baptist Church, sister churches in the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association and the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
The work began about two weeks prior to the coronavirus, said Danny Gray, the director of missions at Bellevue. The church plant came about through the organization of Eddie Torres, the multi language planting and development associate of the KBC, and was off to a strong start when the coronavirus hit.
“Carlos De la Barra, myself and many others began helping Bellevue to reach this goal,” Torres said. “The church began conversations with Pastor Moses Mpamyabigwi and began working toward planting a Congolese church.”
Mpamyabigwi preaches the message to the Congolese in Swahili and it’s also translated in Lingala by another person in the congregation. Mpamyabigwi had a previous connection with John Barnett, missions strategist of the KBC, when Barnett was with the IMB and worked at a refugee camp in Uganda a few years ago.
“John introduced us to him and he was vetted by Eddie Torres,” Gray said. “There was a lot of networking and connections made, even with John and Pastor Moses knowing each other three or four years ago. We met with Eddie and John and were able to structure everything and put it all together with the help of Bellevue mission resources and the KBC Multicultural Church Planting staff.”
Rob Patterson, evangelism team leader of the KBC, said it was another example of how Kentucky Baptist churches are reaching the international community, even right here at home.
“For years now, churches have been discussing the fact that God is bringing the nations to Kentucky, but the average Kentucky Baptist may not realize how their church is helping to reach these diverse nationalities through the Cooperative Program,” Patterson said. “Moses is just one of many multi-language church planters who are reaching dozens of people groups now living across the commonwealth.”
The church started the last week of February and met again the first week of March before COVID-19 shut it down for several months. They began meeting in person again in June, Gray said, and attendance has averaged more than two dozen.
“We had quite a big break there, but we continued to minister to our families that come to the church,” he said.
The Congolese are just the latest international group that has met on Bellevue’s campus, Gray said. Bellevue began assisting multi-language groups to start worship and Bible study ministries several years ago. “God has blessed us to help establish several Spanish language churches under the leadership of Pastor Jesus Amaya. Pastor Jesus has worked closely with Carlos De La Barra over the years to plant several Spanish language churches in our surrounding counties. We’ve also been blessed to have a Karen Language Fellowship, a Burmese Language Fellowship, and now God has provided us with an opportunity to reach Congolese refugees and asylum seekers in our city.”
“It’s not just the fact of getting together, being together and speaking the language,” Gray said. “Pastors in all these churches are preaching the good news.”
As the Congolese church is established on campus, more and more are likely to gravitate toward our city, Gray said. “Like all internationals, being in community is so important to them.”
It has been a blessing watching it unfold, Patterson said.
“It thrills my heart to see how God is using Kentucky Baptists to fulfill Revelation 7:9,” he said. “On any given Sunday there are believers worshiping in Burmese, Karen, Nepali, Spanish, Swahili and many other languages in Kentucky Baptist churches planted through the cooperation of churches and local associations. We truly are better together.”
The church is also a help outside the services, recently helping one of the Congolese families out of an apartment and into a house. Gray also took a donated bike and had it repaired and taken to them.
"It's simple things we take for granted," he said. "That's where God's people can step in and earn the right to share the gospel."
Torres said what's happening at Bellevue is true missions work, only right at home.
“When one speaks about missions, we often think that we need to go to another country to learn a different language to know another culture,” Torres said. “While that can be an uplifting experience and many people like to travel and experience other cultures, being a missionary can happen in the United States just as easily.”
The doors to witnessing to international people groups continue to open wide in Kentucky and that translates into more people being able to hear the gospel message, Torres said.
“The reality is that the nations are here among our midst,” he said. “Please pray to start more churches among people groups such as the Congolese. There are many more people groups right here in Kentucky who have not heard the gospel and are not gathering in their own language to worship. Please pray with me as we share the good news with the nations right here in our commonwealth.”