Indiana Church, Made Up Largely by African Refugees, Finds Much to Be Thankful For

Pastors Francois Mikobi, left, and James Masasu are seen earlier this month in front of the the International Restoration Church in Fort Wayne, Ind. The church, made up largely by African refugees, has been able to buy the building.
Pastors Francois Mikobi, left, and James Masasu are seen earlier this month in front of the the International Restoration Church in Fort Wayne, Ind. The church, made up largely by African refugees, has been able to buy the building.

Pastors Francois Mikobi and James Masasu will host a celebration of thanksgiving this weekend.

It may be a bit early for the traditional American Thanksgiving, but the two say they have much for which to be thankful.

Both men, refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, lead International Restoration Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The church planned special events Friday and this weekend to dedicate a new building for its congregation of about 100 people, many of them fellow refugees from Africa.

The congregation has grown from humble beginnings in the past seven years, the pastors say.

“It’s kind of a church of people with different backgrounds, different countries, actually about 15 countries,” Masasu, 48, told The Journal Gazette. “We have a lot of diversity. … It’s reflecting the diversity of Fort Wayne, definitely.”

At the church’s weekly worship services on Sunday afternoons, attendees typically include not only Congolese, but also people born in Rwanda, Burundi and Gabon in Africa and in Haiti and the United States. Services are in English, but French, the language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Swahili language of Africa are sometimes spoken.

The church follows in the evangelical Pentecostal tradition of Protestantism, says Mikobi, who was licensed as a minister of the Assembly of God denomination in 2011. He says First Assembly of God is one of several Fort Wayne congregations, including Fellowship Missionary Church and Life Bridge Church, that have provided assistance as the refugees worked to build their congregation.

According to Mikobi and Masasu, the church started as small prayer meetings in refugees’ homes beginning in 2007. As people became more settled and organized, they met for a while at a former Lutheran church. Beginning in 2012, worship was at a simple white-sided church once used by another Pentecostal group.

But by last year, it became clear that the congregation needed more space.

The nearly 10,000-square-foot facility, formerly owned by Boanerges Ministries Inc., was listed for just less than $249,000 and had been on the market for about a year. But the congregation’s offer of $170,000 was accepted, Mikobi says.

“That was a miracle in itself,” says Mikobi. “We are about 100 (people), and most of them are refugees. Most of them work, but they are low-income.”

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SOURCE: Longview News-Journal
Rosa Salter Rodriguez

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