Her American name is Nadine and the beauty of her Rwandan culture emanates through a broad, engaging smile. She was answering my questions, “What language are you speaking to them in? How do you know so many languages?”
There were many different languages present at 5:00 o’clock on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend on the playground of the Indigo Apartments in Dallas, which works with the government and resettlement agencies to provide affordable apartments to refugees from around the world because that’s where they are and that’s where we are. We’re reaching this burgeoning mission field in non-traditional “new faith community” congregations, called New Day’s.
Currently two New Day communities meet in the Indigo apartments: New Day Amani meets Saturday from 5-7 pm; New Day Indigo meets on Sundays from 5-7. Both are “anchored” in local United Methodists churches and sponsored by our Center for New Church Development.
This was a community gathering, and New Day pastor, Cecilia Igweta from Kenya had summoned the kids from the bounce house, the older adults from their hot dogs, hamburgers, and watermelon, and the young adults from multiple huddles of two to three laughing, giggling, teens. Eagerly they were gathering for worship.
Squeezed onto this one picnic table were a dozen or so young girls. Scattered around the playground surface were similarly crowded tables, interspersed with people seated comfortably on the ground or in rickety chairs.
From the crowd, volunteers led spirited music in a variety of cultures joyously appreciated by all, regardless of their diverse ethnicities. Then an old white guy from the anchor church (1st Rowlett) read a scripture and you could hear the echoing murmur of voices translating into the native tongue of attentive listeners.
That was when I asked Nadine my simple questions: “What language?” and “How can you interpret into so many different languages.”
Her even simpler answer, “I can, because two years ago I was just like them.”
She was carried the fullness of the gospel. What she had learned, she was now passing on. She was once received and now she is witnessing to others.
She motioned to a young man. “He was forced in to seven different refugee camps in 6 years, each camp worse than what you would call a slum.”
I just shook my head. What could I say?
“My story is similar,” continued Nadine, “But here, in this church I have found a home. Two months ago I moved in with one of the campus pastors, Sara. I am learning about this country, she is learning about my culture. Together we are ministering with our presence.”
Surrounding me were stories of suffering, struggle, and perseverance. Yet all around were sounds of song, and praise, and Christian witness. Onlookers gawked…refugees eagerly shared food with those who had no intention of being in the worshipping circle. There was true hospitality.
Through two non-traditional new church starts, a large and diverse community is being transformed…and people’s lives are being touched!