New Swahili-speaking congregation in Michigan

. 2 min read

African Women's Choir

South Wyoming is home to one of The Michigan Conference’s newest congregations. Meet Pastor Banza Mukalay leader of Restoration Community Church UMC. They want people to “leave this place blessed forever!”
KAY DEMOSSContent Editor, Michigan Conference
… Soon after arrival in Grand Rapids, Pastor Mukalay had 50 persons worshipping in his basement. The Rev. Marcia Elders, then pastor of South Wyoming United Methodist Church, invited Pastor Mukalay to move his flock to their building. Another year passed and there were 100 in worship. When South Wyoming became a campus of Cornerstone Church, hospitality continued for the Restoration Community. Today there are 200 in the Swahili-language service on Sunday afternoon.
One challenge to his ministry is finances. “A tithe is a problem for many in our congregation,” Mukalay says. But that does not dim his passion for God’s work. He is employed by a construction company in Grand Rapids. When Banza shared his desire to be a pastor and to work in refugee resettlement, the company agreed to pay him three days to work for them and two days to work for the church. He feels very blessed.
Many in the congregation, like their pastor, came to Grand Rapids from refugee settlements in Rwanda, Burundi, and Sudan. “The church is made up of different people,” the pastor explains. “Most are not United Methodists at this time. Some are not Christian.” But the Spirit is moving in their midst. Pastor Mukalay has helped develop strong lay leadership. Restoration Community Church has programs for youth, men and women. He says, “These leaders are my pillars. I can fail but these people help me to be strong.”…
Apol introduced Monike, a mother of seven, who was one of the original Congolese families to come to the area and South Wyoming UMC. He recalls, “They came through the door with a note from their pastor back home. It said, ‘Please take care of my people.’” He continued with a broad smile, “Think of the thousands of miles between Congo and South Wyoming! The United Methodist connection is huge!”   
In addition to serving as a spiritual leader, Mukalay also cares for the material needs of the people. He has been personally involved in refugee resettlement for six years. Clothes, shoes, bedding, housewares, furniture are all things he procures and shares. “It’s in my heart to help people,” he says. “People come here after years of living in the forest in Africa and are expected to be self-sufficient,” he explains. “God helped me and taught me how to express myself so now I help them look for jobs, practice the language, and learn to drive.” It is estimated that there are over 2,000 Congolese living in Grand Rapids….