SENDING: REACHING THE NATIONS IN SOUTH CAROLINA
When Charles Kenya left his home in Kenya to come to Iowa in 2001 on a mission trip, he had no idea of the great plans that God had for his future. In 2002 the Kenya family moved to South Carolina. In May 2016, discussions began about the growing number of Swahili-speaking refugees who needed a church in the area. Over a period of just a few months the Neema Kiswahili Baptist Church was organized, and on January 15, 2017, Dr. Kenya was ordained as one of its pastors.
The Swahili congregation is blessed to have two dedicated men as pastors. Augustin Mutabesha sees God at work in his life and in bringing him to Spartanburg to pastor the church. Born in the Congo, he grew up in a rural area of the Kigoma region of Tanzania. During a Christian festival he gave his heart to Jesus at age thirteen. Just three years later, tragedy struck. While he was away from home working with missionaries, his entire family was killed by insurgents. Pastor Mutabesha says, “God saved me from being killed, so I felt his guidance in my life.”
“God saved me from being killed, so I felt his guidance in my life.”
In June 2016 he, his wife, and three young children immigrated to the United States. It was not long before he found the Swahili language group that needed an additional leader, and in January 2017, he was ordained as pastor.
The beginning of this church is also amazing. South Carolina Baptist leaders were concerned about a group of eighty Congolese refugees who had no church in the Swahili language. They began working with church planter Samuel Kioko from Kenya. Rev. Kioko started a Bible study in one of their apartments and then it moved to a common area in an apartment complex. When that space became too small, Abner Baptist Church opened their doors for the new church to use. Now as many as 70 people attend Saturday and Sunday services.
Many of the Congolese have been refugees for a long time. They left their country over ten years ago to live in camps in Uganda and Tanzania to escape the war that devastated their homes. Now many of this group have been in the United States for a little over a year. They are learning English and looking for jobs.
Rev. Kioko said that it was a very special day for the church when Bibles and hymnals in the Swahili language arrived from Kenya. Dr. Kenya’s son is now leading a Sunday School for the children using materials purchased with Janie Chapman funds, which also help to pay the rent for the church.
- Have you ever been in an area where you didn’t understand the language or the customs of the people? How did that make you feel, how do you think the refugees feel?
- The refugees celebrated when they received a Bible in their own language. How many Bibles do you have in your home, how many do you use?
- That all Swahili speakers will be found and invited to the church.
- That the Congolese can learn English and find jobs.
Part of the 2017 Season of Prayer for the Janie Chapman Offering.