And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
Imagine this: Packing up and traveling to a new home–over 7,000 miles away. Entering an unfamiliar and different world. It’s even a challenge to speak the local language. But despite all of these hurdles, one of the largest struggles is finding a church home and a place to worship God. This is what happened to a group of Christians from the Democratic Republic of Congo when they settled in the Kansas City area. However, through other Christian Congolese, they discovered that the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod was in unison with their own Christian church’s beliefs and might be able to help. Enter Messiah Lutheran Church and School in Independence.
Independence is located about a 20 minute drive east of Kansas City, and Messiah is blessed with space to share. The Congolese use Messiah’s gymnasium for their activities. Michael Wemimo, a leader with the Congolese group, notes that it’s a major blessing to have a space “to praise God, and share worshipping God with one another...And the Lutheran pastors, especially Pastor Mueller, are helping us a lot. I mean, giving us the support we need, to make sure that the gymnasium is open when we need to use it–even for Christmas worship service–or even if we have other events, that we are able to use the gymnasium, which is something that we really appreciate.”
Michael Wemimo also serves in the community as a driver to help many of the children attend Messiah Lutheran School. Six of the Congolese students joined Messiah in the 2020-2021 school year and represent a major part of Messiah’s total enrollment of 33 (from early childhood-4th grade). Messiah’s school received a grant for scholarships for the Congolese students from the Missouri District that came from the 2019 Lutheran Education Association Convocation, held in St. Louis. Messiah’s Principal Eric Eckhoff says the Congolese children are a huge blessing. “The kids fit in so well,” says Eckhoff who notes that the biggest hurdle to overcome was getting the kids to and from the school, “Transportation has been the big, big issue… Once we got that hammered out, they have been here faithfully everyday.” That transportation issue was solved with a van that was purchased with the help of a Missouri District mission grant and LUMA (Lutheran Urban Mission Agency). Support and resources are also provided by the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, whose pastor, Rev. Brad Zerkel, also serves as the director of LUMA.
Helping this group of Congolese is very important to the people and mission of Messiah. Rev. Bart Mueller, pastor at Messiah, summarizes, “Our long-term overarching concern with this particular group of Christians that we’ve gotten in touch with, is trying to help them prepare the next generation for life in America as Congolese.” Messiah is working to strengthen the connection with the Congolese group and explore LCMS training opportunities for their leaders.