French-Speaking Worship in the Hawkeye State
Pentecostal preacher Daniel Batige from his native Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) visited the United States for a ministry conference in 2012. He liked the country so much he decided to return permanently.
Without knowing anyone in the U.S., Batige sought asylum from his war-torn homeland, where he served as managing director of an organization called Gospel and Work for All. The nonprofit trained young adult Christians, whatever their vocation, to evangelize.
“My passion is to talk about Jesus and to preach the Word of God,” says Batige, 51.
The son of a Pentecostal pastor, Batige earned a bachelor’s degree in theology in the DRC. His residency and ministry in the U.S. now is intertwined with Brian W. Pingel, lead pastor of Radiant Church, an AG body in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Batige leads an international French-speaking congregation of 50 that meets at the facility on Sunday afternoons.
Several African immigrants, especially young adults, also attend the morning service at Radiant because they want to learn English.
Pingel, 52, instantly established rapport with Batige, who conducts lengthy prayer meetings at the church every Saturday.
“It’s really hard to start reaching a specific ethnic population in a community if there is not relationship,” Pingel says. “I trust Daniel implicitly.”
In 2015, Batige became a credentialed Assemblies of God minister, taking courses through Berean School of the Bible. He received his ordination in 2020. Batige and his wife, Dodo Nyakasane, have been married since 2000. They have five biological children, ages 21 to 11. They also adopted six children in the DRC, although none of them could gain entry into the U.S.
Now a permanent resident who has applied for U.S. citizenship, Batige says the francophone congregation is comprised of adherents not just from DRC. Immigrants from Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, and Haiti also attend. Most adherents are refugees seeking asylum. Batige preaches in French and the sermon is translated into English.
Some of the churchgoers don’t know English, which is a hindrance. In order to obtain a work permit, locals must know the language. There also are cultural barriers, some of which are eased when church newcomers from around the world have a dinner at the home of Pingel and his wife, Kristi.
“God’s kingdom is global,” says Pingel, an AG Iowa Ministry Network sectional presbyter. “It’s important that we understand how vast the people of God are.”
Many of the immigrants who end up in the Hawkeye State first settled in New York. But frequently a relative who lives in Iowa beckons them to move to an area where the cost of living is lower, the pace of life is slower, and ample job opportunities are available. Cedar Rapids is home to around 140,000 residents.
Meanwhile, a Radiant church launched in June already has become a vibrant faith community in Delaware County, home to 17,488 residents north of Cedar Rapids. The Manchester campus of Radiant Church is drawing 95 attendees. Manchester pastor Michael B. Netherton attended a Launch Training event earlier this year sponsored by the AG’s Church Multiplication Network.
A dozen other AG Congolese French-speaking congregations have opened throughout the Midwest in the past decade in conjunction with the Illinois District School of Ministry.
BOTTOM PHOTO:Representatives from two dozen ethnic fellowships in the Assemblies of God gathered in June for a conference in Springfield, Missouri.