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AG Church Houses Two Additional Churches, Creating Multi-Ethnic and Multilingual Congregation

Opening its doors to two additional congregations, comprised primarily of refugees, Omaha Christian Center is living out its missions focus from inside the walls of its own building.
On the Sunday before the Fourth of July, a trio of churches in Omaha, Nebraska, will be meeting together to celebrate Freedom Sunday. The service will be especially meaningful to immigrants who fled persecution in their native lands.

This is the second time Omaha Christian Center has hosted this event. Pastor Chris A. Wadle says it is designed to increase awareness of persecution people face in other nations and to pray that freedom would come to those countries.

Joining them for the June 30 service will be two immigrant congregations who also meet in Omaha Christian Center’s building. Church of Myanmar Nationalities has been using the facilities since 2016. The Omaha Swahili African Church started meeting there last November.

“We will focus more on the persecuted church and prayer for that and helping American churches understand what that means,” says Wadle, 63. “We’ll probably let the Burmese and Swahili teams lead worship, ask one of their pastors to preach, and have a multicultural potluck [dinner].”

Sein Ram Nanghee, the pastor of Church of Myanmar Nationalities, sees the observance as a special day. It will recall stories like his: being forced to leave his native land in 2002 and live as a refugee in India before coming to the United States in 2014.

“Believers in our church came here because of religious persecution, forced labor, and civil war,” says Nanghee, 44. “When I was in Bible college, the government and the military shut down all the churches and Bible colleges.”

Freedom Sunday is going be significant for the Swahili church too, says its pastor, Mnongetha Chondo. A majority of the members fled persecution in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been plagued by conflict for more than 30 years.

“We want to talk about our freedom and how we can help our community back home,” says Chondo, 36. “That will mean a lot to us.”

Beyond praying for freedom, Omaha Christian’s members will celebrate how this service represents the fulfillment of a vision God gave them eight years ago.

The church holds an annual leadership retreat; in 2016 they sensed the Lord laying a burden on their heart to focus more attention “outside the box,” says Wadle, a graduate of Central Bible College (now Evangel University).

Soon after, a native of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) accepted Jesus as his Savior at Omaha Christian. Wadle started visiting the family and getting to know them. Later, the pastor heard about a church composed of refugees from the Asian nation that was looking for a place to worship.

When Nanghee met with the board, they agreed to rent the Myanmar church space for 1:30 p.m. services on Sunday. The Myanmar congregation also has Bible classes on Saturday evenings.

Since relocating from a home with just three families coming, the Church of Myanmar Nationalities has grown to 14 families and average weekly attendance of 70.

Nanghee says conducting services in the Burmese language has been a key to the church’s growth. In the past, those who attended church were in services using primarily English. The pastor says God led him to use the Burmese language on Sunday and witness to those outside the church, too.

“I am currently sharing the gospel with Buddhists, Muslims, and Roman Catholics in the Burmese community,” says Nanghee, who estimates there are 10,000 immigrants from Myanmar living in the city.

“I share with them Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship with the living God. The Holy Spirit is working in amazing ways among unbelievers.”

While they hope to one day purchase their own building, their members’ modest income means that will be a long time coming, says the bivocational pastor, who also works second shift in a meat packing plant.

“Many churches we talked to said they didn’t have space, but Omaha Christian was willing to rent to us,” Nanghee says. “I really appreciate Pastor Chris and his heart. He’s helping us a lot.”

Since moving services from a member’s basement to Omaha Christian, the Omaha Swahili African Church’s attendance has expanded from about 20 to between 75-80, says Chondo.

The Pentecostal congregation decided to approach the board about using the sanctuary at 4 p.m. on Sundays after holding a funeral for one of their members in the sanctuary, Chondo says.

“The way we started and the way we are now—it has helped us grow and be able to have services,” says Chondo, who also works as a machine operator.

Though Omaha Christian only numbers about 100 adherents, Wadle says welcoming two other churches into their congregation has been like a jolt of Great Commission energy.

“I’m one of those pastors who believes missions is the DNA of Jesus,” Wadle says. “You can’t be Pentecostal without being supportive of missions. We give 12 cents of every dollar to missions and we want to get that up to 20 cents.”

The pastor says welcoming the two immigrant churches offers another benefit. Every Sunday people in the surrounding neighborhood see different races and cultures coming to the church, which is a witness to them as well, Wadle says.

“Everything has been positive,” says Wadle, who recommends similar cooperation among other churches. “It gives our church a bird’s-eye view of missions, how vast the world is, and how lost the world is. It brings the Great Commission to life for us every week.”

Kenneth C. Walker

Kenneth C. Walker is a freelance writer, co-author, and book editor from Huntington, West Virginia. He has more than 4,500 article bylines and has written, edited, or contributed to more than 90 books.