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AG Districts Encouraging Ministry of African Pastors

Eager to remove language barriers and obstacles related to transferring credentials for immigrating African pastors, AG districts are creating resources and opportunities for a seamless transition to ministry in the U.S.

Several Assemblies of God districts are taking proactive steps to create opportunities for African immigrants to the U.S. who want to begin ministry, and to facilitate transferring credentials for those who pastored in their country of origin. These efforts are helping reach immigrant communities across the U.S. with the gospel and Christian fellowship.

Since many of those immigrants are French-speaking, district efforts to equip ministers are often in partnership with other AG entities that produce materials in French, as well as with missionaries who have served Francophone populations.

The latter part of the 20th century brought an influx of African immigrants to the United States that has continued into the 21st century.

Significant steps in equipping African pastors have been taken in several AG districts, including Minnesota, Arizona, Illinois, North Texas, and Ohio, with other districts getting on board as well. A common denominator in many efforts has been the work of U.S. Intercultural Ministries Missionary Julie Kraus.

After years of AGWM ministry in West Africa, including the French-speaking Ivory Coast, Julie and her late husband, Paul, began serving immigrant pastors in the New York Ministry Network, where Superintendent Duane Durst wanted to help ethnic pastors get acclimated, particularly the many Francophone Africans in New York. Julie also began networking to help other districts reach out to Francophone ministers arriving in their communities.

“An ongoing influx is from refugee camps in Congo,” says Kraus, who recently spoke at a conference of Swahili churches in Appleton, Wisconsin, where refugees are arriving steadily.

Integration is challenging for many Congolese who have spent most or all of their lives in refugee camps; Kraus met one elder who expressed a sense of guilt at being chosen for resettlement when others had to remain behind.

In addition to refugees, many Africans come for advanced medical training or other education, or simply seeking better employment opportunities. One of those is Pastor Kwasi Twumasi, who came to the U.S. 22 years ago for graduate school and then began working for an electrical engineering company.

Having been in an Assemblies of God church in Ghana, he joined a local African AG church in Minnesota, where many Africans have settled in the Central Twin Cities. After being involved there for 16 years, he felt led to start another AG church to meet needs of growing numbers of African immigrants in the Minneapolis area. Joyful Way Assembly of God in the St. Louis Park neighborhood of Minneapolis has now grown to an average of 70–80 attendees.

“The Minnesota district helps churches like ours, especially in areas of registration and affiliation with the district and the General Council,” says Pastor Twumasi, who received credentials through the Minnesota School of Ministry in 2021.

As pastors become more familiar with district and General Council involvement, they in turn assist others; Pastor Twumasi has recently mentored an African pastor starting a church in Indianapolis.

Erin Corbett helps facilitate credentialing in Minnesota, assisted by Erica Silva, whose husband’s Hispanic background helps her understand cross-cultural needs. The district offers a summer internship program, and after a successful experience in 2023 with Hispanic students using headsets and a Spanish study binder, the binder will be translated into French this year for African attendees.

Minnesota leaders are grateful to Kraus for assisting with exams and serving as translator for the district’s French Language Seminar in 2022. One of Kraus’s first mentees, Pastor Judith Vogne, is now assisting other people ordained in the Assemblies of God in Africa as they transfer to the U.S.

Gary Grogan served in pastoral ministry for many years in Urbana, Illinois, before founding The Father’s Mission, a supportive network of Francophone churches in the Midwest.

Grogan says the growth of the network has been biotic, as seeds are planted and growth is relational, and he believes district leaders can be similarly proactive and see growth as they support Christian immigrants.

“Churches must be intentional,” he says. “Many communities have some international presence, such as ethnic restaurant owners, and people don’t even think about it.”

Such organic, relational growth is also happening in Arizona, which has a growing population of African immigrants, many of whom are looking for fellowship.

In 2010, a medical doctor from the Congo approached Arizona Ministry Network Superintendent Stephen Harris at the office to introduce his father-in-law, Theo, who wanted to start a church with a core group of people already meeting in a home. The man had a large family, and one of the sons-in-law was also a pastor.

“The church thrived,” says Harris. “I didn’t realize until then there were so many in our state.”

Harris, who grew up as a missionary kid in Africa, says he has a heart for missions that immigrants seem to recognize, even though he was never called to the field.

District Intercultural Director Rick Ryan has also been intentional about finding internationals, and the Arizona School of Ministry is adapting to non-English speakers through using interpreters; French-speaking retired missionaries Glen and Peggy Gray provide valuable assistance translating and interpreting for basic credentialing classes.

The church planted by Theo has now planted at least three more, and the district has at least six African churches. Two are led by pastors from Ghana and four by pastors from the Congo. All offer English services for the next generation, but are also starting to reach out, with 17 nations represented in the pastor’s English service.

To help meet growing needs nationwide, Kraus connects regularly with other district Intercultural directors while still serving the New York Ministry Network, although she lives in Chicago to be near family. Kraus works through online video conferencing software to help with language needs for non-English-speaking pastors and is the contact for districts needing credentialing materials in other languages. She also serves on missions task forces, and teaches on cross-cultural effectiveness at special events.

All these leaders agree that God is using migration in powerful ways to bring new perspective into AG U.S. churches. Their goal is to remove as many barriers as possible for people called to ministry.

“This is a great day to be serving our international family,” says Kraus. “It is exciting to help districts welcome our international partners in meaningful and effective ways.”

Cynthia J Thomas

Cynthia J. Thomas worked for Assemblies of God U.S. Missions for six years before becoming primary caregiver for her father, a World War II veteran. She has served as a counselor for victims of domestic violence and women facing crisis pregnancies. Cindy and her husband, Phil, a schoolteacher, volunteer in youth outreach and have three adult children and one granddaughter.