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Worshiping God, representing African culture

BY SHANE ERSLAND | NOVEMBER 02, 2009 7:20 AM

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The smoky aroma of grilling goat meat seeped through the open door of the Church of the Nazarene in Iowa City on Oct. 31.

Inside, 50 Christians praised their savior.

Since they received formal approval last fall to legally practice Christianity at their 1035 Wade St. address, membership has more than doubled.

Now, the 70-member group can focus on service projects and spreading diversity throughout the community.

Lenvo Mabikulu, who gives the opening prayer for every service, said Oct. 12, 2008, was a crucial day for the organization.

“It was very important because now we’re recognized by the state as a church,” he said. “It was imperative for us to acquire a license to practice for our membership to increase.”

The Church of the Nazarene is unique because it employs preachers that can speak to three different cultures, said senior pastor Michael R. Lynch.

“The English, Spanish, and African people share the same church,” he said. “All the activities during the week are interspersed. The idea is that the African immigrant congregation doesn’t have to spend money on resources; we share them.”

Church member Mwamini Sula said the organization’s diversity is ideal for religious practice.

“We love to sing, donate, and pray for each other,” the Iowa City resident said.

The organization’s membership has increased considerably since it was coordinated on Oct. 12, 2008. The Rev. Chapain B. Tosingilo said there are roughly 70 practicing members now.

“What makes this church special is the way we keep people involved,” Tosingilo said. “We worship the same God other Christian churches do, but here we represent African culture as well.”

To celebrate the church’s inception, church-goers dined on African cuisine. Preachers provided chunks of blackened goat, chicken, fufu (similar to mashed potatoes), and fried bananas. During the celebration, guest speaker Hans Ngodock, who assists with a volunteer project based in New Orleans, spoke of some of the group’s accomplishments.

He said the mission has helped build a new church, a mission house, and water wells in the impoverished country Sierra Leone this year. He pleaded for donations from his fellow Christians to continue his work.

“I’m giving you an opportunity to bless someone in Sierra Leone,” he said. “If you don’t help me, I’ll preach all night.”

Sula said church members not only aid those outside the congregation but also regularly reach out to fellow church-goers.

“We help each other; we help anybody who needs it,” she said.


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