International Ministries for the Propagation of the Gospel (IMPG), a Congolese church in Houston, was hit particularly hard by the pandemic, with many of the church members losing their jobs. As Pastor Andre Shango talked with his congregants, he realized that 60-70% of them were struggling to afford food. Furthermore, many church members were refugees who spoke limited English and did not know how to access the food pantries available to them. So, Shango reached out to the Texas Baptists Intercultural Ministries office to see how they could help.
Mark Heavener, director of Intercultural Ministries, connected Shango with the Community Transformation Initiative, a grant designed by the Christian Life Commission (CLC) to help churches and ministries financially so that they can make a greater impact on their neighborhood. With the funds provided, plus their own matching funds, IMPG was able to hold a food drive for struggling church and community members.
Their food drive fed 150 families, giving them enough food to last the month. The boxes provided food staples, specifically focusing on food that is traditionally prepared in their home countries.
“It was a very good outreach,” Heavener said. “The church was able to connect with people from their community that they hadn’t worked with before. And we were able to help them reach the mission goal.”
IMPG was started in 2010 as a small prayer group. Shango works as a caseworker for refugees, and he began holding the prayer meetings to pray for those refugees that he encountered each day. Today, the church has 250 members and is extremely diverse, with people from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and more. Every Sunday, sermons are preached in French, with either a Swahili or English translator standing by as well.
“This is a good example of how diverse each intercultural church affiliated with Texas Baptists can be,” Heavener said. There are approximately 300 intercultural churches with 80 different languages worshiping with Texas Baptists every Sunday. And within each church, multiple cultures and languages may be represented.
“It’s been a beautiful thing because they’re so diverse with so many languages and cultures, but they come together through church and minister to so many across so many divides,” Heavener said.
At IMPG, the majority of the church members are refugees who are escaping war or persecution in their home countries. Many have seen or experienced horrible things that have driven them to come to America, and that is why it is so important to have churches and a Christian community they can worship with when they arrive.
“It’s so vital to have [intercultural] churches. Most of them don’t speak English, but they want to be close to God and grow spiritually,” Shango explained. “These people have been through so much, and they want a space where they can be with people who understand them and what they’ve gone through.”
The food drive was just the beginning for IMPG, which applied to be a Texas Baptist Hunger Offering Ministry for 2021. With those funds, they are able to continue supporting the food pantry they run from the church, providing long term help to their community.
For more information about Intercultural Ministries, go to txb.org/intercultural.