Pastor Hiruy Gebremichael is the pastor of Saint Mark Lutheran Church in Tucker, Georgia. The ministry he serves has two distinct congregations in one location. One of the congregations is Anglo American and the other is Eritrean. You can imagine the difference in language and culture that would make this combination a challenge.
When asked about how this ministry came together, he told a story that spanned 15 years of stops and starts with quite a few people and a couple of different locations. There are many challenges to the ministries coming together. Among the most important ones was language.
The congregation that was present spoke English as do the children of the first-generation
immigrants. The heart language of the Eritrean community is Tigrinya. A common aspect the
helped bring the congregations together is their Lutheran heritage and use of the liturgy and
hymnody that helped cross cultural barriers.
Pastor Gebremichael says that the ministry is “One church, two missions” with linguistic
differences being the major challenge to being one congregation. There are church festivals in
which the missions come together to hold a joint service with fellowship following with the
sharing of culturally distinctive food. One of the most important lessons I gleaned from my conversation with Pastor Gebremichael is that the pastor and the igniter must be patient. The pastor of St. Mark 15 years ago was patient with Pastor Gebremichael and worked with him through his seminary formation. The congregations were patient as they experimented with how they would be able to share one facility and gifts. Both were prayerful about discerning the heart of God.
Today, St. Mark is a healthy Anglo congregation that meets at 9:30 AM on Sunday Morning.
That group holds adult Bible Study and Sunday School at 11 AM when the Eritrean congregation comes for worship and the Eritrean children can participate in Sunday School.
Another learning is that ministry is organic and one solution will not fit every need. It takes
patience, prayer, perseverance, flexibility, and dedication to go through the trial and error it
may take to build a multiethnic ministry. Be steadfast and immovable and God will bless your
efforts because it is in sync with his vision of a great multitude from every people, nation, tribe,
and language gathered to worship Him and thank Him for His salvation.
To inspire your congregation to reach an ethnic group different from your own, order the Mission Nation sample packet. Click to order.