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Heartland church service caters to Congolese

Kabamba leads the services. He said many Congolese don’t go to church because of a French language barrier. (Louis Finley/KTVO)

A small Congolese congregation holds French speaking services at First Baptist Church in Kirksville on Sundays.

It’s filling a large need for the area's largest growing community.

"We found out most of them don't go to the church," said French Worship Pastor Joel Kabamba.

Kabamba leads the services. He said many Congolese don’t go to church because of a French language barrier.

"We started gathering every Saturday night from 12 a.m. to 2 a.m.," Kabamba said.

Many Congolese work in area factories, some six days a week. The late night service gave them a chance to finally worship in their own language.

"I wanted them to have a time to rest, so after work they come home and rest and we met at 12," Kabamba said.

A month after it began, services are now held on Sunday mornings.

"Trying to fit that time to come to worship, to build community among themselves has been challenging for Joel," said First Baptist Kirksville’s Pastor Jason Marlin.

Marlin said he understands not being able to worship in your own language.

"I’ve been here for about three years. [My wife and I] came over from India where we served as missionaries, and while we were there we understood that being in a different culture was challenging," Marlin said.

Marlin found his Congolese parishioners in the same situation.

"They were really hungry for their heart language … it's really much broader and much bigger than First Baptist Kirksville," Marlin said.

"All I did was nothing. All is God's grace," Kabamba said.

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