On Sunday afternoon, in the basement of an old mansion on Delaware, over twenty refugees sang, stamped, preached, prayed, and testified in Swahili.
Since November 2016 Ndanga Ramazani, a Quaker pastor from Democratic Republic of Congo, has organized Swahili language evangelical services every Sunday evening from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Network of Religious Communities building.
“We started with prayers, house to house,” said Ramazani, before organizing these formal services. “Our goal is to put people together from different countries,”
Ramazani and his family lived in Kenya for eight years as refugees, where he served as a co-pastor for the Christian Ambassador Fellowship, a gathering of Christians from the Great Lakes region of East Africa.
He left Kenya for Buffalo seven years ago with his family and began these services last year to provide a more familiar worship space for his fellow East African refugees.
“[In American churches] we haven’t time to sing [but if we do, it’s] only in English,” said Gilbert Akala, a native of Congo who has been attending the services since they began. “But here, we are free, we are free … and someone can just take time to sing, praise God, all this.”
Most of the attenders still go to other churches in the morning, which is why the service is held in the evening. Ramazani attends Buffalo Quaker Meeting, which hosts the afternoon worship service, while Akala attends Armor Bible Church.
Ramazani preaches some weeks, but also invites members of the congregation — many of whom are also pastors — to preach.
Kiza Luundo is pastor’s wife at New Jerusalem church, and preaches there every Sunday, before going to the Swahili language service. Recently, she preached for the afternoon service for the first time.
“[I] love to work for the lord in morning and the afternoon, because [I] love God” said Luundo.
In addition to worship, the services help children learn their parents’ language and traditions. It also gives people a community of resources if they are having issues. Ramazani helps transport many of the attenders, both to the service and for errands during the week, and attenders can come him or other pastors for advice or even translation help.