KENT, WASHINGTON (November 4, 2010) – Ten new Bhutanese believers were baptized at Kent Covenant Church recently, another sign of how refugees from Nepal are finding a spiritual home with the congregation since they first started attending a year ago.
The church also has experienced dramatic changes.
“In one year, our international ministry has grown to include two twice-a-week classes for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), a weekly Talk Times for conversational practice, a Sunday morning Bible study in Nepali, and children’s Christian formation classes to support these ministries,” says Susan Sommerman, assistant pastor of community outreach and ministry opportunities. “We hope to soon offer a Bible-based parenting class.”
The congregation also makes sure the Bhutanese can get to church. Three drivers make multiple trips to local apartment complexes to transport an average of 50 Bhutanese attendees, Sommerman says.
On the same day as the baptisms last month, the church introduced new translation equipment. The Bhutanese had been participating in the first part of the worship service, but then left to attend Bible classes. The translation equipment enabled them to hear the entire service in their own language for the first time. Initial plans call for the translation equipment to be used the first Sunday of every month.
The photos below show one of the participants using the new equipment, as well as Bible teachers Cathy Nordman and Karuna Prasai with those who were baptized as they display their baptismal certificates. The photo accompanying this story shows senior pastor Keith Carpenter baptizing one of the participants.
The refugees, who have lived in Nepali refugee camps for up to 18 years, came to America as part of a United Nations effort to resettle more than 100,000 Bhutanese throughout the world that started in 2008.
Most lived in southern Bhutan, a nation located between China and India and fled persecution after the government came to believe they were a threat to what was then a monarchy because of protests against repressive citizenship rules. When refugees were initially denied the opportunity to settle in India, 80,000 streamed into United Nations refugee camps in Nepal.
The first refugees to attend Kent Covenant had been picked up at an airport by a woman who then sought a church that would welcome them. The church responded immediately and began picking up the refugees from an apartment complex just five minutes away to bring them to services.
“We knew that God was directing this because he had brought a Nepali couple to our congregation who joined us in membership about three years earlier,” Sommerman says.
The couple, Bashu and Karuna Prasai, were church planters and evangelists who had come to the United States to attend seminary. “Little did we know then that God was preparing a congregation for them to lead right here in Kent!” says Sommerman.
Most of the Bhutanese who are attending come from a Hindu background, but the church has baptized 28 new believers in the last year, say Sommerman.
Kent Covenant assists three other churches that worship in different languages – two Burmese churches and a Hispanic church.