Meet Hope of Life
June 11th, 2018 | Chris Morton
All summer long we’re asking the question “what happens when the Holy Spirit leads the way?” This past Sunday was an incredible example.
Our 2018 “Mission and Methods” statement grew out of the prayerful work of our Leadership Team to discern “what have we seen the Holy Spirit do among us or prompt us to do, and how can we lean into that?”
We articulated five “methods” that describe how we “do Church.” One of those was:
We seek opportunities to expand beyond a fellowship of sameness to reflect the breadth of God’s kingdom.
A few weeks later, an opportunity arose to help sponsor Hope of Life, a new congregation in Austin made up of primarily Congolese Refugees.
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From Congo to the U.S.
The Democratic Republic of Congo or DRC has struggled with violence and civil war for decades. Many have fled the area, especially since an uptick in violence in the late 00s.
One such refugee is Pastor Dieudonne, who came to the US in 2008. In the years since, many of his family and friends have reunited in Austin, Texas.
Along the way, they’ve connected with others who share similar stories, languages, and culture from neighboring countries like Rwanda. These relationships eventually developed into Hope of Life. This new Church community has created a space where they can gather to worship God in their native tongue while transitioning to life in a new culture.
On Sunday, a large contingent of Hope of Life gathered at Austin Mustard Seed’s Orange Chapel an hour before Liturgy. The room was abuzz with the energy of new experiences and making new friends.
Efforts were made to make Sunday Liturgy as much of a shared experience as possible. Prayers, which are always read from the stage, were translated. A few songs were led by Austin Mustard Seed’s band. The youth of Hope of Life sang and danced. This was followed by a few songs and a dance break (something brand-new to Austin Mustard Seed) from one of Hope of Life’s choirs.
In lieu of a sermon, Shane Blackshear, a member of Austin Mustard Seed’s Leadership Team, interviewed Pastor Dieudonne about his own story, and the development of their Church.
When asked about his growth as a follower of Jesus, he noted that his own life had changed when he learned that God could “heal the soul.”
Afterward, two member of Hope of Life and two members of Austin Mustard Seed served communion to the entire gathering.
The gathering wrapped up with a final song, featuring both the Hope of Life choir and Austin Mustard Seed’s worship band. Reflecting on the experience, Liturgy Curator Daniel Read called it “Certainly one the most beautiful things I have ever gotten to be apart of.”
Hospitality and Learning
As he closed out the interview, Shane commented that “we cannot control whether you feel welcomed by our country, but we want you to feel welcome among us.”
Pastor Dieudonne commented that they appreciated any help better navigating life in the U.S. Shane was quick to reply that we need to learn from them as well.
The experience of worshipping together with Hope of Life is one that Austin Mustard Seed will not quickly forget. Of course, there are obvious benefits of learning from another culture. On a deeper level, the heartfelt, passionate worship is a clear reminder of we as followers of Jesus should respond to God’s saving grace.
Moreover, Hope of Life’s story of overcoming violence, war, and relocation to create a vibrant community reminds us that God is with us in the darkness and is actively working to make all things new.
As we grow in this new relationship, we are excited to see what happens when the Holy Spirit leads the way.