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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church


    news article

    How Mission Partner Churches can help International Reconciliation Ministries

    March 5, 2018 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Editor’s Note: The Upper New York Conference is launching a new program called the Mission Congregation Process whereby churches can connect with a church with a large immigrant population to pray for them and help support them. Click here to read more about this new process. Below, learn about International Reconciliation Ministries, the New Faith Community chosen to be a pilot for this program.

    Pastor John Bizimana leads the International Reconciliation Ministries. Pastor Bizimana came to this country as a refuge of violence in the Congo. His vision (as depicted in the name of the church) is to provide a church where people can experience reconciliation with God and with people that may have been on the other side of the violence in their home country. Pastor Bizimana was a member of the minority tribe in the Congo that suffered thousands of losses to the majority tribe including many of his closest friends and family. His church is made up of persons from both tribes(approximately 50 percent from each tribe), and together they are experiencing the forgiveness of God and each other. And, they are blessing the lives of African immigrants from many countries throughout the city of Albany. They are now worshipping with an average of about 75 each week, with 140+ active persons. Many of these are youth and children.

    Pastor Bizimana said, “Here in the church, we help everyone, regardless of tribe or background. We don’t make any differences between them when we provide assistance. We call everyone ‘brother’ or ‘sister.’  Everyone from every tribe gets the same treatment.  By sharing acts of mercy – visiting them in their homes, helping with shopping and transportation, eating together, we break down the barriers.  In the refugee camp, persons from each tribe will say they fled from the other tribe.  Here, we visit each other and become one.  The war continues even now.  Each person who arrives bears the trauma of having seen family members killed by the other tribe. “

    The Mission of the International Reconciliation Ministries is:

    • To help persons from different tribes and backgrounds reconcile with each other and with God.
    • To help people feel like home by worshiping in the African tradition in their common language.
    • To bring revival among the people who come here in the new life (many get a job and forget God).

    When the African refugees arrive to the Albany area, they face many challenges. They don’t know English; they do not have financial resources, transportation, or employment. They also need an orientation to the new life here in the United States. Pastor Bizimana said, “International Reconciliation Ministries invests time, money, and care in orienting the newly arrived. Those who have been here longer, help those who have just arrived. Those who are already employed can help the newly arrived find jobs and learn the language, so they can work.”

    Pastor Bizimana continued, describing some of the other ways that his New Faith Community helps refugees, “We show them where to shop for food and clothes and how to cook with what they buy.  We help them with medical appointments and connect them with the Department of Social Services.  We work closely with RISSE, also a ministry of Emmaus:  Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus.  At RISSE, they can take English classes and find some legal assistance and other services.”

    While International Reconciliation Ministries is greatly helping refugees from the Congo ease in to life in Albany and revive their relationship with God, help from mission partner churches could benefit the refugees in even more ways.

    Current needs at the church include:

    • A flat screen television for Sunday school classes, for children and adults.
    • A newer model computer with email and word processing software for the office, and a printer.
    • A van for transportation Pastor Bizimana said, “We have to bring many of our refugees to and from church for both services Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. We also bring them to their medical, social, and refugee agencies appointments.  Any 8-12 passenger van in good working order would be greatly appreciated.”
    • A donation of money to help us pay for insurance and gas for the van (approximately $2500 for a year).
    • A donation of money so that 2 or 3 unrelated persons can provide Safe-Sanctuary sensitive child care for many children during Saturday and Sunday services for 3 hours each week  (approximately $3,000 for a year)
    • A donation of money to allow IRM to hold its Annual International Reconciliation Conference. Hundreds of African immigrants come from Canada and all over the Northeast for worship, food, games, and to hear the good news of the gospel. Pastor Bizimana said, “This year’s Conference will be held on July 6th, 7th, and 8th and everyone is invited!  All sessions have translation provided. The ministry sometimes aids with travel expenses for those who come from a distance and we provide meals for attendees as well as help with lodging.”  (approximately $2,000 for each year)

    How can your church become a mission partner with this New Faith Community?  First, you can become a prayer partner with them. Second, you and a small group of interested people could plan a trip to Albany to meet Pastor Bizimana and the people of his church, experience their high energy worship, and spend some time learning each other’s stories. They worship on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons.  Third, you could make a monetary donation or help with the aforementioned needs of this growing congregation.

    To reach Pastor Bizimana to arrange for a donation or a visit to his New Faith Community, he can be contacted at rusjohnb@yahoo.fr.  

    As mentioned above, connecting your church with the International Reconciliation Ministry (and others in the future) in a meaningful way is the goal of the Mission Congregation Process.  If your church wants to get involved, please contact Rev. Dave Masland at (dmasland@unyumc.org).  You will be invited to take advantage of some training to equip your team to relate with confidence and humility to people of another culture, and then will be given opportunity to create a long-term relationship (1-3 years) that will impact both your church and theirs.  Rev. Masland is always available to answer questions.  More Mission Congregations will be added soon.


    With more than 168,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 867 local churches and 65 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."