When is the last time you danced in church? While many of us could never imagine dancing during the offering or for a twenty minutes in the middle of a church service, for Augustine Tshibangu and his Evangelical Church of Jesus Christ (ECJC) congregation this is an every Sunday form of celebration and praise.
Tshibangu, a church planter from the Congo, is the leader of a vibrant and growing body of Congolese and Central African worshippers in southwest Houston. Reaching out to refugees and immigrants from the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and other African countries such as Rwanda and Burundi Tshibangu hopes to bring reconciliation, healing and the Gospel of Jesus to Houston.
"We are ambassadors" Tshibangu told his congregation, "we are to bear the message and victory of Jesus to the people of Houston, our neighborhood, our families."
For several years Tshibangu and his people floated from home-to-home, building-to-building ministering to the people of Central Africa in Houston. Now, partnering with LINC Houston and Pilgrim Lutheran Church, the ECJC community has grown to worship around 70 people each Sunday.
Featuring a vibrant worship led by call and response, hand drums and an acoustic guitar their worship services are distinctly energetic. Frequently, the church service is punctuated by calls of "Hallelujah" from their worship leader Silvan, to which the worshippers respond with "Amen!" or "God is great!"
The church service is also interrupted by people coming and going, arriving when they can after struggling to find a ride to church.
"Now that we have a facility we are blessed" said Tshibangu, "but we desperately need transportation for our families. Many of them have to take public transport or walk to church. It is difficult to get to church for many of our people."
He asked that LINC and its supporters help find a van for the church to use for Sunday mornings and other ministries.
"We desperately need one" said Tshibangu.
Despite the challenges of learning English, finding transportation and frequently moving locations the ECJC is up to the challenge and they plan on growing and reaching more people. They are a congregation of smiles and excitement and throughout the service when asked if they are happy they raise their hands to wave and shout "Hallelujah, God is great!"