Send Network Ohio Church Planter Catalyst, Buzz Kocher with Pastor Kaleba Faliala and other leaders of the Swahili Community Church Akron.
By Stephanie Heading, managing editor
For 40 years, Pastor Kaleba Faliala has served the Lord as a pastor. He first served in his native Congo. When he became a refugee from his homeland, Faliala’s location changed, but his mission and calling remained the same.
After spending time living in a refugee camp, the door opened for him and his family to immigrate to the United States in 2020. “The government of the United States selected me to come to America,” said Faliala. In 2021, they settled in Akron, Ohio, where he began serving the Lord as a church planter.
Faliala planted Swahili Community Church Akron for Swahili speaking immigrants. The 18-month-old church plant currently ministers to approximately 130 immigrants who came to America from Congo where Swahili is the native language.
This year Swahili Community Church Akron was a recipient of funds from the 2022 Ray Roberts State Missions Offering. SCBO churches collect this offering each September and it benefits Ohio church planters and Ohio Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
The Ray Roberts funds helped meet a significant need for the Swahili Community Church Akron – transportation. With Ray Roberts funds, the church was able to purchase a 12-passenger van. “One of the greatest problems is that very few of the people have driver’s licenses,” said Ohio Send Network Church Planter Buzz Kocher. “Those who do have licenses don’t have a car. I am grateful to see the church get a van.”
Kocher has collaborated with Pastor Faliala for the past year, visiting in the homes of church members.
“It’s wild,” said Kocher. “It feels like you are in Africa. It’s a cross cultural experience only two hours from Columbus.
It’s a cross cultural experience only two hours from Columbus.
“Many of the people are refugees who spent many years in refugee camps. There are stories of the hardships they endured, but they have come here to start a new life and worship God in their own language.”
As the young church plant continues to move forward, Faliala is pleased with the church’s growth. “The church is going well and is healthy,” he said through his interpreter Mokwa. “God is providing, and we are grateful and thankful for the blessing of a van.”
One significant challenge facing Swahili Community Church is securing its own place to worship. Currently the church is meeting at Citizens Church near Akron University but is praying for a building of its own.
“We would like to find a location where we can worship freely,” said Faliala. He noted that Swahili traditions of worship are different from American worship, and the church would also like to have a building of its own for events like prayer services and choir practice.
Faliala also sees the Lord moving in the church. He feels blessed by the assistance the church has received from Kocher and Dr. Rich Halcombe of Metro Columbus Association. “We receive money from Metro Columbus each month which helps the income of the church,” he said. “Newborn Christians are coming to join the church, and we got a van. We thank you!”
We thank you!
Pastor Faliala and the Swahili Community Church ask Ohio Baptists to remember them in prayer. Please pray for the church to get its own building; to send out people with mission vision; to multiply in Ohio and beyond; to bring more teachers and students into the church; and to develop a micro business in sewing for the women of the church. They currently need sewing machines for this business.
“We are celebrating what the Lord is doing in Akron,” said Kocher. “And telling people about it.”