Familiar language and worship songs cultivate community for Eritrean Canadians

Posted on Monday, July 29th, 2013 by Roger Villeneuve in Church Planting, News | No Comments

A story of church planting in Manitoba

Photo: Pastor Habtemicael Beraki leads the Philadelphia Eritrean Church in Winnipeg, Man. (Photo by Tony Schellenberg)

There are roughly 4000 Eritrean immigrants in Winnipeg, claims Philadelphia Eritrean Church pastor Habtemicael Beraki. His church draws 200 of them for three hours every Sunday afternoon, and that number is growing fast.

“What they are thinking after they prepare to come to Canada is probably ‘we will lose our spiritual life, we will lose our worship,’ says Beraki. “But after they came to Winnipeg, they find a wonderful worship place [at Philadelphia].” Services are held in the Eritrean language of Tgrina, and much of the worship music is from the Eritrean Christian community.

Beraki himself arrived from Eritrea via Ethiopia in 2006, and began attending a 7–8 member Eritrean fellowship meeting on the second floor of Calvary Temple in downtown Winnipeg. Drawing upon sixteen years of pastoral experience, he quickly became the group’s teacher, working a construction job during the week and working in ministry on weekends.

In 2008, Philadelphia Eritrean Church completed the process to become an official MB church plant, and joined the denomination. Two years later the church was self-sustaining and able to become an autonomous member of the MB conference.

“I’m thankful that I’m working with the MB church,” says Beraki. “Really they gave their right hand to my ministry … they have a big heart for church planting and mission.”

He explained that Eritreans are sometimes hard to reach because of their strong backgrounds in the Orthodox and Catholic traditions, but when they do decide to follow Jesus they are “genuine believers.”

Philadelphia Eritrean Church and Pastor Beraki request prayer for the following:

  • That God would open doors into the community for ministry to the 4000 Eritreans in Winnipeg, the thousands across Canada, and the millions of unchurched Canadians living beside them.
  • Work for new immigrants in Winnipeg. “The newcomers have a lot of challenges,” says Beraki. “There is a lot of work in Alberta, a lot of work in Edmonton, so it is very difficult to settle here in Winnipeg. So after one year, after two years they move to another place. It is very challenging for the family, it is very challenging for the children, it is very challenging for the church.”

Paul Esau is a communications intern with CCMBC and the MB Herald.

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