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Wheels for worship benefit Oromo congregation

March 30, 2011 No Comment

by Keven Drews

WINNIPEG — Getting to the church on time will soon be a lot easier for dozens of new Canadians from Africa.

Members of Lutheran–Church Canada’s (LCC) Red River Circuit recently purchased a 16-person minibus for members of an Oromo-speaking congregation which worships Sunday afternoons in downtown Winnipeg.

The vehicle, (photo right) formerly owned by a local health clinic, cost about $3,500 at auction and requires some work to make it roadworthy.

Concordia Lutheran Mission Society(CLMS) is backing the project and will hold a mission festival later this fall to raise funds to reimburse the circuit.

“Without the bus, the congregation would continue to eek along an existence similar to what they have right now,” said Rev. Richard Beinert, an LCC pastor who provides pastoral oversight to the congregation. “But the bus… [will]…provide a means to gather more of their members as well as do some real, visible, and practical outreach into the community to make more inroads into both the Oromo as well as inner city communities of Winnipeg.”

Pastor Richard Beinert (left) provides pastoral supervision to Winnipeg's Oromo congregation.

The Oromo congregation in Winnipeg, which is part of a network called the Union of Evangelical Oromo Church, has its roots in a Bible and prayer group formed in 2003. The church now boasts about 112 people, including about 72 adult members and 40 children. It is expected to become a member of Lutheran Church–Canada. Its leader, Assefa Aredo is currently studying in the Pastors with Alternate Training (PAT) program.

Many members, however, are recent refugees or immigrants from eastern Africa, specifically around Ethiopia, and don’t own vehicles.

So some walk to church—an activity many find difficult especially in the cold Canadian winter, said Beinert.

Others who own vehicles, he added, often make three or four trips just to bring fellow members to church. Often, the number of available seats determines who attends worship.

As a result, Beinert said the congregation has decided to worship Sunday afternoons because local transit services are better at that time of day. He said the seven to 10 kilometre trip across the city can take as long as 90 minutes.

The Oromo service remains a vital cornerstone for the church since the strongest source of growth for them right now is from the ongoing waves of newcomers that are brought across through refugee sponsorship,” explained Beinert.

Terry Goerz, president of the CLMS, said directors discussed the project at their annual board meeting and suggested the “project may need some local promotion.”

He said the original project was for a used van.

An opportunity became available to purchase a used minibus. CLMS did not have sufficient funds to purchase the minibus so the Red River Circuit purchased it. They expect to be reimbursed as funds come in for the project.”

Goerz the minibus must still be inspected and repaired.

“We are not aware of what the cost will be but have sent the funds that were raised in 2010 to the Red River Circuit to get the inspections done and estimates prepared.

CLMS will meet the project need up to $18,000. If the full amount is not needed to meet the need, the project amount will be reduced.”

Goerz said Lutherans across Canada can help by visiting www.concordiamissions.org and clicking  Donate Now.

People can also mail a cheque to William Andrew, treasurer of the CLMS, at 180 South Alder Street, Campbell River, B.C., V9W 5H8. Mark the donation Oromo van.

Finally,he said they can also respond to the Mission Advocate in the September issue of The Canadian Lutheran.

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