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The Rural Missouri Church That Preaches In Five Languages

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
June 16, 2023 3:03 am

The Rural Missouri Church That Preaches In Five Languages

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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June 16, 2023 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Josh and Lauren Manning needed a change in life...and found the opportunity in Noel, Missouri...where an influx of immigrants and refugees necessitated a lot of adaptation - and a few translators in the church.

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Exclusions apply. This is Lee Habib, and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. And you can check out our podcast by subscribing on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Up next, a story from our Faith in Action series, where we share with you the stories of people of faith living it out in the public square.

Today's story comes to us from the little town of Noel, Missouri, where there's a church that has an unexpected amount of immigrants attending. Here's Pastor Josh Manning and his wife Lauren with the story. My name is Josh Manning, and Lauren, you want to dive in? OK, so yeah, Josh and I have been married nearly 20 years.

So we're coming along. I did 20 years at Wal-Mart. I was an assistant manager, and so you worked crazy hours.

I mean, you know, 15 days in a row at times. I remember doing that, you know, 12 hour shifts, a lot of those kind of things. He was at Wal-Mart constantly.

We lived an hour away from the Walmart in which he worked. And so for a lot of years there, we were, you know, that's that's all we were doing is I was I was bringing home a paycheck and Lauren was at home and was never quite fulfilled. I just never had this feeling that we were doing what God called us to do. He always said, God has something for us. God's going to do something with us.

And I thought, what does that mean? We have little kids. We had twins. And two years later, I had another baby. So we had three kids under three. I was 28 trying to homeschool three kids as they grew and Josh not being around and trying to be in church and do the right things.

It was a difficult season. We decided through. Well, God decided that it was time for us to do something and follow the Great Commission. And so at the time, our pastor was I would consider a Great Commission preacher. He was about sending. He was about missions. And I had never really truly heard a pastor that was so clear and direct.

I don't know. It clicked with us. I think it clicked around the same time.

When you agree, John, absolutely. It was like, whoa, we had we were watching him, his preaching. We were watching a young family from our church sell everything they owned and moved to Peru and the jungles.

They'd set up little churches down the Amazon River and he'd ride this little boat down the Amazon River and disciple the pastors there. And this was a family our age. It just just blew us away. And when we had gotten to that church, that family had just left. So we we didn't even see them and didn't know them, but knew their story because the whole church was talking about it. And that was hugely impactful.

The other thing was Lauren made me go to see David Platt speak. And I didn't know anything about this guy, but he was talking about the concept of just going. That is the concept of the gospel is as you hear the truth and then you go and tell the truth.

I mean, that's the basic premise. And so it impacted us greatly. And so those two and then our faithful teaching of a very good pastor, those three just really just pushed us in that position. And we didn't know where we were going to go, but we knew that we were going to share the gospel, whatever, whatever means that we had. We were going to do so as boldly and loudly as what we what we could possibly do. And we found out there was a church in Noel, Missouri, that the pastor had left, thrown up his hands in disgust and ran screaming, as many other pastors had there.

To be blunt. What the main industry is in the entire county and in that town is the poultry industry. And so what happened was is, of course, you had these these farmers, small time farmers that can have the chicken houses, but to have workers in a very rural county to be able to work the plants, they just there isn't any. And so probably about twenty five years ago, 30 years ago in that ballpark, Hispanic population started to move in. And then relatively more recent times, we started to get refugees from all over the world. Noel has an extremely diverse population. There's 30 nations of birth in a town.

Two thousand people. There's 10 languages that in my estimation are large enough to have a church functioning. And so you have a large number of these refugee population, limited English skills. And so it's a very challenging place to present the gospel.

But in some ways, it's served up for you in a silver platter because you know where to go to catch these people. You know what I'm saying? So I became pastor of a church that had two primary languages, English speaking, of course. It's called Corinne. They come from Myanmar. It was also called Burma.

You may have heard that. They've had been in civil war for it's like the longest running civil war since World War Two. Yeah, they've been in civil war. When we found out they were from Burma, we referred to them as the Burmese people.

And that is not something you should do because the Burmese government attacks these little... Josh can explain this better. These little ethnic tribes, yeah. Yeah, they come in and attack them so their own country will fight against them. So they are very proud to be Corinne. And they have a Buddhist background. They have a Christian heritage. So there's kind of a hodgepodge of religions within the Corinne people. But they come to our church.

Groups of them come faithfully and we get to preach the gospel and share Jews with them. And so not all of the adults necessarily know English in our church. So we have a translator and he's not necessarily a Christian. He's not necessarily Buddhist either.

He's kind of a mix of different religions. But we use the kids as translators for the parents so we can get to know the parents through the kids. And God's blessed this beyond our wildest dreams. Now it's four years later.

There are five independent services operating in our building. We have service, you know, all day long from 10 in the morning till 9 at night frequently on Sunday in five separate languages and attempting to start services in other languages as well. And we still have no idea what we're doing but God continues to bless it despite our idiocy. And you've been listening to Josh and Lauren Manning heeding the call and following their heart and following their God and doing essentially a turnaround. When we come back, more of this remarkable story here on Our American Stories. Lee Habib here, the host of Our American Stories. Every day on this show, we're bringing inspiring stories from across this great country.

Stories from our big cities and small towns. But we truly can't do this show without you. Our stories are free to listen to but they're not free to make. If you love what you hear, go to and click the donate button.

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No purchase necessary. And we return to Our American Stories and Pastor Josh Manning and his wife Lauren's story of operating a church in the small town of Noel, Azora. Where many immigrants call home and call his church home. In fact, Josh has five different services in five different languages at his church using interpreters to spread the gospel in the process. But why did these immigrants, especially the Corinne people from Myanmar, start attending Noel Community Baptist Church?

Let's continue with the story. So we don't have a whole lot of prior information, but one little segment we do know is that a gentleman that we just love and such a gracious man named Mike Brown. He saw the refugees coming into the town and he saw the changing demographics. He saw the potential and he saw, you know what, the nations are coming to us. Let's reach out to the nations.

Let's not sit here in fear and get to know them. And so he went to I think he just randomly went to the Corinne housing, if I understand right. They were all sleeping on the ground.

They had no furniture. So Mike talked to the people at the church at that time and said, let's buy mattresses for every Corinne family. And so the church did. And they made a relationship with them and they started going fishing together.

They started hanging out and little by little they started populating the church. And then before long, a translator was needed because the sermon became bilingual. And so our translator Yemanu stepped up and became the translator. He's also the liaison at Tyson for the Corinne people. So he translates for a living. He's excellent, excellent at it. And my Neso, the father of my translator, Yemanu.

This guy is just the American dream on steroids. So my Neso gets captured by the Burmese army. There were him and seven or six other men, seven men total. And he was given the job of walking in front of the army to set off land mines. And so he's captured. Yemanu is just a baby, if I understand right at that point. So he's away from home.

He's a long ways away. After about a year, there's only him and one other guy left. They were in a tiger pit at night and they overheard that they were going to get executed the next morning. So my Neso gets out of the tiger pit, runs through the jungle, comes back to the family. They're reunited and they are out of there. So it takes quite a bit of time through very, very rugged terrain till they arrive in a refugee camp in Thailand.

Once they're there, you basically have a 500 acre area or however large it is kind of fenced off. Yemanu described it as on your third offense leaving this area, you were shot on sight. It was illegal to learn the local language. You had limited opportunity, limited educational opportunities, limited everything. You were just there gathering dust in a handmade hut.

Anyway, over time they get to the opportunity to come to the United States and they do so. So this guy came to the United States and Nolans are a Midwest, relatively poor place itself. You got really just one main road going through town. Half the businesses are shuttered. We're losing our bank. We just had to go pick up the safe deposit box for the church.

Yeah, because the bank is even leaving town. And what he has done with his family is extraordinary. His kids are going to college. They have aspirations of being doctors and lawyers and all those kinds of things. And they are smart enough.

They're going to accomplish it. He purchased a house. He's going to pay it off in three years after purchase. Put significant bulk down in cash because he saved up enough money to do it. Now they have trucks and cars and they become U.S. citizens. And they do all these kind of things that you wouldn't hope in your wildest dreams that someone would do coming to the United States. It's just a condition where the gospel is in action and every Sunday he's going to bring his family to church.

Now he's a guy that's probably my age or older. Learning the English language is going to be a challenge. And so there's five in which it's preached in every Sunday. Yes, Spanish, English, Chuuk, Marshall Islands and Karen. But there are going to be just like in my service, you're going to have a one person who speaks a different dialect of Karen that's not preached in.

I think nine nations of birth is my record for our service. And we're talking like 60 people. And it's a challenge just because even if you can communicate, even through a child to an adult and back and forth, you miss enough nuances that some of this stuff ends up being confusion.

You have very different views on how time works. And so my job is kind of like be the central hub and make sure there's not like two services trying to do the same different things in the same spot at the same time. Being flexible. Yeah.

You just have to be insanely flexible and very comfortable with not knowing what you're doing next week. These cultures, honestly, I swear they decide five minutes before they're doing it and they organize 100 people meet in the church building and you don't know what to expect. And I was thinking of Gospel Day. So we had just been introduced to the Marshall Islands, folks. So we didn't know this group very well, and they'd been there a few weeks and it was late evening, six, seven, eight, nine. Anyway, we look out and I think Claire, our daughter, was the first to say, Mom, there is a six foot boat, sailboat.

Yeah, I don't know. There's a sailing ship. There's a sailing ship replica being pushed into the gym. We're talking like Christopher Columbus would have ridden that kind of wooden sailing boat.

Yes, a replica. And they got it inside the gym and they pushed it in. And we're looking at Facebook Live. It's like, what have we allowed? We're looking at members of the church and they're all like dancing around this wooden boat. And we're like, what is happening? And this is like 10, 11 at night.

It was late or early. And the neighbors, I think, oh, my goodness, these neighbors are going to shoot us. What is happening?

The music is so loud. Didn't know what in tarnation was happening. Turns out it's called Gospel Day and what they do is they celebrate when the missionaries first came to their island. And how they do that is they bring a replica of the wooden sailing ship that came to their island.

They fill it full of food and toiletries and stuff like that for the needy in their community to pass out. And they dance and sing and it's the most beautiful gospel centric, wonderful thing ever. But what it looks like is if you're the pastor of the church in the parsonage, is you got 100 plus people dancing around the gym playing music really, really loud. And, you know, up till midnight, you know, and on a school night, you know what I'm saying?

You know what makes you got school the next morning. And so that that's that's the type of life where you have to be very, very, very, very, very flexible. Very. One more very. The biggest thing I've learned is I'm never going back to how I worshiped God before.

I'm not. Being a follower of Christ means that it permeates every aspect of how you live your life as you prepare for the next. The only reason that at the moment of salvation, you're not whisked away to heaven at that moment is because we have a job to do. And that's to teach others about Christ. And we should be busy about with that responsibility.

And this dynamic of what we have just here in our backyard is one of the most enjoyable things I've ever done in my life. Just the absolute honor to be able to preach Christ in this environment is something I've never had before. And I'm not going back to worshiping God where I sit on a pew at this time on Sunday.

And then at the minute that this clock strikes noon, I'm out of there going to the restaurant and I've done my duty for the week. That's not going to be the way we're going to live our life. It doesn't mean that I'll be pastor of this church till the day I die.

I may very well be that. But whatever we do, we're going to follow Christ in every aspect that we can do. And a great job by Monty Montgomery on the production. By the way, I love the line that Josh said, The nations are coming to us. Let's not live in fear. Let's get to know and serve these people. Our faith and action story. So many great stories in this great country.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-16 04:47:51 / 2023-06-16 04:56:51 / 9

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