By Holly Meriweather, Lead Writer
The Garifuna story is one of tragedy and triumph that began with slavery in the 1700s. Shipwrecked and left to fend for themselves, the people group eventually settled in the Honduras/Belize coastal areas. They have faced — and continue to face — hardships, including government takeover of their highly profitable beaches.
But those are not the only areas where they have settled. There is now an estimated population of 200,000 Garifuna in New York City, where BMA Missions is excited to help plant the first Garifuna-speaking congregation in America.
BMA Missions representatives recently traveled to the Bronx to celebrate and participate in the ordination of Pastor Cherry Gamboa, former co-pastor of a BMA Garifuna-language congregation in San Juan, Honduras. With a secular job for financial support, he and his family relocated to the Bronx two years ago to plant a church and immediately began building relationships, inviting people to church services and looking for a place to accommodate attendees.
After outgrowing the first location, they now rent part of a building and regularly baptize new believers. In fact, during the ordination service, five new believers came forward for baptism, which is not surprising since ethnic groups are much more responsive to the gospel than Americans. After baptism, the congregation is very intentional and proactive in discipling new converts.
BMA Missions President John David Smith says, “For me as a missionary, the most exciting thing about this church plant is the aspect of generational multiplication. During the service, the question was asked, ‘How many of you were taught in Sunday School class in Honduras with BMAA Missionary David Dickson all those years ago?’ About half the congregation raised their hands.
“But Pastor Cherry is not a direct disciple of Brother David. He is the disciple of a disciple. Sometimes it takes a generation or so to make real progress and for that work to mature. It’s just a great expression of the power of the gospel, the faithfulness of God and how He uses people to fulfill His mission.”
With about 120 people in attendance, the service also included a sermon, a worship service with bongo drums, baptism, a baby dedication and Father’s Day gift-giving. Then church members brought food and continued celebrating God’s provision of this church in the Bronx.