Ernest Umoh knows first-hand many of the struggles that come with moving to North America. When he saw a growing refugee population in West Michigan, he quickly saw an opportunity to respond to a need that often goes unnoticed.
“Here in West Michigan, we have so many Muslim communities,” said Umoh. “People from Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, and Tanzania. . . and no one was really working with them actively, inviting them to Christ, or preaching the good news.”
Umoh has sensed God’s call to be an evangelist since his time growing up in Nigeria. His fearless attitude of “going where the Spirit leads him” has gotten him into dangerous situations on more than one occasion. His sincere care and giving heart have helped him connect with many Muslim refugees who are not only excited to hear the gospel but also in desperate need of assistance.
"People are coming here from war-torn countries, escaping persecution, trying to learn in a free society,” Umoh said. “In many of the places they come from, they’ve never experienced church.”
Today Umoh pastors Strong Tower Ministries in Wyoming, Mich. This ministry provides services to newcomers in the community, such as driving people to their doctor appointments and organizing Bible studies.
“Our main goal is to show newcomers the love of Christ,” Umoh explained.
Still, Umoh realized that his passion for ministry couldn't keep up with the needs he encountered. When he found himself turning down his own thermostat to free up extra money, he knew he needed more partnerships.
Umoh connected with what is now Strong Tower’s parent church--Trinity CRC in Grandville, Michigan—as well as Resonate Global Mission (then Home Missions) which allowed Strong Tower to continue growing through financial assistance and coaching from fellow pastors and church planters.
“Umoh came knocking at our door, asking for help with the heating bill and right away we knew that God was calling us to join Him in this ministry,” said Gerry Koning, pastor at Trinity CRC.
Since that time, Strong Tower has been able to increase the number of people they greet at airports, teach English to, and worship with on Sundays.
Members of Trinity volunteer at the weekly English classes and help Umoh with his benevolence costs. In turn, they have gained a new perspective on what it means to follow the Spirit’s leading, as well a greater understanding of the broader cultural makeup in their own part of the world.
“This has given us the opportunity to interact with the refugee population, to see the reality of their situation and the difficulties they face,” said Koning. “I think the best way to help is to have churches come alongside them.”
Umoh is excited to see how Strong Tower’s partnerships will help expand and amplify its local ministry to global ministry back in East Africa.
“We can use those who have been led to Christ through Strong Tower as partners in planting churches back in their home country!” explained Umoh. “We want to make sure that Strong Tower is international, not just local.”
Note: A version of this story also appears on thebanner.org