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story.lead_photo.caption RACHEL DICKERSON/MCDONALD COUNTY PRESS Joshua Manning, pastor of Community Baptist Church in Noel, heads up a multilingual congregation.

Joshua Manning of Noel is a first-time pastor learning to deal with the challenges of a multilingual congregation.

Manning, a recent transplant to Noel, said, "I'm a lifelong resident of McDonald County, but I was totally ignorant of the makeup of this town." Noel is home to many immigrants who have come from a variety of countries to work at the Tyson plant there.

Manning was in retail with Walmart for 19 years. He said he was never home and rarely practiced his faith. He probably attended church once a month at his home church of Buffalo Creek in Tiff City, he said. He was not the person he wanted his children to grow up to be, he said, and so he stepped away from his job and told his pastor he was there to serve. He did a lot of little tasks around the church, and eventually, his pastor asked him to fill the pulpit one Sunday. The pastor at Buffalo Creek wanted to start a ministry in Noel, and Manning said he would head it up. That is how Manning became the pastor of Community Baptist Church in Noel.

"When this church was left without a pastor, myself and several other families came to get it going. The intent was to reorganize as a new church. It's been a very good venture for us. It's just a very new venture," he said.

He started pastoring the church in September. There are 60 to 70 people in the congregation, and half of them are Karen, a small minority group from Myanmar. They were persecuted in their own country and lived in refugee camps and have come to Noel to work at Tyson, Manning said. While a total of four languages are spoken in the church, a Karen translator accompanies Manning on stage during his sermons.

He said of the Karen, "They're a very sweet, loving people. It's been a joy. They instantly took us in."

The church is trying to do good work in the community. First, it hosts an English class sponsored by Crowder College. This is "a way to build a friendship with the community," Manning said.

Also, the church has a clothing drive in the basement. The Karen people and the English class students are welcome to any clothing they would like, Manning said. The drive gave away about 100 coats when the weather turned cold, he added.

In the next couple of months, he plans to start a radio broadcast about the church, its ministry and the opportunities present, he said. Another upcoming ministry opportunity is that the church will open a day care for the children of the English class students while they are in class, he said.

"My biggest desire is to raise leaders in the Karen people," he said. "It's a slow process. They've been treated poorly and neglected for many years."

"You become very tied to these people's lives," he continued. "I want to make people aware of what's going on. People don't realize the difficulty people have coming to a brand-new society."

He said immigrant families in Noel who lack English skills rely on a few white families to get them to doctor appointments and other important events. The teachers of the English class are helping those students gain citizenship, he noted.

Manning summed up his experience as a pastor.

"It has been the biggest joy of my life, but I still can't wrap my mind around it," he said. "It's been the wildest, craziest six months of my life, but there's been nothing better."

General News on 02/08/2018

Print Headline: First-Time Pastor Has Multilingual Church

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