African Immigrants Find Spiritual Home at HPPC
Rev. Cyprian Guchienda has seen many changes in his personal life and the world around him. One of those is the evolution of the All Nations Worship Service at Highland Park Presbyterian Church.
Guchienda, who grew up in a treetop home in the village of Njuthine, Kenya, came to Dallas to earn a master’s degree at SMU. He didn’t know then that the move would become permanent.
Upon arriving in Dallas, a couple offered to take Guchienda to their church. He accepted, and that first Sunday he found himself at HPPC. That initial visit was enough, and he knew he had discovered a congregation where he felt at home.
After a while, Guchienda was hired part-time at the church, while still a student, to help start an immigrant church for others from similar cultures to worship.
Originally called the African Presbyterian Fellowship, the congregation was made up of seven members representing six different countries.
“We grew until the room became small, and the number became big,” Guchienda said.
Wagnechi Dei, one of the original six, has remained with All Nations and has watched it grow from a handful to almost 300 attendees. The members of the congregation come from throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“I was looking for a place for me and my family to worship that was closer to home and among familiar people from the same cultural background,” said Dei, also from Kenya. “It is extremely fulfilling to see the worship service grow from a modest fellowship group to becoming an integral part of HPPC mainstream services.”
A large part of what makes All Nations so unique is the culture embedded into the services from members of the congregation. Dei explained that it is not unusual to hear music in different African languages.
“Generally, the music and worship have been customized to appeal to people from a similar culture and which remind them of churches they left behind when they migrated to the U.S.,” Dei said.
While HPPC and the village of Njuthine are more than 8,000 miles apart, Guchienda and the members of HPPC keep it close to their hearts.
“When we came over here, we started talking about doing missions with the village [of Njuthine],” Guchienda said. “And HPPC felt inspired.”
The church felt so inspired it has made a yearly mission trip to Njuthine for eight years.
Since the program started in 2007, HPPC has helped improve water irrigation and purification, education, health care, government advocacy, and spiritual conditions for the village.
“We are making it possible for people to be able to know that they can become missionaries and they can give to missions,” Guchienda said. “We are seeing people from All Nations rise up to that opportunity and become missionaries.”