God births a church through Chery’s family Bible study

To the untrained ear, Noelson and Edna Chery’s Philadelphia home might sound like a modern-day Tower of Babel. Noelson and Edna are Haitian immigrants who grew up speaking Creole and French. And while their three sons are fluent in their parents’ languages, they’re most comfortable speaking English. Unsurprisingly, conversations in the Chery home frequently switch from one language to another.

It’s this linguistic mashup that God used to birth a church. Here’s how it happened.

Like most Christian parents, Noelson and Edna wanted to raise their boys to know and follow after Jesus.

“That’s why we were always in church,” Edna says. “I taught Sunday School, and my husband was a youth director. But the churches we were in, often the children were neglected.”

When Edna says “neglected”, she means this: when the Cherys arrived in Philadelphia, they found good, strong Haitian congregations. But those churches worshipped in Creole. For families like the Cherys, whose children were living Monday-Saturday in an English-speaking world, that was a problem.

“Everything was done in Creole, whether the kids could speak it or not,” says Noelson. “That created frustration for the youth, and we didn’t want our kids to come to church and just sleep. So that’s why we began to pray and ask God, ‘How could this be done differently?’”

Sometimes, the best answer to a question is the simplest answer. That’s where the Cherys began—with something simple.

“I never said, ‘We’re going to start a church,’” Noelson says. “We just started a Bible study here at home with our kids.”

From simple beginnings come great things. When word got out what the Cherys were doing, something completely unexpected happened.

“We didn’t invite him, but one parent was just passing by when we were in the middle of doing Bible study with our kids,” Edna says. “And he said, ‘Oh, you guys have a Bible study?’ And then he totally spread the word and families started to come. Our street was filled with cars.”

The next and final step seemed almost obvious and natural.

“People were coming and saying, ‘If we are bringing our kids to Bible study, why don’t we just have church for everybody?’” Edna says. “We could see they wanted this. And we couldn’t say no because I guess they saw something that we were able to give that they couldn’t find in our area.”

First Haitian Metanoia Baptist Church was born in August, 2020. It’s a congregation that’s different from almost every other congregation in the Chery’s community, because not only do they worship and preach the gospel in a language children can understand and embrace—but they also give young people unique opportunities to participate in ministry.

“We don’t say, ‘Kids are the church of tomorrow if that tomorrow ever comes,’” Noelson says. “No, the youth are a part of everything we do right now. They sing, they lead, they’re even being trained to preach. God is still raising generations. And it’s amazing to see.”

The Chery’s church-planting work in Philadelphia is supported by generous gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. To learn more about their story and to discover how you and your church can support church planting and compassion ministry all across North America, visit FueledByAnnie.com.

Published March 21, 2024

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