“God is doing a new thing in our world and I think all of our churches can be a part of that.”  That’s the hope of Rev. Rob Cook, Sr. Pastor of Mt. Hope United Methodist Church.  Cook and Rev. Eric Mulanda, the congregation’s Associate Pastor, will lead the plenary teaching session for the 2019 Annual Conference session.  

(Click here to read more about Pastor Rob and Pastor Eric.)

Speaking about Mt. Hope, which is located in Lansing, Michigan, Cook says, “We strive to be open and welcoming.”  It’s something that Mulanda calls “a little bit of heaven.”  The faith community has persons from more than 16 nations, including from Africa, the Middle East, Mexico, and the US.  Beginning nearly 15 years ago with an influx of primarily African refugees – some 40 children and 20 adults – the congregation has grown to be “nearly a full-third from Africa, either refugees or international students at Michigan State 

University…and we have people who are in their 80’s and 90’s who were born into this church and still come and sit in the second or third pews,” Cook observes.

Acknowledging that growing diversity “is not necessarily easy or comfortable,” Cook notes that Ht. Hope “lifts up the idea that we’re all immigrants in that we’re all children of God…and we celebrate and affirm that.”  The church embraces a vision of growing multi-ethnically and is a place that is “vibrant, inspiring, and our worship is often ‘bombastic’,” he adds.

The main ingredient

The partnership of Pastors Rob Cook and Eric Mulanda began “about four years ago when the Bishop and Cabinet, buy the grace of God, appointed Eric,” Cook recalls.  “They recognized this important ministry.”  Cook and Mulanda, who speaks five languages, have come to share a common language, something that they call “the main ingredient.”  “We speak one language in this church,” they both note, “the language of Jesus, which is the language of love.”

In addition to speaking one language – “the language of Jesus” – even amidst the vast diversity, there is a common pathway.  “We walk together,” Mulanda reports.  “When one laughs, we all laugh.  When one cries, we cry together.  It doesn’t matter how we get here…we are all refugees, refugees together, and we belong to God.”

Messages for the Iowa Conference

“I’m hoping that we’re going to share with our colleagues Jesus’ way of loving and enriching,” Mulanda says.  “God is already doing something, even if we are not seeing it yet.” 

Cook “wants to celebrate what God is doing in Iowa and what God is doing in the world.”  He adds, “Whether we’re in urban areas or rural areas, our world is becoming more diverse, by language or ethnicity or in many other ways.  God is doing a new thing in our world and I think all of our churches can be a part of that.”