By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
ROCKVILLE, Md.—When asked what the name Salem means, Adrien Ngudiankama, pastor of Salem Gospel Ministries, said, the word is found in Genesis 14:18, referring to Melchizedek the king of Salem who brought bread and wine to Abram.
“It is a synonym to the word shalom meaning ‘peace,’ Ngudiankama said. The reference to peace is ironic and fitting. The congregation is comprised of many refugees from the war torn countries of Congo, Ethiopia, Sudan, Rwanda and Cote d’Ivorie. And those refugees are seeking peace.
The church began over a year ago with just four people meeting for Bible study and now it draws 50 in regular attendance between two locations – one at Patterson Park Church, and the other in Silver Spring.
Adrien Ngudiankama said the church is working towards a holistic approach to ministry.
“Many of our people, mainly those in Baltimore, have social and economic challenges, thus the relevance of a holistic pastoral approach making certain that these people are empowered to have what is needed to meet their daily needs,” Adrien said.
The church recently purchased a van to pick up church members’ children from school for an after school program. That’s huge for the students and their families. The kids had to walk long distances from school, sometimes in inclement weather, to get to the center. But it was imperative they get there. The children are from French-speaking African families who are struggling to make ends meet so both parents are working long hours. Even if they are home, the parents are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to help their children with their homework. The parents don’t speak English.
A highlight for the children last year was when a mission team came, through Salem’s involvement with Embrace Baltimore. The youth mission team members took the children to a local park and played games with them. Barbara Ngudiankam, Adrien’s wife said that was a big deal to the kids because with their families’ busy lifestyles the children don’t always get that extra attention.
Barbara Ngudiankama is also working with the adults to encourage them to complete their education, learn English and go to college. She explained that in many countries, there is no opportunity for older adults to attend college and she’s trying to make people understand that it’s different in America.
The Ngudiankamas understand the importance of education. Adrien completed his Philosophia Masters in Systematic Theology at King’s College, London University; his PhD in Health Education and Health Promotion at the Institute of Education, London University; his first postdoctoral research in Medical anthropology at the University of Kansas, Lawrence; his second postdoctoral research at the Center of Study of Religion, Princeton University and he spent about four months at the University of Maryland leading a project on HIV/AIDS among people of African ancestry. He taught medical anthropology at George Washington University, sociology and anthropology at Bowie State University and he currently works with the American Cancer Society and is striving to engage churches in cancer prevention ministry. Barbara, who is from Cameroon, did her PhD in Cell Biology at Rutgers University, New Jersey. She is currently doing a postdoctoral research on Malaria at the University of Maryland.
It was while working on the AIDS project at the University of Maryland that Adrien met Jeffrey Buffkin, then campus minister at UMBC. Buffkin told Adrien about the ministry opportunities with the BCM/D and the need for church planting and he introduced Adrien to David Jackson, BCM/D mission for church multiplication.
Adrien had experience with church planting. “I have been a church planter among immigrants for the last 15 years. My first church planting venture was in London in 1992,” he said.
The Ngudiankamas started Salem Gospel with just two couples. As the church grew, they focused on fellowship and making relationships. Now the church is focusing on discipleship and they’re seeing results with baptisms and baby dedications.
“The people are developing a deep relationship with the Lord,” Adrien said.
Now the church is working to grow a women’s ministry and has plans for a retreat.
The people of Salem Gospel Ministries have many needs, the Ngudiankamas acknowledge.
“We are investing in some of their lives to get them back to school and to help them achieve academically. We have not been able to find jobs for people so far. However, this is a right thing to do given the needs of our people. As you know, we cannot do everything. This is why we need each other, mainly people like you, to partner with us in our modest daily pastoral duties to extend Christ’s kingdom,” Adrien said.