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Thierry Mugabe started attending Northpoint Bible College only two years after being granted asylum in the United States as a refugee.
When he was still a toddler, Mugabe and his family fled their home in the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo. He spent the next 18 years in a Rwandan refugee camp. His father, Patrice, died in the camp which housed 19,000 refugees when Thierry was only 6 years old. Growing up, the boy didn’t have enough money for a toothbrush, let alone for school.
At 18, Thierry accepted Jesus into the camp, thanks to the testimony of another refugee, Alex Ndemezo, who always seemed happy and hopeful. At 20, Mugabe, his mother, and four siblings – who now live in Dallas – came to the United States at no cost through the Refugee Resettlement Program.
Although passionate about Christ due to his transformation from a depressed, ashamed and desperate refugee to a born again disciple of Jesus, Mugabe wanted to know more about the Lord. After taking ESL classes, he found Northpoint, which is located in Haverhill, Massachusetts, through the Assemblies of God website. The school’s international student scholarship, funded by small donations from individual donors, partially paid for its tuition.
At Northpoint, Thierry soaked up information by taking courses in the Old Testament, New Testament, Church history, spiritual training, hermeneutics and homiletics. He also heard for the first time about unreached groups of people.
Although the soft-spoken Mugabe said he had no ministry vocation when he came to Northpoint, he knew he wanted to evangelize others. When he heard of unreached people from the school missionary speakers, it took his heart.
“As an African immigrant to the United States, I didn’t see myself as a missionary,” says Mugabe, now 28. “I fought the idea, unconsciously thinking: I cannot be a missionary.
Yet when he read Romans 15: 20-21, the writings of the apostle Paul resonated with him: I have always had the ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known… Those who have not been told about Him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.
“I had such ambition,” says Mugabe, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies, with a minor in Missions.
After graduating in 2019 (and becoming a U.S. citizen), Mugabe helped out at Mount Zion Chapel, a church planted by Northpoint AG in Wells, Maine. In 2020, he became an accredited AG minister and an approved AG Global Missionary Associate. His roaming is over and he is preparing to move to Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority nation in the world (with over 230 million followers of that faith). Only about one in ten in the country of 270 million people identify as a Christian.
Initially, Mugabe will be on the staff of International English Service (IES), an international church in the capital Jakarta run for 22 years by David Kenney. The IES has four campuses in the metro area with a combined attendance of over 2,000.
Ultimately Mugabe wants to be a church planter in Indonesia. Jeff Hartensveld, AGWM Asia-Pacific Regional Director since 2017, can understand. Hartensveld, 56, was a GA world missionary in Indonesia from 1989-2012, during which time he planted and led several churches.
“Thierry is one of what we hope will be many missionaries from diverse ethnic backgrounds,” says Hartensveld, who personally supports Mugabe financially each month. Although Mugabe has increased his budget, Hartensveld notes that the Asia-Pacific regional office has established an empowerment fund that has distributed $ 10,000 to ethnic minority applicants who need a helping hand financially because supporting missions will not. not part of their culture.
Mugabe believes his refugee experience will help him adjust to the mission field more easily than if he had lived his entire life in the United States
“If I hadn’t had the experience of being a refugee, it wouldn’t have been so easy to switch to another culture,” Mugabe says. “I’m not nervous about living anywhere in the world because I’m not very attached to the American lifestyle.”
Mugabe identifies with the satisfaction of the apostle Paul in all circumstances, as stated in Philippians 4:12: I know what it’s like to be in need, and I know what it’s like to have a lot. I have learned the secret to being content in any situation, whether it is well fed or hungry, whether it lives in plenty or in need..
“I can live with abundance and I can live without,” Mugabe says. “I have known both and I have survived both.”
Nonetheless, Mugabe does not define himself by the past, which involved spending most of his life in Gihembe refugee camp with not enough food, life-threatening illnesses rampant, and illicit drugs and sex taking up the time of many.
“I would rather be known as someone who serves God than as someone who survived a refugee camp,” Mugabe says. “I try to forget the past and move forward into the future.”
Much like living in Maine – the whitest state in the United States – Mugabe will be an ethnic minority in Indonesia. While not naive about ethnic differences, Mugabe says he doesn’t mind being in the minority,
“If God really called me, he gave me the color of my skin for his purpose,” Mugabe said. “It’s part of who I am. He will open and close doors.
While walking around, Mugabe lived in an apartment on the campus of Northpoint Bible College, where he worked as a security guard. Northpoint President David Arnett is a booster.
“Thierry is one of the most dedicated young ministers I know,” says Arnett, 68. “I was surprised by his call to Indonesia – because it is from Africa – but it expresses a compelling missionary vision.
“If I didn’t come to Northpoint, I wouldn’t go on a mission,” Mugabe said. “God put me here at the right time.”