After more than two years of sharing space with another congregation, the Rev. Kwesi Gyimah is actively seeking a building for his Columbus African Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
It must be in the Northland area and it must be much more than simply a place for worship.
Gyimah, whose church was formed in September 2009, wants to have not only a worship center but also a combination community health center and food pantry.
“Our goal is to keep our doors open seven days a week, teaching good health practice to our community, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, mentoring young people, helping new immigrants settle in America and also providing a house of prayer for all nations,” according to a letter of appeal for financial assistance from friends of the church. “We also plan to offer marriage enrichment seminars and smoke cessation programs.
“Currently, we cannot attain any of these goals, due to lack of a facility.”
The Columbus African Seventh-Day Adventist Church has been sharing space with the Victorious Life Christian Center at 1875 Tamarack Circle N. from practically its inception. A health ministry has been one of Gyimah’s major focuses from the outset.
So why try to make a move now, especially in a troubled economy?
“It’s the change that is happening in Northland, especially with the populations of the immigrants growing,” he said recently. “What we’ve observed, what we’ve seen so much, is people falling through the cracks, especially among the immigrant population.
“What we want to do is, hey, be that bridge between the residents of Northland and the visitors who are coming in.”
Gyimah, who was born in Ghana and grew up in Nigeria, was raised in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and his ambition from a young age was to have a health ministry. He came to the United States in 2001, initially settling in New Jersey with his parents.
“As a small church, we have made an impact in the city of Columbus through our health ministry and other community outreach programs,” the letter of appeal said. “We intend by the grace of God to continue in His lead as the Lord blesses and directs us. We have partnered with the city of Columbus Public Health department, American Cancer Society, North Side Health Advisory Committee and YMCA, and have reached over 600 people in our community with our health message and distribution of books and tracts.”
The concept of a community health center has another partner: the Helping Hands Health and Wellness Center free clinic.
“We’re going to partner with them,” executive director Joyce Bourgault said. “It’s going to be a community center, not just a health services and health education kind of things. I can see where it’s going to be important for us to be involved with that, because there are all kinds of important things that can go on.”
“The United States has been good to us as immigrants and how we can repay that is to be good to the United States,” Gyimah said.
The proposed name for the combination worship and health center is the Global Center for Wellness and Transformation Inc.
“Anybody who passes through us will be transformed in one way or another ... just something to make your life better than it was, and at the same time, we train you to give back to your community,” Gyimah said.
Many members of the congregation, as well as the immigrant populations he hopes to reach out to through the new facility, call the Northland area home.
“Northland is the ideal place for us, Northland being one of the most diverse communities around,” Gyimah said. “Northland has been so welcoming to us as a church.”
“I just got an update from Pastor Gyimah, and they are going to receive more matching funds from his church organization to help with the purchase of a permanent facility,” North Side Health Advisory Committee co-chair Scott Dowling wrote in an email to support the proposed new facility. “Their goal now is $38,000, which seems like a lot, but is much less than the original target amount. I have been trying to help promote his cause through some other channels, but time grows short. Joyce Bourgault at Helping Hands is considering the use of the facility as well, if Pastor Gyimah’s group is successful.
“I intend to make a donation, as his group has been a huge help to all our efforts at the NSHAC and the Northland community at large,” Dowling said. “Ever since I met Kwesi Gyimah, he has quietly shared his dream of having a place where he can expand his group’s efforts to strengthen people’s bodies as well as nurture their spirit. I am very excited that he is so close to achieving this goal.”
One of the basic goals of the worship and community health center, which would also serve to provide free food to families in need, is to “build a sense of community,” according to Gyimah, in order to “help these groups live together as family.”
“We want to create that sense of community so that when we see someone different from us, we celebrate that,” he added.
The effort to acquire a building has the support of the Allegheny West Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, which is willing to loan money, but local funding is also required.
“We have set no timeline for this,” Gyimah said. “As people are moved to give, it will be welcome. I know there are people who can’t help now who can help in two years time, three years time, as things get better for them.”
More information about the project and about making online donations is available at the church’s website, www.africansda.org. Checks made out to African Adventist Church may be sent to Community Project, P.O. Box 298045, Columbus, Ohio 43229.