COLUMBIA — Language does not matter at a place where people meet with one another to share their values, faith and friendship.
As the time for Sunday’s church services drew near, people started to gather at the International Community Church in Columbia.
Even before the February cotton ball incident at MU's Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center, the church has helped Columbia residents to realize the importance of diversity.
At the entrance sat a stack of Bibles written in different languages.
Services open with hymns sung in English as well as other languages including Chinese, Korean and Spanish. The church provides a translation screen that helps foreign congregation members understand the service.
Also known as ICC, the church was created to serve international students at MU. Today, the church has grown to include scholars at other schools, faculty members and residents of the Columbia area.
“Since the world has become so globalized, we have to recognize and respect the differences among people,” said Liping Li, a Chinese MBA student at MU who attends the church every week. “People from different nations introduce new perspectives, traditions and lifestyles.”
Forty-five national flags of current and past members of the church are displayed in the building. Four world maps with marks on their countries hang on the wall.
These displays help international church members remember their country and culture, even if they are away from families and friends. They also provide geographic information to other church members who might not be familiar with the countries and cultural backgrounds.
In addition to its services, the church focuses on assisting its international congregation with English language skills by providing a speaking and writing lab.
“Through the courses, the church tries to help them to adjust into the new environments more easily and quickly,” said James Gerdeen, retired professor from the University of Colorado and current English tutor at the church.
Gerdeen also said he has broadened his knowledge and view of foreign cultures since he began teaching the English classes five years ago.
Pastor Bill Younker said he has found that people from different backgrounds are more similar than they think.
“When we start to have cultural diversity, we begin to understand other cultures and start to appreciate cultures of those people,” Younker said.