Ex-refugee becomes minister 1 year after reuniting with family
COLUMBIA - Pastor Nene Peter was ordained as a minister at the First Baptist Church Saturday.
Pastor Nene came to the U.S. from Kenya as a refugee in 2008. He was forced to flee his home country of Congo when a rival tribe attacked his village in 2002.
Pastor Nene became separated from his family during the attack and had given them up for dead as he watched his home burn.
"One day, they came, our houses, they attacked our village, burned in fire. I ran. I guessed my family was dead," Pastor Nene said.
Pastor Nene said the men in his village ran in different directions from their families during the attack to keep them safe, but weren't able to reunite with them afterwards.
He made his way across Africa, preaching the Bible and leading prayer. He soon arrived in Kenya, where he stayed for the next six years as a refugee. During that time, he continued his work as a pastor.
In 2008, he immigrated to America and lived the next two years in St. Louis before moving to Columbia in 2010. When he arrived, Pastor Nene said he didn't know any English and wasn't even sure where he was going. He said it was God's calling that brought him to mid-Missouri.
"In my plan, there wasn't any plan any day to come to America, but God had such a plan," Pastor Nene said.
After being in the states for a year, Pastor Nene learned his family, his wife, Francine, daughter, Aline and two sons, Kwezi and Freddy were alive in the same refugee camp in Kenya. His wife had also adopted a third son, Cloude, in their time apart.
"They was in Kenya, they came in to Kenya and some people tells them, 'your husband was here, Pastor Nene,' but there was no belief," Pastor Nene said, "They gave me a number to call. 'Oh, my family was alive!'"
Immigration restrictions and ongoing war in the region kept them separated for another four years before the family reunited in Columbia in 2013. Pastor Nene had not seen his family in over 11 years. When he last saw his children, they were toddlers. They're now teenagers.
"Because I help some people, they say, 'Pastor, pastor, pastor, pastor,' but never who will say, 'Dad!' But now, I'm poppa. They will say 'Poppa! Dad!' Even in the house they don't like me to go outside. For one year and three months, they say 'oh, we'll go with you, we'll go with you," Pastor Nene said. "Right now I have a family full of joy. We are happy."
Saturday, 13 months after reuniting with his family, Pastor Nene was ordained as a minister at his church. He was a pastor in his life in Africa and has led African services at the church for several years since coming to Columbia. Since becoming a U.S. citizen last year, Pastor Nene had to renew his license as a minister in the Baptist Church.
In the past year, Pastor Nene and his family added a new addition to their home - their four-month-old son, Israel. Pastor Nene said his life is now full of joy with his family back in his life.
"I'm happy. First, because I believe in God. Second, I believe because right now I am with my family, my kids, my wife and my members," said Pastor Nene.