- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

GREENWOOD, Ind. (AP) - Every Sunday, they come from across central Indiana to worship in Greenwood.

Mizo refugees, chased from their homes in Myanmar and relocated in the U.S., sing traditional hymns in their own language.

The children go to Sunday school in the basement of Greenwood United Methodist Church, while Pastor Lal Ralte helps his congregation apply Gospel lessons in their new and changing lives.

After years of relocating and being expelled from their country due to their faith, the Mizo people have found a permanent home. The congregation has integrated into Greenwood United Methodist Church seamlessly.

Though they have their own service, they also worship with the larger church community. They take part in weekly fellowship meals, and the Mizo children have started attending the church preschool.

What started as about 20 people gathering in an apartment has become a burgeoning faith community of nearly 100.

“It’s been a fascinating journey,” In Suk Peebles, head pastor at the church, told the Daily Journal (http://bit.ly/MrFAgB ). “This has become the cultural center for the Mizo here in Indiana. It’s a place of worship, a community meeting place and where they can celebrate their heritage.”

The Mizo people are a nationality centered in Southeast Asia, living primarily in Bangladesh, northern India and Myanmar. Unlike other ethnic groups of the area, the Mizo are Christians, with most being Methodist, Presbyterian and other Protestant faiths.

Because of their faith, the Mizo have suffered persecution, discrimination and oppression. Since 2000, Burma’s military regime in particular has forced the group to leave the country. Thousands fled to the U.S., Australia and Europe.

Ralte has seen his people dispersed from their homeland for his entire life. Born in 1967 into a Methodist Mizo family, he was called as an adult to be an evangelist throughout northern Myanmar, which used to be called Burma.

He would host revival camps and youth groups to help spread Christianity to the Mizo. After completing his ministerial training, he was ordained and worked in an ever-expanding group of Methodists in Myanmar.

In 2007, as hostilities toward the Mizo became more intense, Ralte and his family fled to Malaysia. He was pastor for a large group of refugees in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

In 2011, as the United Nations Refugee Agency started moving the Mizo people to safe locations in the U.S., Ralte and his family moved to Indianapolis.

Torn from the lives that they’ve known and the new world they’d been thrust into, their faith became the anchor that kept them grounded.

Ralte led a weekly service in his three-bedroom apartment for about a year. People came from as far away as Logansport to sit on chairs, couches and the floor in order to worship.

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