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But as the congregation grew to include almost 40 members, there wasn’t any room for new members.

When Ralte approached Peebles about possibly moving their worship to Greenwood United Methodist Church, they spoke about the congregation.

“I met with Pastor In Suk, and she helped us a lot,” he said. “We are very happy.”

Peebles wanted to meet the Mizo people in person, so she attended one of the Sunday services in Ralte’s apartment. She found a deeply faithful people who so valued their time to worship that they’d travel for hours just to be there.

“I told them to come on over, and that was the beginning of our relationship here,” Peebles said. “Being an ethnic group, it’s important that they have whatever space they need and time for fellowship that might be different from us Americans. So we give them whatever they need.”

In mid-December 2012, the Mizo started conducting a special service in the church sanctuary on Sunday afternoons.

“We made it very clear we didn’t want to put them in a fellowship hall or somewhere away from the main sanctuary. I wanted to make sure they had a prominent space, the same space where our entire congregation worships,” Peebles said.

That initial service brought 37 people to the church. Now, more than 80 worship weekly.

Almost from the start, the congregation endeared themselves to the larger Greenwood United Methodist Church community. A Mizo tradition is to have a service at midnight on New Year’s Eve. They rang in the start of the new year together as a congregation.

“New Year’s Eve watch is similar to what Christians here do on Christmas Eve, with a midnight service,” Peebles said. “At first, our congregation was not used to it. But it’s been an eye-opening experience for us.”

And the Mizo have tried to give back to the church when they can.

Starting this year, they’ll provide $200 each month to the church offering. For people who are struggling just to buy food and clothing, that’s significant, Ralte said.

They have volunteered to wash dishes at the church’s weekly fellowship lunch. Members pitched in during the annual cleanup day, raking leaves and washing windows at the church.

The Mizo continue to immigrate to central Indiana, with more trickling in every few months. As a minister and refugee himself, Ralte has become the point person for each new Mizo who arrives in the area.

Often they step from the airplane at Indianapolis International Airport with nothing except their refugee papers and a single change of clothes. Ralte picks them up, takes them to their pre-arranged apartment to stay and starts the search for a job.

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