An Immigrant’s Journey: From South Sudan to the Michigan District, LCMS6 min read

Rev. Moses Dangba was installed as pastor of Living Word, Lansing in October of 2023. Born and raised in South Sudan, Dangba has had quite the journey to become a pastor in the Michigan District.

Dangba was born in 1968, towards the end of the first civil war in the country. His grandfather, a pastor in one of the churches in South Sudan, was a great influence in Moses’ life—he gave him his name, then later asked his parents if he could raise him. At age 8 or 9, Moses went to live with his grandfather. He says, “I became his boy, going with him in every ministry and every place he went. The funny thing about my grandpa was [that] he started calling me, ‘My pastor.’ Since then, he would never call me Moses anymore. He would say, ‘My pastor, can we go here? Can we do this?’ Then I kept growing with this expectation just building [inside of] me.” Moses’ grandfather also introduced him to a missionary from Lebanon, and the boy never forgot that introduction.

“God has a purpose for everybody born into the world” – Rev. Moses Dangba

When Moses reached high school age, he was transferred to North Sudan. There he was told that, in order to finish high school, he would have to take an Islamic religion class. He asked why he couldn’t take a Christian religion class and, when they said it was because there was no teacher, he said he would do it on his own and they just needed to give him the exam at the end. Dangba says, “That’s [when] God started calling me. I started teaching the Bible to other students.” He had nothing but a pocket New Testament, but the people in South Sudan heard of what he was doing and started sending him materials and encouraging him and his 12 pupils. The stakes were high: If they didn’t pass the final exam, they would lose an entire year of high school. After much hard work, they took the exam and passed. However, this brough some unwanted attention to Dangba.

Like all other young men his age, he went to enlist for military service, but instead of being assigned to serve in North Sudan, where he was, he was told to go fight against his own people in South Sudan. The civil war became so bad that he couldn’t go back home, and he couldn’t stay in North Sudan either, so God made a way for him to go to Egypt with the help of the United Nations.

Moving Again

Life in Egypt wasn’t easy, however. There were too many people, and it was hard to make a living. Dangba already knew he didn’t want to stay in Egypt—he wanted to go on to Lebanon and find the pastor his grandfather had introduced him to. He made his way to Lebanon, registered as a refugee in order to be able to work there, and went to look for the pastor. He found his church but learned that the pastor had already passed away. Still, the congregation welcomed him and tried to find a way to help him prepare to be a pastor. He enrolled in Bible college with the goal of going back to serve his home church in South Sudan, but after two years he got an opportunity to come to the United States.

Dangba found his way to Lansing and started going to church. While there, he noticed that there were many immigrants in the area who didn’t understand English. They were coming to church but not understanding anything. Dangba said that Romans 10:14 came to his mind: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

The Beginning of Living Word

That’s when Dangba started to gather with six people on Saturdays to study the Bible. From once a month, they went to gathering twice a month. He says, “It was just a way of grasping what we didn’t understand during the preaching and all these things because of [the] language, so it would help our community here.” Gradually, more people joined the group. They were now up to 20 gathering in the library of the church, and Dangba began to wonder what would happen in the future and how he could serve those people, since he didn’t feel prepared. Then, Rev. Richard Laeder, a retired pastor from Trinity, Lansing volunteered to help. He said he would help train and send someone to the Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology (EIIT) program at the seminary. He was installed as the interim pastor for Living Word in January of 2018. Unfortunately, due to health reasons, he had to quit not too long afterwards.

Dangba jumped into the driver’s seat again and started teaching and praying: “What’s next?” God answered again, this time by bringing Rev. Mandla Khumalo from South Africa to spend a couple of years in Lansing. Dangba says, “He came from nowhere. He fell in love with the congregation. Then he started visiting us. Then we explained to him all that had happened. Right away he called the District and spoke to certain people there. Then they assigned Dr. Todd Jones to look after this thing and, after we [went] through registration, he went personally with me to St. Louis to make sure that the registration went fine and I [was] enrolled into the program.”

Attendance at the ordination service for Rev. Moses Dangba. Photo by Rev. Dr. Todd Jones.

Dangba says the EIIT training wasn’t an easy journey because he had a full-time job, a full-time congregation to look after, and a family, but he is very thankful: “I’m so glad that I came here and God never gave up on me. He continued pushing me until the ordination and I call it like the prophecy of my grandfather being fulfilled when I was ordained.” Of his ordination day, he says, “It was overwhelming to see the body of Christ coming together just for one purpose—to raise a servant to serve in the church.”

Vision for the Future

Dangba’s vision for Living Word is to “bring Christ to the immigrants in the Lansing area who are trying to hear the Word but who cannot understand it. We want to bring Christ to their door and also to worship in the way that we feel we can worship God, with singing and dancing,” all things that are the expression of their culture. He continues, “We have a unique way of worshiping God and serving God and this really can help not only [to bring] African immigrants together; it can even bring Christ into the midst of Americans here in Lansing.” One of the programs that Dangba created and is praying will continue to grow is the “Knowing Your Neighbor Music Festival”—an event where people come to experience the way Africans worship—and they get to taste their food as well. The goal is for people to know that “the same Jesus you are serving here, these people in Africa [and] other parts of the world are serving him too.”

This blog is based on the podcast interview of Rev. Moses Dangba published on January 8, 2024.

Photos courtesy of Living Word and Todd Jones/Michigan District, LCMS

Subscribe to Blog Button

About the Author

Elisa is a staff writer, copy editor, and photographer for the Michigan District, LCMS.

More by This Author

Kathy Lewis - March 13, 2024

I met Moses Danga at our job.He has always been very friendly,calm and patient.I have watched him grow in the Lord he is not just a friend but my little brother.We would talk about everything but alot about church and God I am so proud of him and how God is elevating him man of God.Keep on teaching,leading and doing God’s work.I love my brother and his drive.Trist in the Lord with all the might.God continue blessings upon youy brothet
I a

Kathy Lewis - March 13, 2024

I met Moses Danga at our job.He has always been very friendly,calm and patient.I have watched him grow in the Lord he is not just a friend but my little brother.We would talk about everything but alot about church and God I am so proud of him and how God is elevating him man of God.Keep on teaching,leading and doing God’s work.I love my brother and his drive.Trist in the Lord with all the might.God continue blessings upon youy brother
I a

Minisare Moses zeburuna - March 14, 2024

I m very pressed with the ministry and I want to visit Michigan

Hosanna Sondota - March 16, 2024

I happened to have known Rev Dagba’s mother Mama Phoebe, nothing could have made her happier than knowing that he is a Pastor! May she watch over you and your ministry

MiShell Root - March 27, 2024

I met Moses years ago when he first started working with us at the hospital, we used to ask him All Kinds of questions about his life back home and what it was like,
He was always open and honest about his journey here but he Never complained no matter how tough it was mentally physically or emotionally I believe God gave him the strength an courage to face all those things that came against him, God had a Plan for Moses to do Great things before he was born his Grandfather planted the seed/idea of being a minister when he was a child he taught him that life itself isnt easy but being a Man of God is harder, We all know that Great Things never come easy you have to be Strong Willed Work Hard, be patient stay humble Stay in Prayer and have Faith!!Because when we’ve done all we can do thats when you Have to have FAITH an leave it in Gods hands. Moses IS a Very Hard Worker, He has such a kind heart his presence brings peace to some of the most chaotic situations that sometimes people would say idk what it is about him but I jus love his energy his personality his laugh his character hes so gentle Ive never met anyone like him when I tell them hes a pastor they say REALLY!?? Wow! Where? what church? Ive always told Moses you don’t have to pound the word of god into ppl, that will only drive them away Rather its the way you live your life, the love of God and all his blessings thats what ppl are lookin for a Christian 24/7 7days a week not just on Sundays But EVERY DAY!!! Moses has always been a friend but over the years I can. proudly say he’s more like Family he’ll always be my Brother Moe!🩷
Congratulations Moses!!🎉