One Boise church is helping to change lives around the world through music, helping to raise funds for cost-efficient wheelchairs that are donated worldwide to people who can’t afford them.
The New Heart Christian Ministries Church, located at 300 N. Latah St., has been around for around 15 years, and is a truly multicultural place of worship. More than five countries are represented in the congregation, and the church has become a second family to its members and especially to the pastor, Donald Batubenga, who came to Idaho from the Republic of Congo 20 years ago.
“For me it’s not just a church, it’s a spiritual family,” Batubenga said, “and coming from another country, the people that are closer to you, they become like your family members. When you have problems, they are the closest ones to come and help you.”
At the heart of the church is the choir, guided by worship leader Patrick Wangoi, which began roughly 12 years ago. It began with three people, but has grown to about 15 people who share in their love of music, worship, and lifting people up—both spiritually and literally.
“Music is everything. Music is like spice to food,” Batubenga said, adding that the music is “not just a religious aspect, it’s also about spreading the joy and sharing the love, and lifting people’s spirits.”
This congregation has dedicated itself to supporting “Idaho Believes,” led by retired occupational therapist George Hage, who is part of the national organization Free Wheelchair Mission. The choir works to raise funds or the program. For people who are differently abled, being gifted a free wheelchair is life-changing.
The Boise community alone has raised enough funds to gift 21,876 wheelchairs so far, according to the group’s Facebook page, but its goal is to provide one wheelchair for each seat in the Albertson’s Stadium—36,387 seats.
“Imagine, where I come from in Africa, I come from places where I see handicapped people where they will crawl down in the dirt if they don’t have a wheelchair,” Batebenga said. “These are very simple wheelchairs, they are not fancy, they are cheap to build. It’s really a life-changing thing for many people, regardless of their religion. They get those wheelchairs for free.”
When asked what he might say to someone who may be apprehensive to join their church, Batubenga said, “I would tell someone to come and live the experience. It’s like when you’re window shopping, you see clothes that you like. But when you go into the fitting room, and then you see yourself in the mirror, and you say, wow, I didn’t think it would be this nice on me.”