Facing persecution for his faith in Nigeria has prepared one Winnipeg pastor for a role in the church.
"Officially [the church] started March 14 online," says Pastor Matthew Kassim, of Grace Embassy located at 3450 Pembina Hwy in Winnipeg. "Last week Sunday was the fifth Sunday we met in person. It was awesome and overwhelming too."
His own story is one of changing faiths, which meant immediate danger for Kassim.
"In 1987, that was when I became a Christian when I became born again. I was a Muslim. I was getting this draw that I had to get something better. I'm someone who loves adventure and going to new places. I didn't know that meeting some friends was going to lead me to Christ."
Kassim met some friends in fellowship and the energy and joy he saw in the group is what drew him to faith in Jesus.
"I became a Christian on a Tuesday and the persecution started Tuesday night. This was in Nigeria. My head was almost chopped off. So many things happened. They stopped my school fees. I was the first Christian in my family, in my clan, in my village," he says.
Thrilled by his newfound faith, not even a day later Kassim walked into a Mosque and started telling people about the love of Jesus.
"When I was a Muslim I gave myself to prayer three times a day. When I became a Christian I got into prayer even more. One of the things that sustained me was praying more efficiently so that God would be revealed."
He says that it was simply through praying for his family and living for God that his parents were able to see what faith meant to him. Four years later, his parents came to the Christian faith. Within seven years his entire family did as well.
Becoming a Pastor
While Kassim enjoyed sharing his faith with people around him, he had no intention of ever becoming a pastor.
"I saw the pain and sacrifice that pastors go through. I said no, I prefer going out to preach. The moment they give their life to Christ, I send them to church and leave them alone. I told God no, I'm not going to be a pastor, I'm okay."
Connecting with people on a heart level and even serving in church was what Kassim wanted to continue doing, rather than lead a church.
"I pray for you, and I'll talk to you and then go. The Holy Spirit will do the rest. It's simple."
Kassim immigrated to Winnipeg, Manitoba in 2014.
"When I first came to Canada, I listened to CHVN. The first thing I do is look for a place to connect with my spirit. I started listening to Pastor Andaza Hezekiah on CHVN and I liked listening to him. Those few seconds I got lifted up."
Little did Kassim know that one day he would be mentored by Hezekiah, or that he was related to his Godmother back in Nigeria.
"I'm an advocate for people getting mentorship. I don't advise people to start something without a mentor."
In March of 2021, Kassim linked up with Hezekiah as his mentor to start this new church.
"When people come they receive grace because the only way we are saved is by grace. That is why it is extended to everybody. An embassy is a place where people go to get to the next level."
Right now the congregation at Grace Embassy is running out of the St. Norbert community centre on Sunday afternoons at 2:00 pm.