Reuben and Golda Amlalo are a Ghanaian couple currently residing in Baltimore, Maryland, where Reuben serves at Faith Christian Fellowship. The couple is from Accra, Ghana, where they lived until they were 14 and 15 years old, respectively. Golda is a speech language pathologist who graduated from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where she attended Christ Community Church.
After a traumatic experience at UNC Chapel Hill, Golda swore never to return to North Carolina. However, in August, the couple will be moving to plant a church with David Yuran in the northwest corner of Charlotte. While Golda vividly remembers the loneliness she felt as a Black woman during her time in North Carolina, the couple feels called back to the state.
Reuben grew up with his mother, who approached his religious education from a Presbyterian and Methodist background. As a young boy, he also attended a local charismatic church. In 2002, when he moved to the states to live with his father, Reuben began to attend a Presbyterian church. His father comes from the Volta region of Ghana, where they speak Ewe – and Ewe was the dominant language of this church. Reuben was not fluent and found himself immersed every Sunday. Reuben credits his diverse religious background for the robust understanding of gospel diversity that he brings to his position in the PCA church.
When Reuben was attending high school in Prince George County, he was blessed with an Algebra teacher who loved the Lord. Thomas Spencer Miller did Bible studies with his students, discipled them, and eventually took Reuben with him to City of Hope and introduced him to Pastor Irwyn Ince. It was at a Bible study with Mr. Miller where Reuben first met Golda. The two of them were discipled together in this Bible study, digging into the Bible in ways that they never had before.
Golda was also raised in the faith. Her church experience was complicated by the fact that her parents had a hard time finding a church that would welcome her late sister, who was autistic. Golda recounts that one parent used to stay home with her sister while Golda and the other parent went to church. She remembers that there was always the slight questioning of whether, in her sister’s autism, God was punishing her family for something.
Golda sifted through these complex feelings and found God a comforter and a healer. Through her sister, Golda learned that God makes people differently and still loves them fully. Golda’s relationship with her sister also played a pivotal role in her future as a speech language pathologist. Even though she started her degree in architecture, she kept a minor in special ed, dreaming of someday returning to Ghana and starting a clinic for people with disabilities.
When Golda met Reuben at the University of Maryland, she was attending a Oneness Pentecostal Church with her family. Through Reuben, Golda was introduced to the Presbyterian church (particularly, he notes, a different theology of the Trinity), and began looking for one where she lived in North Carolina. She ended up at Christ Community Church, where she was fed during a difficult adjustment in North Carolina.
Golda and Reuben learned a lot about Black Americans after moving to the States. Both recount how Africans are often labeled with erroneous stereotypes on this side of the pond; similarly, they say, Black Americans are labeled as lazy, poor students. Through their relationships at Bible study, church, and in college, they were able to form a more accurate opinion of Black American culture. After years of living here, the two say that they identify more with African Americans. And that identification does not come without its challenges.
Golda and Reuben recognize the need for more churches that invite every aspect of the people that God has made in his image to the table. They share a passion for sharing their culture with the people around them (often in the form of delicious Ghanaian cuisine) and creating a space where others can feel free to share as well. Charlotte is a city ripe with gospel opportunities.
Golda’s experience in North Carolina was so challenging that she married Reuben on the date of her graduation to “redeem the day.” Now, the couple stands on the precipice of moving to the same city to plant a church. They hope that this new church will be a respite for people like Golda, who are searching for a rich, thriving, multi-ethnic community. They hope that their church can be a place where lonely people who look like them can find shelter. The Amlalo’s hope to “redeem the day” once more, making the place that often felt like a desert to Golda fertile ground for healing and change.*
* As of the date of the release of this blog, the Amlalos will not be going to Freedom Church. Please pray for them as they determine next steps.