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Chin refugee church desperate for help as it faces possible auction

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INDIANAPOLIS – The North America Matu Christian Church could be up for sale again if the church does not pay $16,459.49 in taxes and penalties by June 26.

Helen Thangmatu’s father purchased the property in 2010. They bought it from a Lutheran church. They assumed because it wasn’t changing operations, it would remain tax exempt.  

“Nobody told them they had to file an exemption,” Thangmatu said. “Nobody knew.”

In 2011, The Marion County Assessor’s Office sent the church a notice. It warned that their tax exemption had expired and that they needed to apply for a new one. Documentation shows no one responded and therefore, the church property went to auction. When the pastor called the bank, they confirmed the sale.

“We were scared,” Thangmatu recalled.

The bank stepped in and redeemed the church. Tax records from 2018 show they paid $62,440.34.

“It was mostly for redemption and penalties,” Thangmatu told CBS4.

In 2018, Thangmatu started the process to file for an exemption. She spent two years translating the church bylaws into English and gathering the church’s documents and records. They were finally able to file for a tax exemption in 2019. By then, the church had racked up another $34,499.09 in taxes.

“We cannot afford it,” she said.

Not knowing what else to do, Thangmatu called the CBS4 Problem Solvers.

“We don’t have money,” she pleaded. “If the bank is not going to help us, I guess were going to lose our church to the tax sale again.”

According to the Marion County Assessor’s Office, the amount was lowered due to an adjustment. As of June 15, the North America Matu Christian Church owed $16,459.49.

CBS4 reached out to county and state officials and private attorneys to see what the process would look like. If the church lets it all play out, they will go before the county, file an appeal and could eventually ask the state for a pardon.

The North America Matu Christian Church is one of 40 Chin refugee churches in Indianapolis. Thangmatu said the refugees left their country seeking religious freedom. Their church is important because it is the only location that speaks the Matu language and dialect.

“If we lose the church, just like that, it would be really hard on us and I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Thangmatu said. “All of the members, where are they going to go?”

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