Sunday, October 5, 2008

Church, African Style

Today we went to a local church, where Mathew (our mission administrator) attends. We of course were asked to "share a word" so Rick spoke about the importance of teaching our Children about God and being examples for them. This blog post will be a bit longer, as I feel like I have to try and share with you the African Church Experience- which is long too!! :) Rural African church services are totally unlike anything I have experienced in North America, even Brazil was nowhere close to these services. It is hard to explain because everything is just so... African! When you arrive there might be 2 or 20 people there. This however is no indication of how many people will be there at the end of the service. As many people don't have watches, they know to make their way to church when whoever is there first starts up the Praise and Worship- which can be heard a long long ways away. Of course- if you happen to be there that day, the congregation will gain a few curious onlookers, eager to see who the visitors are and what they will have to say. Once things get going inside it is an experience for the senses! The women are singing with all their might, dancing and jumping/shuffling forward and backwards, small children strapped to their backs, sleeping thru all the jostling and shaking. Bigger children are dancing at the front, hands raised to God, faces dripping with sweat. Even the very littlest ones, two years old are dancing and singing.

young children dancing (incuding one with only one leg!) Dust is filling the air because the dirt floor just can't withstand the shuffling and jumping. The smell of sweat is strong, and only gets more pronounced as more people join in and the songs get louder and the dancing more involved. Someone is the back is pounding on a well used drum- providing the only instrument, aside from the occasional shriek of a whistle. One song after another is sung, led by random people - some small children, some men, young women and elderly widows. There is no order, and whoever wants to lead the next song just sings out and everyone follows. And then after an hour or so of clapping, singing, women "ay ay aya yayayayyah -ing", and dancing we arrive at the end of the worship.

young mothers gathering outside the church Everyone settles onto a plank bench, or more likely a woven grass mat, and the dust begins to settle. By now most of the congregation will have shown up, and if you turn around you would be shocked to see how many people are behind you. As people settle down mothers will go about the business of getting themselves and their children situated, often opting to breastfeed during this more restful period of the service.

Now it is time for the choir- or choirs. Choirs are a proccess. They are not simply called forward to present a song. No- the congregation sings a song as the choir members make their way out of the hot building into the hotter sun, to organise themselves into the proper order. Then they begin singing, and shuffle/dance their way into the church. After a song or two, the next choir will go out, come in and go up- if the church has more than one. Now it is time for the speaking. Of course, if there are visitors they must first be welcomed, greeted, share greetings and then share at least a mini sermon. After this, whoever is supposed to be preaching will come up and RE-preach whatever the guest shared, but usually with decidely more oomph, handwaving, halleluyahs and amens! Whatever the point of the message was- EVERYONE will have heard it before leaving church! That is certain.

Rick- sharing a greeting and a "word"

And then there is prayer. Anyone with any need at all comes to the front of the church, on their knees and waits to have hands laid on their heads and be prayed for. And those who dont come forward for prayer are either praying themselves or singing more worship songs. Prayer is a corporate experience- everyone prays at once, until one voice rings out above the rest, signaling the end of prayer time. We all say Amen. Once all who have needs have been prayed for we begin to wind down the service- more singing follows, visitors are now individually greeted, hands shaken, babys passed around, -no one rushes off! I love church services here, the worship is so heartfelt- even though I cant understand most of it, people praise God with their whole beings, every limb becomes an instrument of worship. Of course, many of these people are new believers, and many struggle to leave the old traditions behind, but when it comes to worship- they hold back nothing. It is a humbling experience to watch and worship with these people, who have so little, suffer so greatly and have seen so much loss. Yet their worship is enthusiastic, heartfelt and encouraging. Please join us in praying for the church here in Mozambique, many struggle to leave behind old traditional ways and beliefs.

one of the grannys we work with- still holding to traditional religion- see the bottle of "medicine" tied around her neck?- its to keep eveil spirits and sickness away.

just an example of the rations we provide for one person for one month, rice, salt, beans, dried fish, cooking oil, soap and also some maize (not pictured)- each of the orphan children in our sponsorship program receives this amount.

praying for one of our orphan and widow families

Again, thank you for your prayers- my mother came thru her surgery well and is even able to walk already (just a bit!) We praise God for his continuing care for her. Please continue to pray that her heart and back will remain strong and heal well. Also thank you for your prayers for peace for us here- I have been blessed by the prayers of so many!


1 comment:

Jennell said...

Hey there! I know we talk on msn alot but I just wanted to leave this comment on here. I love this post about the African Church. It makes me miss it so much! Their enthusiasm is amazing. Even when I went to that one in Winnipeg with Kevin, a lot of what you are saying here was true for that church as well. I can't wait to attend an African church again! Everyone could probably come up with something different about the service because there are so many things going on and it is all enjoyable (for me anyways). I love reading all these posts from Africa...keep 'em coming!