September 23, 2003
Good Morning Friend,
How much I have to learn about what it means to worship! It is not about being comfortable in a pew–it is not about having a great sound system–it is not about beginning on time or being well ordered–it is not about being timed down to the hour. As I engage in worship with my friends here they show me it is the greatest treat of the week! They come prepared to stay the day! They hunger to talk and share of all the ways God has blessed them in the past week, so the services begin with testimonies of God’s faithfulness–there are so many wanting to speak that the Pastor often has to limit it to 8 or so! It was heart melting when our helper Flavia stood up and with tears in her voice gave thanks to God for her new job with JjaJa Mike and Lissa. What a privilege it was to be in worship in this place! Worship is alive in Wakiso and in my heart. There are two churches that we take the children to. One is close, just a couple of miles from the village and is called Wakiso Central Baptist Church. That church is led by a wonderful shepherd named Pastor Fred Kibuuka. His wife is named Susan and she is a great help to Rafiki both in ministering to children and identifying girls who would be good candidates for the Girls’ Center.
When worship begins, it opens with music. Here at Wakiso they have a fragile electronic piano and a man whose enthusiasm more than makes up for any lack of skill. His chord progressions are more rhythmic and drum beat like than they are carrying any melody line. The worshippers love for the music to be vigorous and to build in energy and participation, so the praise time goes on and on with people on their feet clapping and so joy filled. I was struck with how the faces are smiling and how delighted they are to be together—our worship seems passive and unemotional by comparison. Solos flow into congregational singing and back again–and yet there are no bulletins and you are convinced that what goes on is spontaneous and honest expression from hearts overflowing with love and gratefulness to God. Following the music, the Pastor invites the congregation to pray and everyone does–out loud and at the same time–the cacophony of sound that rises is powerful–some crying out for mercy, some jubilant and thankful, some confessing and asking for forgiveness.
There is no hurry in any of this and at a time that seems corporately sensed a quieter song begins and we are ushered together into a time of Pastoral Prayer. The most striking difference in American and African prayer is that we bring a list of requests to God and they bring a list of praise and thanksgiving. What a contrast–we have much and want more– they have almost nothing and are profoundly grateful and want to speak it! The time of offering is also an event–there is a table with a basket set up front and the people sing and dance on the way to deposit their shillings and seem thrilled to have some to give.
I love Pastor Fred’s wife Susan. She is a fireball and completely dedicated to children’s ministry. Children from the surrounding village wander into church at odd times and find a place on a crooked, rough bench and look up to her and listen attentively. They sit pressed together for about 45 minutes relatively still and listening–no flannel board visuals, no VCR, no snack time or toy time–they listen to her teach/preach from Scripture. The children range in age from about three years old to about eleven.
The only discipline I see being done is for her to move a child to the front row so they could listen better! She too begins her time by asking the children, “Who has a testimony of what they are thankful to Jesus for?” 25 hands reach for the sky and they are anxious to go to the front and tell their friends how Jesus helped them by giving them a t-shirt, recovery from flu (cold), providing school fees, healing from malaria, some new slippers (flip flops), or a mother healed, or getting a sweetie (candy), etc. It is the most humbling thing in the world to sit amid a people who seem to have nothing but who have eyes to see that life is a gift and who have trained eyes to look for something to be grateful for. How much I have to learn about worship! Until later—lissa