What follows are the stories that I wrote while we were in a difficult place, the last few days with no internet access.
African churches, whether Baptist, Presbyterian or some other familiar denomination bear no resemblance to their western counterparts. All of the music is sung with African drums for accompaniment. It is loud. It is full of joy.
This morning before they began to sing, they shouted as one body. “Hallelujah, Jesus is Lord.” Do you know how much courage such an act requires when you live in the middle of a Muslim area? We can hear the call to prayer at the mosque where we are staying.
The church building is very different from American churches. The ceiling is full of bats. There is bat guano on the floor. The benches are arranged to avoid the largest concentrations of bats and the expected problems. No one but us probably even notices.
People come dressed in their best clothes, whatever that is. Obviously, one lady had received clothes donated from America. She was wearing a pink and yellow prom dress with rhinestone trim.
The service is long, 3 hours or more. Sam taught a wonderful lesson on treating people as Jesus would treat them. He challenged us to live differently as Christians. No matter where we are, that is the battle to live as believers in this world but not of this world. It is our brothers and sisters struggle. It is our struggle.
IT IS MY CULTURE
As the pastor entered the church this morning, an older lady, the oldest lady I have seen so far, came running to carry something for him. He handed her the heaviest thing he had in his hands. She was so small, I rushed over and took it from her and told the pastor, “”I am very unhappy with you.”
He said, “It is my culture.” I asked, “Would you want someone to treat your mother like this?” He said, “No”. I asked him a second question. A dear American missionary named Eleanor lead him to faith in Jesus many years ago. He cherishes her memory. I asked “would you allow your dear friend Eleanor to carry this?” He said, “Never.” Then I said “Why do you treat this older lady this way?”
There is little or no understanding here of servant leadership. Women always kneel to men and Sam agrees that such treatment feeds a man’s pride. Pride has no place in our hearts as believers. Women will even kneel to a respected person or visitor. When she knelt to me, I immediately got down on my knees. Sam joined me, You can only lead by example.
The problem is so widespread that I have had to tell the children not to kneel to me at some puppet shows. I want them to bend their knees to Jesus and trust in Him alone as one worthy of such honor. Yes, their culture approves these actions but the Word of God teaches a different way.
Scripture comes alive in these places in a new way. I remembered the verse, Galatians 3:28:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither male nor female for you are all on in Christ Jesus.
Always when I am in a place like this, my own heart is challenged. I am asking myself questions. I encourage you to ask yourself questions. What do I do that my culture permits, but the Word of God condemns? What behaviors do I have that my friends approve but my God disapproves? Please pray for us to hear the Father and be wise in how we teach these lessons.
We are in another village. It is very hot here. When I lay down at night, the bed bites me. The food is very greasy and I am always sick. The shower does not work, but I am blessed with cold water. For 2 days, in another place, we had no water. I have an indoor toilet and there is paper. I sleep under a mosquito net and take medicine to prevent malaria. Most people have neither of these things and none of the things I mentioned.
Please understand, I am living better than everyone else in this place. More than 20,000 people aren’t as comfortable and safe as I am. I am so blessed, we are all so blessed. Now I must ask a simple question. What will I do with so much blessing? How will I serve and show gratitude for all He kindly gives me? How will you answer these questions?
FUNNY THINGS…DIFFERENT THINGS
1. Someone saw my diabetic monitor the other day and asked me if it was a cell phone.
2. We asked a friend to wash our clothes and gave her detergent. She used all of the laundry detergent, enough for 45 loads, in 3 washes. We are pretty sure that we could stand in a river and fill it with bubbles for miles.
3. Most have never seen puppets before and call them toys. There is not even a word in their language for puppets.