Sunday, April 18, 2010

My African brothers and sisters

Today is Sunday. And I went to church. When we first arrived in Togo I tried two different churches. The second one has become my church home while I'm here. It is called the fisherman village church. This is because it is literally in a village of fishermen. This is how they make their living in this village. This village is at the edge of the water and the church is situated a way back in it. I still find it quite comical every sunday as we drive back into this village with our convoy of 3 or 4 big white mercy ship land rover's full of "Yovos" (whites). As we go we are accompanied by many waves and shouts from the people and children of the village. At one point their are some sort of electical lines that are too low for us to cross under so one of the men from the village always finds some sort of long pole or piece of wood to lift it for us to come in. And after a short drive we arrive at the church.
This beautiful body of believers is different somehow. This church was started by one of the African crew onboard named Lawrence Adje. Lawrence and his family, his wife Gena and their adopted son Daniel, are from Ghana. They started this church when the ship was in Togo years ago. At that time, Lawrence felt God leading him to transfer leadership of the church to a Togalese man who worked as a dayvolunteer on the ship. This man had no special qualifications but Lawrence saw something in him and God led Lawrence to approach this man. His name is James. He is the man who now pastors at the church.
Pastor James, is an anointed and humble man of God that is again a dayvolunteer on the ship this outreach. He works on the deck crew doing one of the lowest jobs. Though he could have moved to something a little more prominant, He manages the paint locker. I've talked to other deck workers who have been surprised and then touched when they find out his job. And they tell me that he is one of the most joyful workers they have come into contact with and they have never heard him complain, even in this lowly job. He truly shows the face of Jesus in his daily life.
This church has been such a blessing to me. I love the African heart of worship. They are worshipping in a half finished church building with no roof and three walls. In the middle they have constructed a temeraray structure, a simple tin covering supported by rough wooden poles and plastic chairs set up for the congregation in the sand. They have a simple sound system to support a few mics, that are constantly out of EQ and feeding back. ;-p
This church building was once fully built and thriving. But a horrible storm completely destroyed it. Now they are faithfully rebuilding it as they have the resources, little by little. It is so encouraging to go every week and see noticeable improvement. When I first went, I think there was one wall up. Now there are three! God is so good.
Every Sunday we worship God with african songs, several of which I have come to know well. the singing is accompanied by drums and shakers. I have come to love the freedom I see in their worship as they lift their hands and dance for Jesus. What beauty God has made in the diversity of his people around the world. I wish that every American or European or any westernized person could experience an African worship service. I have learned (though I'm sure I still look like a "Yovo" or white person, trying to dance like an African :) their dances and I love jumping into the dance lines that form during the worship. First the women will dance up into a circle and then dance back to their seats. A little later the men will form their line and wow can they dance! :) It is so much fun to worship God in this culture. Shouldn't it be this way everywhere? Then the children will go up with some coaxing from the lady who is in charge of them. It is such a joy to watch them. I think Africans are born with rythm haha :). I came to decide this must be the case as I watched a 2 or 3 year old dancing his heart out and clapping on beat.
And this church is so welcoming. Pastor James sees us not as just whites, but as brother's and sister's. And every Sunday he makes it a point to have one of his own congregation or himself pray for us crew on the ship before we leave.
He says things like, "This week one of the men I work with on the ship came to me and said 'God is so good James! I didn't know what I was going to do, I didn't have money to pay my crew fees. But then my dad sent me money to pay! Isn't God good!' And then," pastor James will say, "I knew white men have troubles too, they do not always have money, they have struggles, or miss their families... they need our prayers just like we need theirs." And then they will pray for us. And they really pray. I am so blessed by their prayers. This is the first African church that has taken on a responsibility to lift us up in prayer as they ask us to do for them. It is humbling and I feel the love of God through them. I truly feel they are my brothers and sisters.
I am so glad that the family of God is so big and diverse and that we are all connected by his love wherever we are from. This is something I hope to experience for the rest of my life. getting to know my brother's and sisters throughout the world, learning their culture, seeing another facet of our majestic, breathtaking God, his creativity, his incredible and beautiful artwork of diversity infused with his love....his people, his children, my brothers and sisters.