Sunday, October 10, 2010
Back at the hotel, I fell asleep quickly; however, I found myself wide awake at 2AM. Of course, it was noon back home so…my internal clock was a little confused.
JD told us church would begin at 10:30. Their home is above the church, and so we went upstairs immediately upon our arrival. People were already arriving downstairs for church, and we could hear them singing as they waited for church to begin. We were told that church would go until about 2 o’clock. That alone was mind-blowing for me.
All of the people sit on the tile floor during the service. The men sit on the right as they come in, and the women and children sit on the left. Sometimes they have over 500 people in this room, which is smaller than our sanctuary. The singing was beautiful and joyful… and we could really only clap along and smile. However, you could still feel the bond we had with one another in Christ.
There were 3 sermons given. Each of the 3 pastors gave a message, which was interpreted to the people. Between each message, they would stand and sing a couple of songs and then sit and eagerly await the next message. I’ve never seen anything like this. Even the children sat quietly and listened (except for one spunky little girl who kept coming closer to get a better look at us).
After the service, the women came up to Deb and me and wanted us to put our hands on their heads and pray for them. I was so moved by these women and tried to look each one in their eyes as I would hug them, touch their faces, and pray for them. . One girl (through David’s interpreting for us) told of how she lived among 10 families that were persecuting her family, trying to get them to return to worshiping idols. The pain on her face as she cried and cried… I don’t think I’ll ever forget it! I am just beginning to see that I have absolutely no idea what it is like to live in a place where my faith could cost me. I prayed for God’s protection for them and for strength and comfort, and while she seemed very grateful (and wanted me to pray more), my words of encouragement seemed to me so small and shallow as I realized she had to travel back home and face this situation every day. It was the beginning of a helpless feeling that would become far too common in the days to come.
Church ended at nearly 3PM. No one seemed bored or sleepy. I was so tired, but God allowed me to stay focused and awake. I was starving by this point, and I was really getting concerned about my dad. Despite having diabetes, he hadn’t eaten since having a granola bar this morning at about 8AM. However, he was amazingly adjusted on this trip. At 76, he was like the Energizer Bunny. In some ways, I think he did better than me.
Ruth served us lunch after church, and one of the other local pastors and JD joined us. It was another terrific meal! However, my poor dad was struggling with the food. Even the vegetable dish that had few spices in it seemed “hot” to him. He really tried, but so far the bread and the rice are the only safe things for him.
After we ate, we headed to the orphanage for a visit. The children were sitting quietly on large mats while they waited for us. They had a few songs prepared to sing for us, and we each introduced ourselves to the group and a few of us told Bible stories. We brought some treats for them, which they enjoyed. We knew that our visit would be short, and we promised that we planned to come back with crafts I had packed in my suitcase to do with them another day. Ruth gave us a tour of the site, and it was heartbreaking. About 90 children live at the orphanage, and they are split in two rooms, boys and girls. As we stepped in the boys’ room, I realized that the metal bunk beds had no mattresses on them.
The cooking is done over an open fire and the children sit on the ground as they gather to eat. The needs are overwhelming, and things that we consider the basics are absent here. It was hard to leave them, but we had about an hour’s drive to get to the house church meeting.
It was dark when we arrived. The poverty in these villages is startling. They had a few plastic stacking chairs, which the men sat in at the back, and for us, their guests. They sang, and again all three pastors gave a message. While they were all encouraging and gospel centered, I was having the hardest time keeping my eyes open! I guess 4 days of little sleep was really catching up with me. Also, I got my first FOUR mosquito bites at this service. Apparently, no one else got any, and I’m praying that God will keep me from getting sick.
After the service, they honored and fed us. These dear people have so little, and yet it is their joy to share it with us.
By Sherri Stocker