Friday, November 30, 2012

Our Expressions of Faith

I sit in the office and read... The sound of over 600 children from the school and orphanage is shadowed by the music and shouting that erupts from the church. The afternoon prayer overwhelms me in volume and style. I don't understand it or this expression of faith. The shouting, the continuous repetition and appeal of emotions... Me and my American friend look at each other, without an expression of words while the praying continues. We begin to examine ourselves in silent searching. This marks a week of intense differences in the expression of our spirituality. Corporate prayer and worship is one of most contrasting areas in this new culture. I find it to be an area of great struggle since it is so far outside of how I exhibit these things in my own life. Yet, in the same moment I can also find it to be one of the most beautiful articulations of worship to God. At times, I want to become critical and pious but instead Jesus calls me to look first at my own Westernized expression of faith. What is right? What is true? I feel conflicted but who am I to question or judge another's experience of faith. I want to legitimize my own experience by saying that it's the right way or the best way but it's spiritual pride and ignorance to limit the God of the universe in such a way. I don't understand or know the answer to my internal conflict... but I keep my prayer simple: open my eyes to see your unlimited majesty so that I may join in the song of heaven. Lord, show me the limitations I've put on my own expression of faith. Help us to learn together and to challenge one another in our faith and the loving of our God.

"What do the elders see that make them all fall down? What do the angels see that make them cry holy? ...for we have to know..."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Don't leave your joy behind

This last week has been full of travel and moving about the country for different meetings and visitations of purposed project sites. Travel here tends to be a little more taxing due to the terrible road conditions and pot holes that will swallow your car. Everyone always jokes with me about how I fall asleep so quickly on our journeys but I just tell them that it’s just my coping mechanism to the driving here… better to just fall asleep than have a heart attack! While it has been tiring to be somewhere new almost every other day, I’ve really enjoyed the time spent with everyone. I love sitting in the car together, laughing, listening to worship music, and sharing stories of great faith and the beauty of our God. I love the glimpses I get here of true joy and the enjoyment of those God has given us. The work here is such a privilege and I continually find my heart dripping with thankfulness for the family I live with. Pastor Danny has a real gift of humor and anyone who meets him figures that one out very quickly. He can get the whole car to erupt in laughter without a moments notice. I love the way Dovie still laughs at him and never tires of his jokes, even though I’m sure she’s heard them a thousand times. I love hearing that real belly laughter from Dovie when her children are being silly and the light-hearted nature of the families that surround me. It’s such a gift in a place where it’s so easy to become frustrated and burdened with the way things are run here. Every time it would seems reasonable to respond in irritation, I instead hear outbursts of laughter. On Saturday we were heading back from Northern Uganda and our driver suddenly burst into laughter at the overkill of speed bumps every five feet… He just turned up the music and shouted, “All our bodies will dance now!” We laughed as we bounced and danced along the roads of Africa.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Sacrificial Gift

For a moment things here feel normal and comfortable. I finish skyping with a friend back home, the tv entrances the kids into silence and laughter, we make plans to lay snug in our beds and watch a movie after a long day of ministry… all of us are occupied and distracted by the entertainment offered. A smile pulls its way across my face, since the comfort feels natural and pleasant. Then, of course the power cuts right when we’re on our way to make popcorn for the planned cozy night and we realize it’s just another night by candle light. We retreat to our rooms in silent defeat, having put so much trust in the unreliable things here. Another night of reading and journaling. Another night of soft flickering flames and quiet reflection.

My heart finds its way to the students and women I’ve encountered. I remember the Sunday spent at the secondary school, early in the morning… students packed in the dust filled school building with the only light shining from the windows and doors. The students sing and dance and as they worship it is as though they offer their whole body to the Lord. They shout and sway, stomp their feet and move to the beat of the drum. They gather every Sunday to worship our Father. Gratitude fills my heart at the opportunity to speak and pour into these hungry hearts. This Sunday they enter into the building clinging tightly to beautifully wrapped, bright colored gifts of all shapes and sizes. They have brought gifts for their prayer partners. My heart swells during the exchange as the whole assembly sings as each bring their gift to the front. Bashful smiles and sweet looks fill the faces of the students as they hand their blessings over to each other. I imagine the thought and sacrifice that each gift required. Some had verses covering the metallic wrapping and you could sense the silent pride that each person had in preparing such a wonderful present. An exchange of sacrifices for the enjoyment of one another.

My mind wanders to the faces of the FAITH women that fill our office every Sunday. I recall the tiresome day where all I wanted was to melt into my bed and forget my current exhaust and hunger. Instead, I found myself with these women after a long day of speaking to the students and attending service. My heart began to be strengthened, just by sitting with them. As I looked into their tough, yet tender and sweet faces, I realized the inner strength that each one must posses to fight the stigma and physical exhaust of being declared HIV positive. Gratitude fills my heart as we work through our study of Jesus as God the Son. Their questions and requests are honest and sincere. “Why is it important that I read the Bible if I store the word in my heart during service?”, “Can God forgive us since we’re HIV positive?”, “tell us about purgatory and why the Catholic Scripture is different from the Holy Bible…” At that moment I want nothing more than to be with those women, discovering the depth and riches of Christ Jesus together. We end our meeting and they gift me and Julia with green peppers, spinach and eggs. I can’t comprehend such gifts. These women and students give from their lack with an abundance of joy. There is nothing more beautiful than learning from these brave and generous souls. Needless to say, I left that meeting asking for God’s forgiveness for my self-pitying attitude for being too tired and hungry.

These people have given me something to feast on every day.

Thank-you Lord.