I learned so much from that service. Not so much from the sermon, but from listening to and seeing just what being in church and worshipping truly mean to these people. Service was held in a building that looked like it had either sustained some damage at one point or another...or was a new construction. I couldn't figure out which. Or maybe not - I don't know - it was hard to tell. Windows with a few bars but no glass, old folding chairs, one old keyboard and a set of old accoustic drums, a choir of 15-20, kids IN the service, and truly happy people.
These people didn't show up out of obligation. They were not "bumps on a log". They came in their very best - with SMILES on their faces! They were JOYFUL and THANKFUL - and you could tell just by looking at them! We sat over an hour in a hot, humid (no AC or even fans for these folks!) building...listening to beautiful, heartfelt testimonies...listening to a crowd of people sing OVER the "band" (what an amazing sound!)....listening to a sermon given from the heart of a pastor who truly loves his people.
And, hang on for this, they collected an offering at least FOUR different times - maybe five - IN FRONT of the whole church. Nope, I didn't see one person roll an eye! No one looked disgusted or put out to have to give and keep on giving. In a 3rd world country, mind you, where I'm sure some of these people probably didn't really have much, if anything "extra" to give. Row by row...every time....they stood smiling and singing, walking to the front to add more to the Kingdom by giving what they had. AMAZING! How would that go over here in the good 'ole USA?
This was not a comfortable church service...no AC, no drama, no performances, no lights, no video screens, no production team, no children's department, no nursery, no comfy seats, no one fussing about the color of the carpet becuase there was none, no fancy stained glass....just people who love the Lord enough to want to come and be together in worship. And it was amazing!
Church has actually been one of the hardest things to come home to. The first time I walked back into the building where we've been attending, I was physically sick to my stomach. I wasn't sure if I'd make it through the service or not. Honestly, I wanted to turn around and walk right back out, but my kids would've never understood that, so I stayed. It wasn't good, though.
I cried almost the entire service and just felt ashamed and guilty. Ashamed for being so selfish, ashamed and maybe a little afraid for our churches and even our entire country and what our society has done to worship over the years, guilty of investing our money in huge buildings with so many trivial luxuries, for years spent being entertained and entertaining others.....so much money invested into things that aren't lasting. Even our churches are greedy and selfish. They want bigger buildings - more people - bigger programs - fancy outreach events...bigger shows to wow the crowds....anything to impress and try to bribe people to come....it all costs MILLIONS of dollars. 75 cents will buy 2 dozen packs of water in Sierra Leone, $40 for a bag of rice that will last a small family at least a month. Yet our churches - people who say they are Christ followers - spend millions and millions of dollars on frivolous things we don't even need and let people starve and die. The churches of our nation have bought into the gimick of more is better. Even when the Bible speaks of how hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven - we've ignored it, justifying our actions along the way.
There are people all over the world DYING because they have no food or even half-way decent medical care, but the so-called "Christians" of this country sit and feast upon everything we can get our hands on - usually complaining even while the feast continues! I can't imagine this is the church God wanted.
Yes, we give to mission programs. Our churches send their checks each month to a select group of missionaries they've approved for one reason or another.. some meager amount that allows them to put the check in the box by "Missions". Still...compared to what we are "feasting" on...what we are giving is nothing. Not that God can't use 5 fish to feed a crowd. Those 5 fish were all that there was, though...given freely and without care to what was left for himself. That's generally not exactly the kind of giving we do here in America.
There are people dying. Literally dying, because they have so little. I'm positive that Jesus would not be investing in building programs and fancy facilities when he could've fed and clothed people. We need to wake up and get real about what the Bible really says. I fear that millions of people who believe they are going to make Heaven, may not.
Do we REALLY believe what the Bible says? Are we REALLY living it out? Are we sitting on the fence, enjoying one foot in and one foot out? Are we hoping to make Heaven by the skin or our teeth or do we want to hear, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."? Are we really willing to take up our cross and follow Him?
I don't know the answers for you, but I know what my answers are. It's all or nothing....and I choose all!
I don't know exactly what that is going to mean for my family and I. Don't know what all the details will look like in the months and years to come. We are praying about it, though, and I'm excited to see all the God has for us and the changes that are on the horizon!
Church in Africa