Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Preparing for the rehearsed and the un-rehearsed

Sunday 8/5- We returned to Michura for worship.  There are four churches that serve the community including the aptly named Power of Jesus Temple.  One of the things I remembered about the introductions from the day before was the way in which the tribal leaders introduced themselves, praise to God, an example of God's mercy in their life, and THEN their name.

Here was our church, under a giant tree overlooking the valley below.  One of the things I loved is throughout the first hour of a 3 hour service more and more community members streamed in as the singing increased in volume.

There was prayers, singing, shouting, more praying, then sermons by two of the four pastors. Silas, one of the community members and who is the 410 Bridge lesion to the community translated much of the service.

Our team was asked to sing and give testimony and favorite scripture.  By the end of the service I dare say I've never heard God referenced as "pregnant and wanting to give birth to new life." It was hands down one of the most spirited messages I've ever heard.  The service, the music, and especially the outdoor setting was a celebration of the faith and testament that God is very much a presence in their daily lives.

After lunch, which was prepared and boxed by our hotel daily, we broke into three groups of a men's bible study, women's, and youth.  My teammate Jennifer, also a teacher, and I were asked to lead the women's group.  Before we left Jennifer and I reviewed the lesson we were asked to teach about responsibly and had the chance to talk to another of the 410 Bridge staff who lives and works in Nairobi.  We had questions about what topics should we focus on and those to shy away from as to be respectful of our cultural differences.

As we sat overlooking this beautiful vista surrounded by about 30 women dressed in every color and print we began in prayer.  Somehow it fell to me to open in prayer and I prayed that the rehearsed as well as the un-rehearsed would come forth and bring us together.  I was really nervous, despite talking all day for a living.

This felt different than daily teaching and surrounding us were the faces awaiting what were were bringing from a very far away place.  Jennifer and I introduced ourselves and  mothers, teachers, followers of Christ.  We received clapping that we are teachers. A first for both of us and evidence of the importance on education in the community.  Once we were finished, Beatrice, the wonderful leader of the village women's group and only female tribal elder asked if we wanted the women to introduce themselves.

What transpired next was amazing and the women through Beatrice's interpretation conveyed their faith in God despite hardships, deaths of children, spouses, the sheer hard work each performed just to live.  What was spoken was who was related to whom, how many children they had both living and dead.  It was their chance to identify themselves, free from the shadow of the men.

Near the end of our lesson all attention shifted to a game of Duck, Duck Goose called Zebra, Zebra, Lion in Kenya.  The women were straining to see the growing noise and sounds of children laughing and chasing each other.  Jennifer and I looked at each other and as teachers, retooled on the fly and opted to close in prayer.

As tradition, the women kneeled in the dirt as did we.  Beatrice looked over and says, "Not you. you are leading the prayer. You stand."  I was humbled. Somehow I again was the one speaking and closing us in prayer.  I asked the women again to name either out loud or in their hearts their requests.  As we started the prayer the kids voices began to drown us out so I wrapped up the prayer for,"God to give us the same joy of the children in our daily lives."

At the end, the women broke out in song, shouting and dancing.  Jennifer and I as well as our other female teammates Diana and Jessica gladly took part and garnered the attention of the men's group who were now watching and clapping along.  It was a celebration that despite the language barrier, we were all women. For months I've thought about how the struggles and want for a better lives transcended cultural barriers.  We all love our families and our children from the same heart. On that Sunday it was evident.

As we were leaving and walking back to our bus two of the oldest ladies among the group grasped my hands and walked me back over the rocky road.  As would become common in the days ahead, both in greeting and parting goodbye, hugging and the clasping of both hands connecting us together became the norm.

Truly a beautiful day filled with the shared experience of worship and celebration in faith in God. As far as church experiences it was literally a mountaintop moment.

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