That’s right folks, it’s Sunday in Uganda!
When we asked our trip leaders about what church was like in Uganda, they said unpredictable. Will it take one hour or will it take four? No one knows! And who knows what will happen – music, sermons, testimonies, prayers, the works.
To be honest, I’m a bit nervous about church because I’m nervous of the thought of sitting for four hours on a wooden bench. In a skirt. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t sit still well for long, and almost always have to pull one or both of my feet up to sit on – even going to far as to sit criss-cross-applesauce perched on a stool. And this culture’s modest standards is that skin visible between knees and waist is a no-no. Oh dear, how will I sit for four hours when I can’t pull my legs up under me? God give me strength!
A few months ago I heard a story on the radio (can’t remember the context, but it doesn’t matter) in which they mentioned a Christian church in Iraq. Iraq! I have no idea what the rest of the story was about because I stopped listening as soon as I heard that. I couldn’t stop thinking what must it be like to go to church in Iraq? Over where Bible stories actually TOOK PLACE? Mere miles from where Jesus lived?
While individual church organizations themselves come and go over time, the Church as an overall body has existed for two thousand years. And the church in Iraq has probably been around since the beginning in some form or another. That church pre-dates western culture! Predates Protestantism! Predates the publication of the Bible and hymns and organ music and praise bands…
What must it be like to go to church in Iraq?!? Where the church started? In a place that possibly wasn’t re-brought the gospel by western missionaries but kept it going itself all that time? (I admit I don’t know the history of Christianity in the Middle East…)
The more I thought about it, the more excited I got! So much of what I know of, define, and experience as church is saturated through and through with my own western culture. Surely the church in Acts 2 didn’t have the same setup I have experienced in most of the churches I grew up in: opening songs, possibly special music, sermon, communion, closing songs, exit to pick up your kids from kids ministry. What must it be like to go to church in Iraq? Maybe they’ve adopted some of the same patterns that we have in the United States, but maybe some things are completely different.
And while I’m nervous about sitting on a wooden bench with both of my feet on the floor in a hot, crowded room nearly on the equator for who-knows-how-long, I’m also incredibly excited. Excited to see church through their eyes in a different culture and context. To see how they worship. Will they sing? Will they be silent? Will they cry out? Will they sit or stand or dance or do cartwheels? All I know is that there will probably be something that’s different and unexpected, something that would never happen at most churches in the United States.
I can’t wait to see it.
I’m still nervous about that whole possibly-sitting-for-four-hours thing though. Could you pray for that, please?
Also, as I’m writing this in advance I have no idea what the time difference will be between there and home and I’m not too worried about looking it up because we’ll just go with the flow over there (“Africa time”, they say) but the point being that church may already be over and done by the time you read this, but I don’t know because we could be six hours in and still going strong, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still pray for me because God’s all-powerful like that. How’s that for a run-on sentence?