This experience has wrecked me. Today we visited Pastor Langa’s church, the church at the care point that we first visited last Wednesday. This was our first Swazi church experience. We arrived a couple of minutes late and after being greeted outside our vehicle, we walked into the worship time. The moment we walked into the small wooden structure….tin roof & concrete floor….light creeping in through the window panes and cracks in the wall….I was moved to tears. The room was filled with the most beautiful singing I had experienced in my life. I had dreamt of this experience but it was more overwhelming than I had expected. We were welcomed in a spirit that was so pure.
As they sang they danced while looking straight into one another’s eyes. The freedom was palpable….you could taste it. The service was intertwined with music led by the women in the seats. We were brought up to the front to be welcomed….the four Canadians in a rural Swazi church….as we walked up, we were sung to….a welcome song I would guess. My heart felt connected. They looked straight at us and sang….I felt so transparent.
They also sang as they brought their gifts and offerings. When we say gifts and offerings back home, we just mean money….but here it was a little different. I learnt that there is one Sunday each month that people bring gifts to the pastor from what they have. They are used to help those in desperate need and to help the pastor. This happened to be that particular Sunday. We watched as people came and offered clothing, corn, flour….and then I looked to the front and saw something I had never seen in church before…..a live chicken tied up by the legs and laying on the floor next to the table. Someone had given a chicken as their offering. These people gave so generously out of the little that they had.
The time came for the pastor to speak…..he spoke from the book of Hebrews about a disease….a disease that he hoped would continue to spread through the Church. A disease called faith. He pointed to a child sitting right in front of him, and challenged us to have faith as simple as this one….faith that takes God at his word….a faith that does not worry about tomorrow. So here I find myself in a church in a country devastated by a disease that is killing them….and they speak of the hope a disease called faith can bring in their lives. Humbling.
He used very simple things to illustrate. Things that they see around them….a mango tree….a mango tree does not create mangos he said….no, it only produces mangos that already exist within the tree. The same with faith. Faith doesn’t create fruit in our lives….it produces the faith that is already inside of you. How true that is. Whether we have everything we could ever want….like I do in Canada….or we live with nothing…. struggling to even find the basics….we have everything we need within us to produce the fruit that God wants from our lives.
Then the pastor spoke a blessing. He said…. “I pray that in one years time….this community would not be the same.” I could feel the earnestness in that prayer. A prayer that they would have the food they need to feed their own children. A prayer that this community would find God.
I couldn’t help but sit there and think as I looked around at the desolation just outside the window beside me….that we might be the ones called to make a difference….not in some “big white hope” but as God’s vessels….empty of our own pride and willing in our hearts. Willing to come alongside this pastor….this community and help them to create hope in their community.
He ended with a prayer we would never hear in a Canadian church. He prayed directly for the children….he prayed that they would be protected from the abuse they find at home. He prayed that they would no longer have to be hungry….and that they would not get sick.
God….help us. Thank you for this experience.