News for End of April 2005
Visiting a great variety of churches within Luoland continues to be a major occupation of mine (especially in school vacations!) Usually these are churches started and run by Africans. It is always a privilege to be welcomed as I am into these churches. I am invariably given opportunity to share - or when I am visiting with one of our students, then I usually have the students share in my place. Much of what these churches do is very remarkable in relation to what we do in the UK. These are the churches to whom we are offering our teachings through Yala Theological Centre. Let me give just a few features of each:
Church 1. Are renowned for their love of processing down the road beating drums and singing lead by their flag. As well as Sunday's, this church meets every Friday for a long service (technically from 9.00am to 3.00pm), the focus of which is the reading of the accounts of the Crucifixion of Christ in the Gospels at 12.00 noon. Sins and troubles, often identified by the names of departed parents and grandparents, are chased away one after another.
Church 2. A church these days bursting at the seams with young people. The leader of the service announces that he has recently realised that when Jesus said he has come to 'fulfil the law' he didn't actually mean the laws of Luo tradition, but those of the Old Testament! The fact that there is no one else even near his standard of living doesn't stop the one wealthy member of this church telling the others that if only they would obey God they would be rich as he is. The members don't seem to tire of this message either!
Church 3. 4 men plus about 8 boys processing round and round inside the church, each singing loudly and each beating his own drum as loudly as possible, characterized this church. The processing went on for over 1 hour. In discussion afterwards we were told that it is better to pray and fast outside than in a house, as outside winds bring the power of plants, animals and other things to help the believer in his pursuit of God's truth.
Church 4. The prophetic powers of visiting pastors to this church seemed to be spot on judging from the acquiescing responses of ailing members who were then prayed for. The same couple, along with a few local church members, spent over a week dressed completely in white carrying a large white flag walking (almost jogging) for miles around the area, healing the sick and driving out demons in the name of Jesus.
Church 5. The remarkable singing of this church reminds me of a cross between Roman Catholic and Orthodox chanting. One of the elders of the church recounted the 10 commandments off-by-heart in front of the congregation. One of the ladies walked around almost constantly encouraging singers to sing and clap more vigorously. Considering their reputation of accepting God the father but not the son - the enthusiasm of this church for Jesus was great (i.e. their actual practice seems to be Christian, even though their official doctrine tells them that Jesus is not God.)
Church 6. We found this church meeting under a tree, their old building having collapsed and their new one remaining incomplete. The fact that they were closing their after-the-service business meeting when we arrived was not to stop them enthusiastically requesting us to share God's word with them despite our late arrival.
Church 7. Having at one time been close to death, it was encouraging to see this church thriving again. There were 40 or so children in the Sunday School, and then 60 or more adults in the main service. Many expressed great interest in YTC - due to re-open on 9th May, so we hope this may give us an improved attendance!
Church 8. Three hours into this service, myself and my colleague left them still going strong. Someone started singing a song spontaneously 3x during (i.e. interrupting) my preaching - and a similar thing occurred to others who shared. The role of the dead founders of this church in keeping it going was clearly acknowledged in the frequency with which their names were mentioned in prayers.
The above are just a few of the churches with which I have worshipped this month - April 2005. Pray for an ongoing good relationship of our Bible school (Yala Theological Centre) with them. (Some of these churches worship on Fridays, others Saturdays, others Sundays.)
Give thanks - that I now have official notification of the extension of my work permit here in Kenya for another three years, being from June 2005 up to June 2008.