Friday, July 20, 2012

The Church in Burundi

Susan sneaking in the side door of the church
Know this. You cannot sneak quietly into a church in Burundi and sit down, unnoticed, to listen to the music for a while then discretely leave. Don't even bother trying!

Last Sunday I thought I'd stop in at the church service that was just getting started in the center next door, the same place the wedding had been the night before. I had asked at the hotel desk and learned that the service was from 9:30 till noon, and figured to take a peek and then go have breakfast.

I was greeted at the door of the church by a lovely woman, the pastor's wife, who escorted me to the front row and asked if I spoke English or French. English, I told her, and she said she'd find someone to help me with the service. Soon a young man named Severin was introducing himself to me and settling in to the seat beside me. I noticed that he carried an English language Bible. He interpreted throughout the morning.

It didn't take long at all to get caught up in the service. The worship band consisted of ten beautiful young adults, one on the keyboard, singing songs that were unfamiliar to me but very well known to the group. From time to time Severn would tell me, "They are singing about God's power to do anything," or "This is about giving our whole selves to the Lord." Their harmony was close and the lead singer, a young man, radiated the love of Christ.

Severun (right) with two of the pastors of the church
Part-way through the service it occurred to me that I might be invited to greet the congregation. That had happened the week before; when our whole group attended church together, we were asked if we'd like to give a greeting. The people were glad for any word from their brothers and sisters who joined them in worship. It occurred to me that this was likely a custom and I should be ready if I were called upon to share.

Joyful in hope
So I turned in my Bible to Romans 12:12, the same verse I shared the week before. "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." This sums up the church in Burundi, as far as I can tell. They are filled with joy. In a world where hope might seem to be difficult to muster, I saw in my brothers and sisters great hope. They know Jesus, and they know that He is King over all, and He is worthy, and He is trustworthy. They are full of joy and hope.

Patient in affliction
It is easy to become lethargic in our world where inconveniences seem to us to be affliction. But for most of the people I met, daily life is a struggle. The widows with so little resources and so little esteem deal with affliction every day of their lives. So do the Sister Connection staff, lovely, educated people who have chosen to serve the needy rather than serve themselves. Across the board I saw their patience, their grace lived out.

Faithful in prayer
And faithful in prayer? We hardly know how to pray compared to these children of God who cast themselves on His mercies. You know, while we were at the widows retreat we got word that the Free Methodist bishop of Congo had been kidnapped. When the women heard about it, they went to prayer. They covered the front of the sanctuary with mats, knelt down before God, and stormed the gates of Heaven for the safety of this man of God. Within hours we heard of his release. They would pray the same way when one of the teachings spoke to their hearts. Joy, the Burundian director of Sister Connection, called out specific sins and asked if the women were dealing with any of them. When she called for a time of repentance after the message there was earnest prayer from the women. After I challenged the women to trust the Lord with their children the room was alive with their prayers.

So on both Sundays I told the people that when I returned to the US I would report what I had found in Burundi. I would let you know that the church in Burundi is a church that is "joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and fateful in prayer," just like we are called to be in Romans.

Pray for the leadership of the church in Burundi. Pray for the church members. Pray that the young people will commit themselves to the Lord and will stand firm in Him. Just like here, there are temptations galore and young and old alike need to be steadfast. Especially in the next few days as the youth camps will be taking place, pray for the Lord to do a mighty work among the campers and the staff. The Sister Connection team needs God's strength and would benefit greatly from your prayers. Thank you.

Our team with three Sister Connection staff


Joan Husby said...

Oh what lessons we can learn from this dear fellow Christians. Thank you for sharing, Ginger.

barefootmommy said...

The praying widows is a powerful image. tears. :)