Our friend Phyllis, a missionary in Africa, recent sent this letter. I'm reprinting it here with her permission.
I was unaware of the unique story behind their attendance until last Thursday. Apparently around here no one thought their situation unusual - rather - their particular way of coping was just a normal part of life in this part of the country. But to me - it is simply amazing!
On Thursday morning Pastor John told me all of us would go out to their compound for Bible study, as Christiana wasn't feeling will. I was happy to add my Jeep to the van as means of transport, and at 4:45 pm loaded up as many members as possible then followed Clement across the main road onto a dirt track leading off in the general direction of the Niger River.
I'd never been to their place before so was surprised as we drove farther and farther into a desolate, uninhabited area, soon leaving the road and crossing stretches of barren hard pan - the dried out flood plains of the river. Finally we parked the vehicles and after a few minutes' walk came across the small compound. It was pitifully poor - only a tattered tent with an old thatched roof held down by driftwood. The family lives in a tattered tent in the flood plains of the Niger.
As we walked across the hard pan of the dried flood plains I began to wonder how this family managed in the rainy season. Well, I found out.
They SWIM to church, to Bible study and to school. David and Christiana showed us two big plastic wash basins into which they put the children and their Sunday clothes. The adults float the basins on the water, pushing them in front of them as they themselves swim the kilometers necessary to get to dry land and church.
When they get to dry land they change into their Sunday clothes. After church they change back into their wet clothes and swim back home. Amazing.
I chatted for a few minutes with David and Christiana after Bible study.
"What is it," I asked David, "that would push you to go through this kind of suffering, day after day, week after week, to get to church? What is it that makes it possible for you to endure this kind of hardship?"
"It's all for Christ," David answered. "What else can we do? Our canoe was borrowed by a neighbor who had an accident with it. As someone died in the incident, that canoe was confiscated by the police. We have no means of acquiring another.
"We must attend worship, no matter how difficult. We do it all for Christ."
Phyllis concludes: Will I ever be able to give ANY excuse for missing church again?
And I add: What am I willing to do "all for Christ"?