So, today I went to Gatunduri Foursquare Church and had a GREAT time of worship, the Word, and blessing others! It was such an interesting day, I thought I’d share it with you.
I arrived at church around 10:45 when church was supposed to begin. The church is a small building with rough wooden posts and corrugated metal for walls and the roof. There is a 18″ gap at the top of the north wall before it meets the roof to allow light into the building. There are also 2 windows on the south wall and the back door is always kept open to allow people to enter throughout the entire service. There were about 10 people there at the time. So, it obviously wasn’t time to start.
We started with a “call to worship” around 11 with about 12 people in attendance. The 2 young ladies sang a couple of songs and as they were singing, the village must have heard them starting, because people started piling in. Worship is mostly a capella with the exception of a keyboard. The sound system consists of a small 4 port mixer and 2 speakers hung in the corners of the room with only twine. The ladies “lead out” in a swahili worship song and the rest of the congregation just joins in. No projectors, bulletins with printed words, or even transparencies. Everyone just knows the songs, sings with their whole heart, and dances with full energy until the worship leader decides the song is over.
After worship, everyone is invited to come to the front of the room to give testimony to what God has done in their life. The testimonies always start with “Bwana Asifiwe” (Praise the Lord). Congregation responds “Amen”. Usually, that happens twice. Then the person states their name and says, “I’m born again.” Then they are free to share whatever they would like to give Praise to God for. Today, the Associate Pastor’s wife gave praise to God that she got a job! YAY! This is a big deal, you guys. She went to interview for the job and she was the only person that showed up for the job interview. So she got the job! Pretty awesome!That kind of thing is unheard of. People are usually lining up to get whatever job they can. Bwana Asifiwe Sana!
When it is time to collect the tithes and offerings, there are no velvet bags, shiny brass plates, plastic buckets, or even a hat passed down the isles. I simple plastic bowl is placed on a small shaky stool (with a loose top) at the altar. Everyone brings their offerings to the altar and places it in the bowl.
Today, they had a special song and dance performance from 6 of the youth in the service. A song is played from a DVD player and the team did an excellent choreographed dance to it.
Then, it was my turn to give the “main word”. Every time I go to one of the Foursquare churches around Embu, I am expected to give the main sermon. This morning, I am speaking about Joseph and his perseverance and trust in God even through very difficult circumstances. I am about a third of the way through the sermon when something very strange happens. Its something that I am quite sure would never happen in a church in America today. But you know, I did have the thought a little earlier in the service, “wouldn’t it be funny if THIS happened”? This church is in a fairly rural Kenyan village with a farm on both sides of the church. There is maize (corn) growing just outside the window I was standing next to. Its so close I could reach out and touch it. (By the way, the breeze coming in that window was SO nice this morning). During worship, I could hear the sounds of chickens and even a pig. I thought to myself during worship, “wouldn’t it be hilarious if that pig came running into the church in the middle of worship? that would be a hoot!”. But then worship ended and there was no pig. Bummer. But then, I am about 1 third of my way through the sermon, and IT HAPPENED! I was closing point 1, a very serious and important part of the sermon, telling them
that we are God’s Masterpiece (Eph 2:10) and that God has a great plan for their life (Jer 29:11) just as He did for Joseph. Then all of the sudden, a small pig measuring no more than 18 inches long and 12 inches high came running in the back door of the church up the middle isle, then started running underneath people’s feet! I laughed a little and then wondered “ok, is anyone going to actually get this pig out of here? Are they expecting me to do something about it?” So, I decided, well, let’s not let this thing phase me or stop the sermon. God’s Word must go forth. So, I went back into my serious part of the sermon. Then, just as I started again, someone got up and started chasing the pig around the church. I guess he thought he could chase it out the door at first. but after the pig making a few laps back and forth across the room, he decided enough is enough. Someone helped him trap it and he grabbed the little piggy with an ear in each hand and carried it outside. I then laughed and said, “my friends at home are going to LOVE this story!” They all laughed and the pastor looked embarrassed. We all had a good laugh about it after the service. Don’t worry. I saw the pig in the farm after the service. They didn’t kill it…..yet. (ooo…I had some good pork with Jim the other day at a place called Pork City on the way to Nyeri).
I just told this story to my family at home via FaceTime (Thank you Lord for Facetime!) and dad suggested I share this song with you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K16fG1sDagU Great idea dad! Good stuff! I had forgotten about this song. But its quite appropriate for today’s excitement.
After I finished preaching, the pastor brought a young man forward in a wheel chair. This young man lives in the village and has been crippled since birth. He has never been to the church because he only recently received this wheel chair from a Japanese man who is a friend of his father. This young man loves God and loves to worship, but today was the first time he has been able to come to church because he only received the wheel chair the other day. The pastor then invited the congregation to bless this young man financially. They placed the “giving bowl” in his lap and the entire church came forward for place a gift for him in the bowl. Then, he led the church in a song. It was a beautiful thing of the church being the church in their community.
What followed was what I originally thought was a continuation of the blessings for the young man. People began bringing vegetables, fruits, sugar cane, and even a live chicken to the front. These items were being sold to the congregation in an auction. What it turned out to be was offering for the church, not for the young man. He just happened to still be up there. People can’t always give cash as their tithe or offering. So they bring some of what they have. Then, the church sells those items to others in the congregation and that money then goes into the offering bowl. Some churches, like the one I went to in Mjimbo a few weeks ago, uses this money specifically for their building program. Others put it straight into their “general fund.” Either way, I think it is a great way for people to be able to bring their worship offerings to the Lord. Bwana Asifiwe Sana!
After service, everyone was served a HUGE plate of rice. I had the opportunity to eat with the 2 pastors and my interpreter who is actually studying to be a professor at a college and also wants to be a pastor. We also discussed their relationship with the Foursquare Church, how they receive ministerial training, their need for Bibles, and community outreach plans. These guys are going after the lost! But those are stories is for another day.
By the way, by the time I left church, it was 3:30pm. Long day and I only preached for about 30 minutes.