Gentle Tears and Roaring Laughter

Today is the Lord’s Day. I was asked to preach for Echoes of Mercy Church here in Nyamira. Pastor Moses specifically asked me to preach about generous giving. I wanted to decline, quite honestly. I don’t especially like talking about giving in America because there are so many who focus on this as if it were the only Christian virtue. So you can imagine how I felt about talking to Kenyans, who have so little. I was wary of the perception of many (all?) Kenyans that every American is rich. But Pastor Moses pressed upon me so stridently, I considered perhaps the Holy Spirit was prompting him. And so I yielded.

I spoke from 2 Cor. 9 on how to cultivate cheerfulness in our giving. I established the context from the previous chapter, which I thought truly fit the moment: “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.” 2 Cor. 8:1-4. And I stressed vv. 11-12 of that passage, also: “Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” 2 Cor. 8:11-12. This context helped me to be much more at ease.

Worship here begins at 8 a.m. with the children. At 9 is a Sunday School Hour. At 10 they have a discipleship class and communion. At 11 their service begins, and lasts until 2-2:30 p.m. Much like God’s Care Church in Uganda, the building here is perched on a hill. I think this is intentional. Though both Ugandans and Kenyans speak so softly it can be hard to hear them in normal conversation, they crank up the amplifiers to broadcast the service to the entire community. It serves as something of a village call to worship. When the service ended, we had a quick lunch followed by a series of meetings. Exhausted, I walked back into the mission house at 5 p.m.

For the last several days, we’ve been joined by two young men, both 30 and both single, who are being mentored by Pastor Moses. I’ve truly enjoyed Patrice’s and Vincent’s company. After lunch, I gave them each small gifts. You would have thought they had won the lottery. It truly put things in perspective for me.

We’ve also been blessed by the presence of a brother roughly my age, Pastor Esron, a close friend and colleague to Pastor Moses. Of all the good memories, I think the one that will stick with me the longest is his constant but incorrect usage of the word “impunity.” Pastor Moses has learned the habit, also, though he insists that Pastor Esron is “the father of impunity.” A politician will be bloviating on TV, and one of them will denounce him with an emphatic, “Impunity!” Or a situation will be under discussion, and draw the comment, “It is impunity!” Or a jealous local pastor will be spreading the lie that Echoes of Mercy has brought in white devil worshipers. “He is impunity,” they say. I tried at one point to explain the proper usage, but my attempt was rejected with, “That is impunity!”

[Addendum: I just read the above to the brothers. They are in stitches. Pastor Moses said between laughs, “This lawyer has a problem. It is impunity!”]

I have been familiar with the phrase, “Jambo, Bwana” since I watched The Flames Trees of Thika somewhere around age 20. I thought “Bwana” meant “sir.” So I had a real “Aha Moment” when I heard the prayers to “Bwana Jesu.”

As you might imagine, I truly relished the children’s choir. I also enjoyed the special moment of laughter when Pastor Moses called for them. They were a bit slow in gathering at the front, and he was encouraging them to move more quickly. I didn’t understand a single word until I heard him say, “Chop chop!”

I had one special moment when the tears of joy came. I was listening to the singing, so familiar and yet so different, so African. I found myself closing my eyes, simply lost in worship, completely oblivious to any reality other than being in the presence of God and His people. It all came back to me, that feeling of being home though I’m thousands of miles from where I reside. I realized my eyes were filled with tears and felt momentarily embarrassed that I had been previously unaware. It was just then I heard a small child say “Mzungu” (“white man”). It hit me that I was the only such creature on the entire campus. I hadn’t thought of it until that moment. I wished with all my soul never to be bothered by such thoughts ever again.

gkr1996 posted at 2017-10-15 Category: Kenya 2017