Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Kenyan Church Experience

On Sunday we ventured forth to go to church and an adventure we did have.  We got ready in the morning while the power was out and then we walked about half a mile out to a main road that was paved.  There a cultural guide hailed down two mutatus (smaller than a minivan and used like public transportation busses) that were half full and negotiated for all of the people to get out of one and into the other one so that one of them would be empty.  We then packed 10 people into 7 seats and the driver went off his normal route to take us to church.

We arrived right at 10:00 am, just when the service was supposed to be starting.  We thought we were late since the service was in session, but it turned out that it was an earlier service that had not let out yet.  We hung out in the church yard for nearly an hour trying to learn Swahili from the kids while we waited for the first service to finish.

The service (in Swahili) got started just before 11 am.  It was packed.  The ushers would bring someone down and show them to a pew that looked like it was already full, but then everybody in the pew would scrunch a little bit more and the person could sit down.  The pews were so close together that when we stood up, I could not stand up straight and had to keep my knees slightly bent. 

A mom with lots of kids joined us in our pew.  When she sat down, she was pressed up against me so that there would be room for everybody.  When we stood up next, she did not stand up.  When went to sit down, I saw why – she was nursing a baby and I had to work my way back into a sitting position scrunched between the two pews, CrazyMom, and the baby's head cradled in her mom's arms. 

The first hour was a lot of great music and prayer.  I really enjoyed all that was going on.  Most of the songs I did not know but some of the songs were great hymns of the faith sung in Swahili.  At one point about 15-20 young adults got up and did a choreographed dance to what seemed like a more modern worship song.  The African flair to this worship time was fun to experience.

An hour into the service, one of the men on stage stood up and appeared to be reading a prepared statement.  I heard the English word “constitution” when he was talking and figured it was something about the church constitution.  When he finished, someone from the crowed stood up and started speaking passionately about what the man had read and a man from the choir stood up evidently to argue the other side of things.  The two of them went back and forth about the issue at hand and there was lots of murmuring throughout the congregation.  Suddenly, there was a big commotion and about a third of the people got up and walked out of the church while people who were standing in back because there were no seats for them moved forward to get seats.  The women and her children next to me left and two older girls slipped into their spots.  Things then settled in as if nothing had happened and the service when on.

The preacher pointed us out and said something about the church's love for their brother and sisters in the Lord who could not speak Swahili.  During his sermon he would occasional use an English word, phrase, and sometimes even a few sentences.  It was just enough so that we could follow along.  I could not tell if he was doing this for our benefit or if he normally flows between English and Swahili in this bilingual country.

After the 2 hour and 15 minute service, we decided to walk home rather than trying to figure out how to get all of us in multiple mutatus.  It took about 40 minutes to walk back to where we were staying and since we got there late, lunch was over and most of the food was gone.  CrazyMom had a loaf of bread and peanut butter in the room for just an occasion such as this and I walked out and bought 9 bananas and 9 oranges for 135 Kenyan shillings, which is a little over $1.50 USD.

I look forward to the time when I know a little Swahili and understand the culture better so that I will be able to worship with our Kenyan brothers and sisters rather than just sitting in a service trying to figure out what in the world is going on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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