The church was a small building formed by sticks and tarp. The floor was mud and the seats were handmade benches. The service began with prayer and then worship. The worship was very spirited and heartfelt. And I was moved. I had no idea what they were singing, but at the same time I knew what they were singing. You know what I mean? I didn't know what the words were to their songs, but I knew they were singing praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. I was struck by the fact that although I did not understand their worship, God did. I was awed to think that God speaks every language. And I was awed by their worship. I was challenged by their worship. The people of the church in Arsi-Negele are in love with Jesus. They came from a place of intense poverty, their church building was not much to speak of, there was no plumbing, electricity was spotty and it did not matter. They sang with all of their hearts to the Lord. They danced before the Lord. And they did so every night of the week that we worshiped with them. Everynight during their worship, the power would go out and they would not miss a beat. The kept on singing- they kept on dancing. Why? Because He is worthy no matter the circumstances. Because He is the greatest thing we would ever possess- greater than money, or clothing, or food, or electricity or plumbing.... He is greater! He is more valuable! He is worthy! I asked our translators about one song they sang and danced to each service and he told me what it meant- God is my refuge, God is my comfort, and nothing can take Him away from me. I was challenged by their worship- I was challenged in my love, devotion and worship of God. Would I worship with such passion if my circumstances mirrored theirs? Do I love Jesus more than anything else in my world? Am I too comfortable with my things- my "necessities"?
After worship, Jack preached- on Sunday morning and each night of the week. He did an amazing job! I am always so proud of him and I love to sit under his preaching. Throughout the week 20 people responded to the Gospel during the church services. This was pretty awesome and amazing. In a town with a 90% Muslim population, just having non-believers come to the church was a challenge, but to have 20 respond to the gospel was incredible!
After church we changed our clothes and traveled to the nearby town of Hawassa. Hawassa is a town with a beautiful lake and a new resort. We went to the resort for the afternoon to relax and to get ready for the week of ministry. The other ladies and I spent time preparing for our English lessons and getting things ready for our VBS. We spent the afternoon putting together "salvation bracelet" kits. Taylor, our resident baseball expert, spent the afternoon explaining the game to our translators. Because baseball is not a sport that is played in Ethiopia, even our translators had to be taught about the game. We enjoyed relaxing, the free WiFi and drinking some Coke before we headed to a nearby restaurant Cafe Lewi and ate pizza! Seriously, good, american pizza! Sunday was a great day!
Here are some pictures from our Sunday and from the worship services throughout the week.
The church in Arsi-Negele
Dembi, the church planter
Children in the church service
Jonathan greets the church
Working on bracelets at the resort
Belay enjoys the free WiFi at the resort
Taylor explains baseball to Tekele and Bekalu
The Haile Resort
The view of the lake (there are hippos in this lake!)
Our team at the resort
Front Row- Tekele, Sandy, Carrie, Jack, Jeff, Cheryl, Michelle
Back Row- Bekalu, David, Belay, Jonathan, Taylor