Monday, November 24, 2014

Strength of the village

Pastor Crispin showed up promptly at 8am on Sunday morning to escort us out to his rural parish for our long-anticipated visit with them. About 35 km outside of Kananga, we turned off the main road onto a narrow path. “So, is this ‘road’ really big enough for a vehicle?” I queried skeptically. “Oh yes!” was the quick reply from Pastor Crispin, “There are a couple of difficult spots, but we have just repaired them so that you can get through.” So, we plowed through the narrow path, and it sounded like an automatic car wash as branches brushed the car on both side. While en-route, Pastor Crispin shared about the challenges of living and serving in a rural area. Most of his congregation are not very educated; few of the women can read, and those that cannot seem to feel they are too old to learn. They are all farmers, so having disposable income does not come easily. The average offering is about $1 per week.

At about 9:30, we started to see palm fronds planted by the road as a sign of welcome. We saw some of the church members still hurriedly gathering up things to go to church, and welcomed some into the car. A group of youth waving palm fronds and shouting welcomed us on the road and ran behind the vehicle cheering. We learned that this was the first time this church has ever had a missionary or foreigner worship at their church. We were thoroughly impressed with their building, especially the strong and durable looking thatch roof.

Everyone enjoyed the worship, including a couple of solos by a young woman. Bob preached from Isaiah 40:1-5, where God tells his people, in the midst of their suffering and despair, that He will send the Comforter, the Messiah. It seemed especially appropriate, given that people in the church had literally “prepared the way” for us by making the “rough ground level” so that we could reach them. Towards the end of the service, the pastor invited people to bring the gifts they had prepared for us. As the youth played a song, women and men danced forward in a joyful procession and presented us with the produce of their fields – basins of corn, large roots of cassava, plantains, pineapples, and a whole bunch of bananas. It was amazing to see the outpouring of generosity, especially knowing that harvest season is not yet in full swing.

After the service, we piled into the vehicle with as many people as could fit, and drove the 100 meters to Pastor Crispin’s house for lunch. As we drove, one young man stood on the back of the Land Cruiser with a megaphone, inviting people in the village to come and buy Bibles and other books. “Come and get a Bible!” he announced, “Instead of paying 10,000 Francs, you can pay just 4,000! Come buy a songbook! Lessons for children!” Pastor Crispin had been mobilizing his people for weeks, encouraging them to have money ready when we came to buy Bibles and other books. The church members succeeded in buying all 5 Bibles that we came with, as well as some other books like a catechism and a biography of a Kasaian pastor named Maweja Apollo.

Over lunch, we learned that the church has formed an Evangelism Committee. Every week, the committee members gather at one member’s house on Friday evening, and spend the night there. Very early on Saturday morning, they worship and pray together, then go out visiting in the neighborhood. They go door to door, asking each family if they can pray for them, or if they want to talk about God. They visit each house, regardless of whether the family attends another church, or doesn’t worship at all. Sometimes, people welcome them warmly and are eager for their prayers, and other times they get a hostile reception. After a couple of hours of visiting homes, the committee reconvenes to share their experiences. They then stay together throughout Saturday, preparing for an evangelistic worship and prayer gathering at 4pm.  We were so impressed at their active involvement in the community and their passion to share the love of Christ. What a generous sacrifice of time each of these people is making! In a place with very little financial income, they are giving generously of the their time and their energy – also precious resources in this agricultural society.

We returned home tired after a long drive, but refreshed by the joyful and generous hospitality of this rural church. We are enjoying fresh pineapples, corn, and plantains this week, and looking for vulnerable others with whom we can share this bountiful gift!


Betty Sue said...

What a generous people!
Their evangelism committee is a great idea - praying for people's needs

The situation with the older women reminded of a book I read: "Fire in the Islands!" by Allison Griffiths.
Here is a quote: "Margaret Griffiths found herself tied at home … by her young baby, unable to go out into the villages much. With a handful of women, she started a time of sharing their concerns each week. Together they formed a Women’s Band … and before long 100 women from many villages were coming each Sunday.
The women would walk for hours to attend their special meeting and take an active part, and the old women especially loved being included. Their Band … proved to be the seed of ‘grassroots Christianity’ that spread into the homes and lives of countless families.
In the villages, most women could not read and so could not feed themselves on Scripture at all; alone, they could only pray. But when they were taken individually and patiently taught one simple verse and its meaning, they were … grateful. One woman said, “I don’t just think about that verse in my prayer-time. I think about it all day while I work in the food-garden.”
…As they began visiting a nearby village noted for its quarrels and angry shouting, they found the poor old women there could hardly read. Thy were so grateful and responsive and glad to be fed with spiritual food that the whole tone of the village completely changed.
…Those who wanted something to do for the Master could then teach that verse to someone else in their home village. In this way, many of the rank and file began to realize to their great joy that they, too, had a job to do, even though they might not be able to learn to read and were too old for formal schooling. Before this new approach, they had thought that only the teacher-pastor could do God’s work." pp 124-5.

Allison Griffiths, "Fire in the Islands!" Harold Shaw Publishers, Wheaton, Ill, 1977. (Early missy work in the Solomon Islands)

Sammy Wanyonyi said...

Just discovered your blog while searching for information on Kananga. I am loving what you share. I am a missionary evangelist from Kenya but primarily serving in the United States and around the world. Our ministry website is We have an invitation to Kananga this coming year. I would love to exchange some e-mails with you if possible. My email address is Thanks and keep lifting our Lord higher.