Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Appreciating rural faith

Last week we went to the village of Mbala for worship. We love the experience of worship in a rural church, where despite not having a lot of wealth or ‘things’, their worship is full of life and their faith very real and tangible. We were accompanied by our colleague Jeff Boyd, and also three of the children from the Ditekemena program. Here are a few of the images and memories from the day.
Road to Mbala

Our link to the church and guide for the day was Mulami (deacon) Simon, who we knew from Kananga before he moved to this village. When we arrived, our first stop was his house, where according to the extravagant hospitality of rural Kasai they wanted to feed us a meal. So, although it was only 9:30 in the morning, we happily ate the bidia, chicken, and beans that they generously served.
Mbala - in Mulami Simon's house(left to right) Serge, Jeff, Bob, Noella, and Espoir,
seated in the main room of Simon’s house.

After reaching the church, we were served some peanuts and bananas (when arriving from a journey, you must be hungry!) while also learning a little about this church. Pastor Mbambila had been there about 4 years and had studied theology at the pastoral institute at Mutoto. They typically had 75-100 people in worship – but today several people were visiting from neighboring parishes because of the excitement of our visit.
We processed into the simple church building along with the
choirs and leaders. Many people bring their own chairs to
worship because there are not enough benches!

Mbala 1- adult choirWe admired the traditional sounds of the adult choir
and their locally made guitars and other instruments!

Faces pressed in, surrounding those who were fortunate to be seated ‘on the inside’. The church did not have any walls, so it was easy for curious passers-by to come and stand at the edge to watch the proceedings. Today, a band several people thick surrounded the church, appreciating the rhythm of the choirs, the preaching by the visiting missionary, and the baptism of several infants. Mbala is just about 25 km from Kananga, but it felt like we were days away from the city. Young kids were crowded together on a mat on the dirt floor. Others were relegated to standing at the perimeter. The church does not have a Sunday School or time for children, so the kids just glean what the can from a message directed to adults. They were relatively quiet and attentive though, through a long service!

Mbala 1 - congregation and Ditekemena kids

Bob preached a message from Ephesians 2:11-22, exploring the way that Jesus broke down the barrier between us and God and between different groups of people. Jesus modeled reconciliation for us, and therefore we can humble ourselves and practice reconciliation and forgiveness with the people around us. After the service Mulami Simon said to Bob “it was as if I had told you before-hand what the struggles in our church were! That message was perfect!”

Near the end of the service, the offering was taken. People processed or danced up the aisle to deposit their offering in the box. Those that did not have money gave a handful of corn or a piece of cassava – the fruit of their recent harvest. It was a joyful time, with the thick mass of children and women seeming to pulse and surge as one.  Everyone enjoyed the dancing and singing during the offering.

Mbala offering box 2

After the service, we were served another meal of bidia, chicken, beans, and rice, as is customary. We had now eaten 4 times in one day, and it was only 2pm! The church had really hoped that we would bring Bibles and songbooks to sell, but unfortunately neither were available. We did bring some other books though, and several people seized the opportunity to get a book about women’s work, a biography of a Kasaian criminal-turned-pastor, and a new songbook of worship songs to Kasaian tunes. We were grateful to see the commitment, creativity, and simple faith of this community of believers!

Thanks to Jeff Boyd for taking and sharing some of these pictures and videos!

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