Thursday, April 09, 2009

Church in Kurungu

3/15/09 Church in Kurungu
Tactical error on my part: Don’t read out loud at church. I was preaching yesterday, and in my western thinking, I thought the more I draw from the Bible the better supported the message is. What I forgot was that this is an oral society, and all things important and verbally passed on, not read. In fact, as soon as I started reading, attentions began to wander.
All week the thought of Jesus telling His disciples He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life was milling in my head. Now, I picked out Jesus’ illustration of being the Good Shepherd and leading His sheep and also being the gate. I thought this was relevant to a nomadic, hunter warrior tribe that keeps animals.
I ran it by Andrea, a man of many talents from this area, but fluent in English, Samburu and Swahili as well. He was going to be the interpreter. I was concerned about my airplane analogy I wanted to use. Andrea said it was clearly understandable and he told me “God has clearly shown you good things to share.”
Then on Sunday I realized the error of my ways. Grace and I were in church with our host family. Olivia was feeling sick, and Breanna stayed home with her and Isaiah, who was still very sick.
Church starts with rousing singing. The elder in the front, Isaiah, leads some of the songs and pounds the desk / pulpit as a drum. The drums and tambourine are the only instruments, and they have a tribal, 1/8th note rhythm going the whole song, usually. Most of the songs are lead by one of the women, who sings a high, but still melodic, line, and then the entire church repeats it. As the woman sings, Isaiah sings a counter bass melody. It seems very natural for them, but complex to me. It all comes together quite beautifully.
I felt I should read two passages. Now I did keep it to 15 minutes, because I had been told their attention spans for sermons were very short. But, as I read and paused for Andrea to translate, I could see their gazes wander.
I described this to Breanna, and she reminded me that our hosts avoid reading, at least obviously, in church. So, next time I will study first, and then tell it to them as a story... hmmm much to learn.

3/23/09 Church Part II
Monday night is story night here in Kurungu. That afternoon I sat on a bench swing trying to get a good cell signal so I could send an e-mail prayer request for Isaiah’s health. As I was struggling with the e-mail, three Samburu men, including Andrea, were meeting with our host, Rick. These are the storytellers, and they were preparing for a long week ahead. In the style of the disciples being sent out by Jesus, they were praying and preparing for a journey of sharing God’s story at several places and taking nothing with them. It was something they came up with after reading the scriptures and after much prayer.
The excitement was contagious. And the dreams were lofty! Hopefully soon they would be doing this again, but paired up with a new person to in essence mentor.
After they prayed, the three began walking towards their first stop.

Rick was going to support them by praying and fasting. But today, he and I would drive to their first stop after giving them a three hour head start. The route to find the huts impressed me. We were going round and under trees, down embankments until we stopped at the bomas. It was an outer fence made of thorn branches.
From there we walked past an inner fence, then up a hill to the center of this community. It was very large for a Samburu grouping. There used to be around 100 families here, but several had already moved on to their next location.
It was completely dark at this time. I was drawn into the brilliance of the stars above until I noticed Rick talking with some familiar voices. I never recognized their faces, but I could tell he was talking to the three guys.
Slowly people gathered. Then they began to sing. I was the childrens' section. No matter where I was, there seemed to be a small ring around me. I listened in awe as the one of the three elders led a song, with everybody echoing and clapping along. Some of the older kids added a rhythmic heavy breathing part at certain points in the song. Eventually a woman would take over leading. I don’t know how they knew when to switch, but it would happen.
Eventually it was time for a story. They were covering the plagues in Egypt from Exodus. I had no idea what was being said, but everyone sat still in the night air, listening. It was a very different kind of church. I felt a part of what was going on, even though I was the visitor who had had no idea what was being said. To bad there isn't an English equivalent for us to go to!
The whole time three kids sat around me, grabbing my hair on my head or on my legs. Eventually, they slowly turned into the sleeping lumps of clothes that were scattered all around.
We drove back late at night, tired, but I was really excited to see how God can speak to the Samburu. I would never have thought of this approach, but it makes sense, and it really works.

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