Well, I’ve been here in Masasi for both of the major Christian holidays (Christmas and Easter) so I thought it was a good time to talk about the difference between my home church in Ohio and the churches I’ve visited here. I am here through an organization called Team Expansion. The missionaries I’m working with are focused on developing the leaders of the churches that have been planted by previous missionaries. There are seven churches that have been planted by Team Expansion missionaries that are still meeting. I’ve visited all seven of them at least once. While they are each different and special in their own unique way, they are also similar to each other in ways that are different from what I’m used to. It’s these similarities that I will use to compare them with my home church and my United States church experience.
The first thing you notice when you get to church here is that there are no pews or chairs. They have homemade benches with no backs to them. Also, women sit on one side and men on the other.
Another unique thing is that there are no instruments other than a small drum. There are 2 churches that have raised money and bought a keyboard and one speaker, but these churches are definitely the minority because they also have to buy a generator and the gas to power it since the villages do not have electricity.
When we start to sing, there’s a person leading the song, but he or she doesn’t stand up front to lead. Usually they just stay in the congregation. We also don’t have any fancy power point or any other way to read the words for the song. To make up for this, the song leader sings the chorus and then the congregation repeats it. The leader might sing the chorus one more time and then the congregation repeats. Then the leader will sing a verse and then the congregation sings the chorus again. This is how the congregation knows what the words are for the song, if they don’t already know it from singing it before. They also have Swahili hymn books that they sing a few songs from.
Anther big difference in worship is that they are more active in their worship. They aren’t afraid of dancing while they are praising the Lord. It’s very refreshing and nice not to worry about other people giving me weird looks because I’m swaying a lot to the music. For one, I already get a lot of weird looks – mostly from the children who have never seen a white person before… but also because everyone else is doing way more than just swaying to the music. They are full out dancing for the Lord! I must warn anyone who stands next to me during worship when I return home that I will be moving a lot more than I ever did before. They are rubbing off on me here. :)
Just like at home, they have an offering time and communion every week. Offering is a little different though because you go up and put your money in a container at the front of the church instead of in a basket as it’s passed down your row in the congregation.
Another big difference is that the service usually lasts for 2-2.5 hours. At home, the longest sercive goes is an hour and twenty minutes and even then people are shifting in their seats and ready to leave after an hour. After service, they leaders of the church usually have prepared a meal for the missionary family so we eat and visit with the members of the church.
It’s been a really good experience. I’ve gotten video and pictures of what worship looks like here so I can show the people at home and we can come to the realization that we have all the technology in the world in the States, but it’s the heart that is needed most in worship. The people here have none of the fancy things or effects that we have yet I’ve never seen people worship more completely and all out than I have here. They don’t need a lot of people or microphones and instruments to fill their building with sounds of people praising the Lord. It is truly amazing and humbling, becase it’s shown me how lacking we are at times in the States in completely worshipping God with all of our mind, heart, soul, and strength.