Monday, June 16, 2008

"Lord, I stand in the midst of a multitude..."

As many of you know, I get emotional at the drop of a hat.  And in the months preceding leaving for Uganda, the song at church that was sure to bring tears to my eyes was "Hallelujah to the Lamb" by Don Moen and Debbye Graafsma.  As I listened to an auditorium full of people singing, "Lord, I stand in the midst of a multitude of those from every tribe and tongue," and I would think of where the Lord was graciously sending me, how could I not cry for joy at the thought of getting to worship with believers from a different tribe, a different tongue?  So now I live in Mbale, and you may wonder, did the reality
meet my expectations?  Well, honey, let me tell you! 

Bible study here is at 9:00 am, and the worship service begins at 10:00 am and lasts until about noon.  It's divided fairly evenly between music and preaching. The worship service is led by a praise team (which unfortunately I do not have a photo of yet).  Movement is a big part of worship here - I love it!  We praise the Lord with clapping -- lots of clapping, sometimes with members of the church doing different clap patterns at the same time, which is way cool, but a little embarrassing to this Mzungu (white person) who doesn't keep the beat well.  We clap, wave, sway, bend over, turn in circles, and of course, raise our hands.  

Besides the missionaries, there are people representing several different native languages, so the praise team leads songs in
English, Swahili, Lugandan, and, I think, Lugisu. (I try to stand by one of the missionaries who will graciously translate the words for me, so I know what I'm singing.)  But even if I don't 
understand all the words, I KNOW I'm worshipping among "those from every tribe and tongue."

We pray for the children just before they leave for their Bible study time, and this Sunday
the children sang for us before they left -- quite beautifully, and with clapping of course.  By
the way, the group had been a little more international, but Asher, the blond boy at lower left of the photo of the children, decided he no longer wanted to sing, so his big brother took him out just before the photo was snapped.

We also sometimes get a youth group and/or an adult group that sings for us.  Last week we had two groups sing! In the photo, the singers are walking around the church as they sing, which is way cool.  As you can tell, worshipping the Lord
in song is a big part of African culture!

Finally, we have someone preach.  And this part is international as well.  So far, I've heard two Americans and a Kenyan.  They preach in English (no matter what their native language) with an interpreter translating into Lugandan so as to reach the maximum number of people. Once I got used to it, I enjoyed the rhythm of an interpreted sermon.  You get a few seconds to digest what is being said. This is Ian Shelburne, a member of Mbale Mission Team, preaching with David interpreting for him. 

After church - this MUST be an international tradition -- we all wander around and talk.  I managed to grab Hannah, our summer intern, so you could get a look at the beautiful braid job a local lady did with her hair.

It is a wonderful time of worship, but wait -- that's not the end of the day!  I saved the almost best for last!  

Sunday evenings we attend a Bible study for all the expatriates living in Mbale.  Believers attend who come from the U.S., England, Australia, Holland, Lebanon, and, yes, Uganda. We study together, pray together, and worship together, AND eat together.  (got to get some good fellowship time in there!)  

Here's my final photo of the day.  It's the group singing -- you guessed it --

Lord, I stand in the midst of a multitude
Of those from every tribe and tongue
We are your people, redeemed by your blood
Purchased from death by your love
There are no words good enough to thank you
There are no words to express my praise
But I will lift up my voice and sing from my heart
With all of my strength

Hallelujah to the Lamb!