I am humbled often. I need to be. He knows that. The most recent humility began last night in a country church in Hazel, Kentucky surrounded by 11 Wednesday night attendees. It ended by a recollection of 200 displaced, praying, weeping Congolese women on a concrete floor. Beneath a cross. Stones in hand….. and a phrase I heard over and over in their prayers.
Translated: Thank you, Father.
In a Swahili speaking country, there are a few phrases you pick up on in passing. When greeting each other? There is “Jambo.” When praying? “Asante Baba.” Thank you. Father. Over and over and over in their prayers. In a world full of wars and rape and starvation, they pray:
“Asante Baba.” Thank you, Father.
Where over 60% of the women have been raped and over 20% die by the age of five. They pray:
“Asante Baba” Thank you, Father.
Because they prayed mainly in Swahili, I could make out little. But I bowed with them and I prayed with them and I listened to them say over and over – scattered throughout the Swahili…….”Asante, Baba”
My mind drifts back to another world. Last night’s tiny town church service. Prayers. Listening to the acapella hymns of Thanks being sung in four part harmony, I felt at home. Before the service ended, my dad asked all of us to go around and share what we were thankful for. As I listened, it felt like a cloud of purity came through the room.
One by one, person by person, sharing their heart. Some got choked up, a few tears were shed, but every word was spoken from a spirit of genuineness. I always seem to find that here. Gratitude. Real Life. Thankfulness. Genuine, Pure Gratitude.
………… I Find it Most Where There is Least…………..
Like in a country church of a small town. Like in a church building in a war-torn. country
I was in Congo with ALARM June of last year. They had gotten permission from the UN to bus 40 women into a church from each of the five surrounding displacement camps for a trauma healing workshop we were providing. We talked of Hope and Heartache and Healing. The women shared together and prayed together and cried together.
At the end we had them gather stones from outside of the church. Goma is at the foot of an active volcano, so lava rock is in plenty. They brought their stones inside.
These women had been traumatized by war and rapes and brutality and poverty and life. We talked with them about the burdens that life gives us and the heaviness that it causes. I talked to them about Burdens of Anger, Unforgiveness, Hurt, and Shame.
I asked them to look at the stone they were holding in their hands and told them that we were going to give them an opportunity to place those burdens at the foot of the cross of the Lord. To grieve before Him and lay down their pains.
A western women would have taken the stone and neatly placed it at the foot of the cross, returning to her seat and, possibly, bowing her head and closing her eyes. Not these women. These women were bruised and burdened. And Beautiful. Beautiful most of all because of something I have never witnessed before. Not to this level.
In Congo I saw many things I had never witnessed. But there is something in the heart of the people of Congo that I had yet to see and have yet to see again.
These women did not place their stones anywhere. They surrendered them. When I invited them to come and lay their burdens at the foot of the cross at the front of the church……It seemed as if all 200 of them came to the front at once. As if it were rehearsed. Stones in hand, they came to the front and knelt down. Some almost laying on the floor.
Praying. Grieving. Crying. Praying some more. We were all so overwhelmed, I think we froze. Overwhelmed at their Rawness. Their Vulnerability. Their Genuine need to grieve. Overwhelmed at their Brokenness. Overpowered by their strength.
Their serenade of quiet prayers together made up a hum of petition to their Father. Their “Baba” and as I walked between them. Kneeling on the concrete floor of the church. Stones in hand. Puddles of tears on the floor. I heard….
over and over and over.
“Asante Baba. Asante Baba. Asante Baba.”
Thank you, Father. Thank you, Father. Thank you, Father.
May we be broken. May we be desperate. May we be grateful.
May we be…..