I want to start off today with a bit of an imagination adventure. I would suggest you close your eyes, but obviously thats not an option, so here we go anyway.
Imagine your walking down a dirt road in the middle of the night. The darkness is thick and the only light to be seen for miles is the one on in your hand. The air is cool and the fog is thick enough that you can feel water droplets collecting on your skin. You walk guided by a local man on your right. He speaks only a small amount of English. The road beneath your feet is sealed with what appears to be a thin layer of white powder, something like limestone. As you walk you notice the stillness and the silence. Isolated from the rest of the world by darkness, the only movement the you hear or see is your own. You come to a fence made in the local style. The only way over is a notched out log that leans at a slant on the fence. On the other side there is one just like it leading down. You clime the slippery log and descend safely on the other side, and wait as the others cross with you.
And then you hear it, its faint and far in the distance, but its there, it sounds like singing. As you walk closer, the sound becomes louder. You are now hearing more clearly and can tell that it is a group of people singing and it’s not in english. When you arrive you step up into what is very evidently a classroom. Inside is a group of maybe 40 students, sitting in the pitch black night, singing songs of praise to Jesus. Their voices cary like an angelic chores. In a word its beautiful…
On my recent trip to Papua New Guinea, this little adventure is one that I experienced first hand. Walking through a strange town in a strange land with people I only just met a couple of hours earlier, and then being greeted by sheer beauty.
In these contexts you are quickly struck by the stark differences in how people are compared to home. People are kind, loving and full of hospitality. The Church looks a lot different too. Sometimes you are lead to a home or a school house or even to a camp-fire to share the gospel with the people gathered there. It is different.
I love it though.
In these contexts you realize some important truths about life, about Christianity and about Jesus himself. You realize that you need little more than some time and some people who love Jesus to be a Church: building, projector and rock band not included. You notice that people who have nothing, live full of life. You notice that Christians in these contexts don’t follow all the rules of -western-christian-formality, but instead follow Christ. Even beyond that, people in these contexts don’t separate Jesus from the rest of their lives, isolating him to Sundays, but they incorporate him into every breath of life—they even sometimes gather in his name on Tuesdays (believe it or not). Jesus, for these people, does not fit into a category of life, like in the West, no! Rather, he is life.
I once had a professor from a high church tradition suggest that the protestant church has forgotten about the concept of beauty. He was inferring that the stain glass windows and grand church buildings of the high-church were of great value to the Christian because of what they conveyed about the beauty of God. In the moment he shared this idea with us, outside of being irritated with what I felt was an improper placement of value, I was struck by the fact that I never included beauty into my own faith in God. I felt that perhaps there was space for something like “beauty”. And listening to these children sing in utter darkness in a classroom in the middle-of-no-where PNG I realized that beauty most certainly does have its place in following Jesus.
Let us be a people devoted to Jesus with such love, with such surrender. Let us be a people willing to walk through the rain to gather in the darkness and sing instrument-less praise to our king!
This video is from that night…one of the songs they sang…sorry about low quality…it’s just my cell phone.