Friday, February 7, 2014

Malawi Adventure: Adapting and Learning

Their singing is incredible. Twenty people in a small room open to the outdoors and the sound of their voices are fuller and richer than the singing in most worship services I have been in with twenty times as many people. And yes, there is clapping and dancing. Their whole bodies are engaged in worship. No instruments and no amplification. Rhythmic and harmonious, it is difficult not to be taken up in it. I wish I could transport them all back to San Clemente Presbyterian Church for everyone to hear and sing along. Their praise in song prepared us well for the lessons of the morning.

In our first day together the topic was proclaiming the kingdom. A certain issue continued to come up in their discussion and in the role playing that they did. I was encouraged by their transparency but also sensed that there was something in this that needed deeper exploration. However, being in a culture so foreign to me and new to them, I was hesitant. I was trying to pay attention to where this might be leading but also trying to be a good steward of the time and planning for this training. So I consulted with my host and main teacher, Louise, who has lived and ministered here in Malawi for almost 30 years. I told her what I had sensed and asked her about whether or not I should follow up on this. After talking with her and praying with her, I decided to change the lesson plan for the next day--to take a risk and adapt the plan. 

When I woke up I was having doubts about the change. I told Louise so, and she encouraged me to stick with the plan change as she really believed this was an issue that needed attention. I took her advice. What resulted was amazing. 

I have purposely not said what the issue was because it really does not matter.  For different groups at different times the issues are different. This, in fact, is the very root of the problem that came up and needed follow up.  As Christian communities we often get hung up on issues that sidetrack us and actually end up getting in the way of the very heart of why the church was called into being--to share the Good News. In the pursuit of some righteous end we actually create obstacles to people hearing that Good News. But because of our self-righteous blindness we cannot see it. 

With Louise's encouragement and the help of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well I led them in this exploration of what sorts of things they might be doing or not doing, saying or not saying, due to routine or tradition that might be keeping them from partnering with God in what he is doing in the world around them. The discussion actually ended up on a topic of even more significance than the one raised the day before. The clear sense that this adaption for the day was a leading of the Spirit of God encouraged by a wise saint was confirmed by what happened in this discussion--acknowledgment of blindness, confession, and a renewed commitment to follow Christ more faithfully--no turning back.

That by the way was also the lyrics to one of the beautiful songs they began the morning with--I am going to follow Jesus and I will not turn back. The sound still echoes in my ears. I am confident the Spirit will continue to echo the message in their hearts. Difficult adapting and deep learning and it is only day two. Boot camp, for sure!

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