Shy smiles and fleeting eye contact was the most many of them could manage, so intimidated were they to meet Americans. Their tribal pastor prayed, officially welcomed our small group and then delivered a rousing sermon. As the worship began, these people (mostly women) were soon on their feet—at least those who were physically able. Shoes are a scarce commodity, making foot ailments and deformity common.
Transformation took place before our eyes as they smiled with their entire faces, sang and danced for the Lord. "Rock out" has never been better demonstrated and "passion" doesn't begin to describe the depth of emotion and energy they invested in their praise and celebration of God. Soon our little band of traditional, white church-goers was dancing, singing and laughing along with our African brothers and sisters. Even if we didn't understand the words, the message was clear.
The sentiments they conveyed to God were not "gimme" prayers (gimme health, wealth and happiness), in spite of the great need and the obvious lack of the first two. What these sweet people clearly expressed was their love of Jesus and their deep gratitude for what He provided them; grace. This was a living picture of Psalm 22:3, "God inhabits the praises of His people."
I may have more stuff and fewer life-or-death burdens but they have an abundance that I lack. Pure unadulterated faith, hope and love—for one another, the Lord and life itself. No load is too heavy to weigh down their joy. No obstacle is too big to diminish their communion. The focus was entirely upwardly-focused, not on the circumstances surrounding them.
The lesson I learned that day has remained embedded in my soul, but while it is first nature to these tribal folks to cast all their cares away and be delightfully free in their time of worship, I still have to work at it.
If you attend church, do you (or have you ever) worshipped God with such complete abandon? Do life's difficulties sometimes suppress your ability to experience joy? Can creature comforts be a curse as well as a blessing? What are you willing to do to gain the free spirit our Ndebele friends showed us? Comment below.
*To contribute to Zimbabweans in severe need please visit this link
** To see this as a devotion visit CBN.com.