Monday, December 20, 2004

The Humble Miracle

The new church in Yaounde meets in a warehouse. A large, airy, plain space, filled with white and blue plastic chairs and a large wooden pulpit. The concrete floor and walls are dull gray.

But you’ve never seen such a lovely gray! On Sunday morning, the members of the two former Yaounde congregations gathered for their first joint worship service. And the result was something grace-filled, emotionally satisfying, and loud!

Those bare walls made our 36 voices sound like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I don’t know if anything would have been as beautiful as the sound of our voices, weaving and bobbing, celebrating something new.

Outside the large double doors, in the parking lot, sit used, rusted car parts. Everything needs a touch of paint. In the back of the room sat a Jeep with a flat tire – the landlord hadn’t located the key to move it yet!

Pastors David and Rosalie were in charge of leading the worship; Henry the Turtle made a special appearance for the children; and then Pastor Billong took the pulpit for the morning’s sermon … and preached a powerful message on – of all things – giving!

He exhorted the crowd to bring gifts and give generously to the church and to God. As he preached, he began to plant the seeds of a brilliant and beautiful vision for this warehouse space.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Christmas story … Jesus’ beginnings were a bit inauspicious, too. His stable was probably also a bit dusty and drab. Not a whole lot of people were present to witness this momentous birth – if you’re into counting heads! There might have even been a broken-down Jeep in the corner of that barn!

But this doesn’t diminish the importance of what happened that night. A baby was born anyway. And those who were there, were witnesses to a humble miracle.

Maybe there is no better way to celebrate the beginning of Christmas week than to worship with just a handful of other folks, not a crowd, in a sparse space, not a cathedral, with nothing but the sound of your own voices and hands, not orchestras or professional choirs.