This is one of the last few posts from our time in Cameroon, a continuation from where this post left off...
Feb 19th, 2012
The team had heard that since the women who had been hired to help with the cooking would have to miss church due to their workload, I would "do church" with them. Some seemed baffled by this, but I can understand that. I'm not a pastor, or anyone qualified in anyone's eyes to lead a service.
From my perspective, though, "church" is simply the gathering of Christians in His name, a place where sinners meet at His feet. The only thing I didn't understand was what He said about "where two or more are gathered in My name, there I will be..." since, after all, He's there even when we're alone.
The "church" is also a community, the body of Christ, where everyone is equal in His eyes and we are there to serve one another in His name. The body shares their resources, whatever is needed, God provides through a member of the body. That is simply how I saw the gathering I had with these women on this Sunday morning. As they prepared food for our bodies, I would simply share spiritual food for our souls.
Bible in hand, I wandered out to the courtyard kitchen in the back of the guest house, and joined the women gathered low to the ground, preparing the mid-day meal. I presented Dominica my Bible, and asked if she was able to read it. She looked at the small font of the small, travel sized Bible, and said that sometimes, her eyesight isn't great, but she could read it. I asked her if she ever had a Bible, or read one, and she shook her head. She leaned to me and asked me to show her where the ten commandments were. We turned to Exodus, and spent the next half hour reading through the commandments together, discussing what they meant, and how, when followed, they each led to a peaceful, well-ordered society. We also discussed the disciples asking Jesus which of these were the most important laws, and we talked about His answer, and why it was such. I loved the purposeful yet simple conversation, the common ground we all shared, the opportunity to learn from one another. A few children gathered around us to listen in, as did a few men who had stood nearby.
She asked which church or religion I belonged to, and I explained that in some ways, I don't know how to answer that. Technically, I grew up in the Catholic church, and I now attend the Wesleyan church, but I don't consider myself either one of those, nor do I see church as a building, a place. I only consider myself a member of the body of Christ, a Christian, plain and simple, a sinner in need of a savior. I took the opportunity to share how I felt about religion itself, by turning to Micah 6:8 and sharing what the Lord says about religion, pure religion... "Seek Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly with your God". I admitted to them that I am still working my way through that scripture, in search of pure religion lived out through me. What does it mean for my life?
One of the women reached out and touched my necklace, asking about it, turning the cross pendant over and seeing the scripture on the back.
Reaching up to run my fingers on the deep groves where my life scripture had been permanently etched, tears came to my eyes. Smiling through the tears, I turned to 2 Cor 4:7-18 in the Bible I had brought, and we read it out loud, together, stopping every few verses to explain, discuss, share. The world disappeared as we gathered over these words, timeless as they were, relevant to us all... and yet I couldn't help but wonder what went through these women's minds as I shared my heart on this scripture while watching their strong, calloused hands chop vegetables...
their weary, weighted shoulders...
their aching backs...
the depth of understanding in their eyes...
all too achingly familiar.
What went through their minds, while sharing His words on being hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down, death and life intertwined -- real life, real hardship, real suffering... What went through the minds of these women who live it daily and had lived it their entire lives. Did they see me, my smile, my white skin, my material wealth by contrast, as someone who can not relate or does not understand them? Did they recognize me as one of their own, or do they see me as someone who has not earned the ability to preach about this scripture from experience?
Do they see beyond the surface, beyond the crimson bead of blood, the stain of sin, beyond the white pearl reminder that He hung His life against the cross to purify those stains?
Do they see beyond the small heart, curved and cupped like His hand, cradling us, reminding us to Whom we belong, to Whom we ALL belong... we are His?
Do they see far beyond the small pressed cross and see the invisible one, the one pressed against my life? The one with scars that bend my knees low, my body tired, my heart wrung and wrecked, and my soul longing for Home?
Do they see that, like them, I've known little else but this, the brokenness He speaks of? That I, too, sometimes wonder if anyone can relate?
Do they see beyond, beyond the surface, beyond who I really am, beyond me... and see why I am, there, more at home among them than elsewhere? Do they see Him somewhere in me?