By Diane Markins
Sitting (as an honored guest) on a stump in the shade of a giant acacia tree was the most humbling and one of the most moving experiences of my life. We were in Zimbabwe attending “church” at an Ndebele tribal village. The 25 or so people in attendance wore their finest modern clothes and lounged on the dirt, unconcerned that there was no roof, floor, podium, padded pews or worship band. They told us of their great appreciation for the man who allowed them to hold services under the leaves of his tree—which stood next to his one-room thatched home. (The “facilities”, standing twenty yards away consisted of rusted tin walls about five feet high, no roof and two holes in the ground!)
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 Spirit united us in worship as we followed Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
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 Psalms 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. “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Psalms 55:22.
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?
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Diane Markins writes and speaks in a "high def, life-transforming style" about issues that impact daily living. She is the host of Bold Living radio show, but is also a speaker and writer. She enjoys travel and has been from Mexico to Zimbabwe but always loves coming home to roost in Arizona near her family. See more of her writing at her website, www.DianeMarkins.com.
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