About a week ago, I was riding with my co-teacher, Mama Rose, to teach in a village for Ambassador Institute. As we drove, the heavens opened up and rain started to pour.
You may be thinking, “That’s no big deal. It’s just rain.” But, in Uganda, that’s as good as saying, “There’s a winter storm coming with a possible snowfall of 20 inches and 70 mph winds. The roads will be frozen over and traffic will be dangerous. Please stay inside as the temperatures can plummet into negative -30 degrees with the windchill.”
When it rains, Africa shuts down. It’s a good enough excuse not to come to work, class or even step foot outside. I think it may have to do with how slippery the clay-based roads can get when the rain downpours. Clay soil doesn’t absorb water very fast and so the water rushes on top of the soil into fast moving mudslides. This makes it impossible to walk or drive on these roads.
Anyway, you can see how Mama Rose and I were concerned.
We turned onto the muddy road that enters the village and prayed. Anytime you drive in Uganda it is an adventure. There are traffic laws but no one enforces them and no one abides by them. Traffic-related death is one of the top ten killers in Uganda.
Mama Rose guns it and we start fishtailing….into a semi truck coming towards us, maybe 40 meters away. Miraculously, she regained control of the car at the very last, precious second. We ambled up the dirt roads, passing bodas and a grader that conveniently decided to grade the road exactly when it started raining.
We made it. But the real challenge now was if anyone would come to class. As we walked into the church, one brave soul was already there. He was a teenage boy named Elijah. I had used him to demonstrate trust falls last week and yet he still came back to class. Hah.
The rain continued to pour. Against the tin roof of the church, it sounded like a metal band was rehearsing with less than satisfactory rhythm. What was there to do? We couldn’t hold our lesson because hardly anyone had come and the rain on the tin roof made it impossible to hear the teaching.
Mama Rose’s sister, Ida, started singing. Suddenly, Elijah joined in. Mama Rose and her other sister, Anne did too. It wasn’t a worship song in English but I knew they were praising God no matter the language.
I joined in with clapping and humming because I didn’t understand the words. Soon, the entire group was tapping out the most complicated rhythm with their claps that I was convinced we could put STOMP to shame.
Whenever the Spirit moved I guess, certain people would break out in a solo, descant or harmony (and in Africa – even if you don’t have the angelic voice of Josh Groban, you still sing just as loud and as passionate). It was all honest, amazing worship to our God, our same God, no matter the weather, the continent or the language.
It was one of the coolest worship experiences I’ve had. It didn’t involve amps, a laser light show or The Newsboys. But, I saw real hearts reach out to Jesus and sing honest praise in a country with clay one-lane roads, a hut with a tin roof as a church and some of the most dangerous traffic in the world.
I imagine I just saw a little glimpse of Heaven on Earth; souls singing praise to their Creator, not because they are forced to but because they want to. People are dancing, clapping, raising hands and taking on a solo with abandon.
What if we all worshiped like that in church? What if we all were completely honest with our need for a Savior who is bigger than the rainstorm and greater than our past sins?
I’m so blessed to have witnessed a bit of Heaven. Let this serve as a reminder of God’s desire for our worship and our need to worship.
Soon after, the storm dissipated, the sun came out and a handful of students came for the lesson.
“Day and night they will never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’” Revelation 4:8b