I have wanted to share about this for a long time but we got so busy settling into our new apartment and then helping Daniel transition from home school to the American School here that it is only just now happening. It seemed like whenever I had time to blog, that was also the time that Daniel needed my computer to do homework.
In August, The Women's Ministry arm of CBCO (Congolese Baptists) celebrated 50 years in ministry! I am not an official CBCO missionary or associate, but I do have the priviledge of being a volunteer, and so I was invited to attend the five day celebration. Due to transportation issues, I was only able to attend one day. That was disappointing because I had looked forward to this for a long time, but I still feel grateful that I got to be there for a small part of it and especially that the ladies even thought to invite me.
I am also especially grateful that the day I got to attend was the day of the march (parade). Getting permits to have a march is a big, expensive process in Kinshasa, so there aren't many opportunities to participate in one. This was my first. Jill and I, marching with thousands of Congolese ladies, were not. conspicuous. at. all. I had a blast!
We had a marching band, even!
The worship team. Excuse the bad photos. The lighting was terrible.
There was a special choir of women from several different churches. That's the choir in the background. This choir had many, many participants.
The congregaton. Over 5,000 women attended. Some travelled from the interior, which is no small sacrifice.
We heard several guest speakers, including my friend Jill, but it was all in Lingala so I can't tell you much about the messages. I can tell you that there was an abundance of joy, gratitude, and enthusiasm. These women face circumstances that are unbelievably difficult on a daily basis, and they were overjoyed just to be there in God's house celebrating and worshipping together. The theme was "God has done great things for us" and the speakers recounted some of those things in their talks.
When it came time for the offering, that too was a joyous event. There was no solemn, grave-faced passing of the plate. All 5,000 of us got up and while the worship team played music and danced, we marched and/or danced up to the front to place our offerings on the table. Most were singing. All were smiling. I realized that even for those who only had 500 francs (about 45 cents) to give, they saw it as a great privilege to show God their gratitude for his grace and work in their lives by giving to Him. It made me cry and it made me think with shame of times in my life when I have taken the privilege of meeting in God's house with other believers for granted or been ungrateful in my heart even in the very act of giving with my hands and saying thanks with my mouth.