12 January 2015

The Dance

written January 1999

The warm night air is filled with excitement and joy. Three boys beat out a steady African rhythm on the drums as the rest of the children sing and dance in ecstasy. In the darkness, I can barely make out the faces of my peers, joy radiating from their faces. I feel myself pulled along by the current. The rhythm flows through me, and I am suddenly part of a different world.

Bodies press tightly around me, moving me with them, and I am sucked into the whirlwind of activity. Resistance is futile. My feet beat out the rhythm below me, causing me to look down at them in surprise. They begin to carry me away in a dance. Then my hands are taken in, and I cannot resist the impulse to clap in syncopation. Before I know it, my voice is also getting carried away. Music and words I do not know escape my lips. The whirlwind tugs on my heart, pulling gently but firmly. As it pulls, the cold fingers of common sense lose their grip on my heart, and it slips away to join the flurry of activity.

The joy of the moment overwhelms me. We move together as one, lift our voices as one, keep rhythm as one. We are God's people, and in praising Him, we are one.

I wrote this piece 16 years ago in response to an evening worship service in Kagoro, Nigeria. A group of us missionary kids had gone there to spend a weekend at the Bible college. I don't honestly remember much of the trip or even when it was. I remember Ben Rinaudo tried to explain to us "stone" when we visited a missionary who kept an ancient British weighing scale. And I remember laughing when an Australian short-term missionary pronounced "compost" differently. (I still say it her way.) I remember Patrick leading our group in a Shabbat service with candles and everything.

But mostly I remember that time of worship with the local children. It was dark; there was no electricity that night. I remember Stephen Foute preaching in Hausa--or maybe translating for someone else--and finding joy simply in hearing one of our own MKs speaking the local language. And then there was music and dancing, singing in English, singing in Hausa. Everyone joined in. There were no language barriers, no lines drawn between nationalities. I'll never forget that night.

And listening to the Voices of Zambia this past Friday night took me straight back to that night in Kagoro. Sweet memory.