Two weeks ago, our Alpha topic was about church. We extended an invitation to anyone who wanted to join us for church to see what is it like. We made a special effort to promote going to church on Christmas day as most churches would be doing special services.
One of our Alpha guests expressed an interest in going to church with us on Christmas. We met him at Go Global this morning and had him follow us to a church in our neighborhood. Before we left, we had time to talk and get to know him better. He comes from a family of 25 brothers and sisters! His father has four wives. While this is unusual in our culture, it’s quite the norm here in Mali. We also took the time to share some things to expect in church. Worship and singing in particular would be a big difference for him as there is no music during services at the mosque. He was particularly intrigued by the fact that people sing and dance in church. We also explained how we pray in church, what the offering time is about and that he didn’t need to take part in this. We also shared that many people would be wearing clothes made out of a special Christmas fabric. We purposely didn’t have Christmas clothes made this year because we didn’t want him to feel intimidated by not having Christmas clothes of his own.
We arrived at church around 9am just as the service was starting. Because it is Christmas, there was lot of special music, including musical presentations by several different ethnic groups in the church. After 2-1/2 hours, the pastor started his message. It was an excellent message that tied some of the current events in Mali, including the jihadist activities, to end times. Unfortunately, our friend had another engagement and wasn’t able to stay for the entire message. He apologized for having to leave early, but said he was very interested in coming back for more. Please continue to pray for him as the Lord works in his life.
The Christmas service was almost 4 hours long. But over the years, our perspective of Christmas has changed dramatically. We no longer see it as family holiday, but rather a day to focus on celebrating the Lord’s birth with activities centered at church.
We did return home and opened a few gifts together and Julie made a beautiful Christmas dinner for the two of us. Of course we do miss our son Cole and seeing other family during the Holidays. But as we reflect on all that has happened this week, it has been one of the most meaningful and fulfilling Christmases we’ve had.