February 19, 2007

A Little Look At Life in Mali: Going to Church

by Jessica Schaeffer

"I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." Philippians 3:8a

I just got home from church, where the pastor spoke on the verse above. It is still very difficult to understand the sermon in Bambara, but I was grateful for this reminder from Paul to keep pressing on to know Christ more and to help others know Him too. As usual, my church was packed out for the almost 2 and a half hour service. There was a little "traffic jam" of bikes, motos and people trying to get out of the church courtyard after the service. To my best estimate, there are nearly 500 people (including children) who come each Sunday. Small children sit on the lap of an older sibling or mother, and bigger children sit quietly on mats on the floor at the front of the church for the first half of the service, and then they divide into 3 or 4 classes for Sunday School. Two ushers help find space to squeeze another person into the church…often people who sit on the end of the bench are half on the bench and half off. The worship is lively with a few people playing drums and an instrument with a large gourd and beads. Most people have the songs memorized, but a few people (including the worship leaders and myself!) bring songbooks. Although most songs we sing seem to be tunes and words that originate in Africa, there are a few with tunes taken from English hymns or choruses. The song we sing while the offering is taken every Sunday is to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne". Women sit on one side of the church, men on the other side. After the service is over, people exit pretty quickly and to their visiting outside the church courtyard on the dusty road. I am the only white person who attends the church since my missionary colleagues attend the other 3 Alliance churches in Koutiala.

Philippians 3:8a in Bambara: "Tinyé la, ne bé fén bée jate bóné ye nin nafaba kosón, Yesu Krisita ne Matigi dónniya kóni."

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