There are times when I feel like I get nothing out of attending church; I am just there fulfilling a Christian obligation. My church service is in another language; how could I be “fed”? The parishioners are farmers. They keep falling asleep on the benches because that is what happens to a farmer’s body when it stops moving. I am tempted to stay home and just YouTube a sermon.
Then the church choir comes forward. You know, I have never really been into choirs (do not tell my husband this). Maybe it’s my charismatic streak that is afraid of anything structured. But recently, as I watched the preplanned song and dance, I experienced awe in worship.
There is a benefit (and risk) in being a part of a smaller church. I know the “dirt.” As I look at the ragamuffin choir worshiping God, I see the stories. The stories were preaching at me louder than any song could.
I see a girl named Trouble who got baptized and changed her name to William (I didn’t find out until it was too late, and then I did not have the heart to tell her that William is a boy’s name). I see Situ, who does not fit in with her peers but is at home in the church choir. I see Zuhula, who has flipped back and forth between Christianity and Islam due to family pressure. There’s Kulwa, who limp dances because of a birth defect. And Hawa, who is a very loved and accepted teen mom. Eliza is so poor that she has worn holes in her shoes, and there’s another person so angry looking that I am a little afraid.
All of these stories worshiping together. Allowing their lights to shine. Their stories, intermixed with their sacrifice for the Lord, became a testimony worthy of praise. All of these broken people are allowing others to see God in their lives.
Choirs have always seemed a little bit “showy” to me. But maybe it’s a practical example of the prayer “ ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ ” (Matt. 6:10, NKJV). People with histories worshiping together in creative unity, people with limps and changed names allowing their vulnerability to express the glory of God—if that’s not praiseworthy, I don’t know what is.
The hand of God
The power of testimony is something I cannot get from YouTube. It comes from relationships with people. I see devotion in the midst of a loved one dying and in a miraculous healing. I have seen friends love Jesus in the best moments and in the hardest ones too. And without realizing it, my church is building my faith just by being genuine—faith to love Jesus when life is good and especially when it isn’t.
There is power in a testimony, and it goes beyond the miracle. Testimony includes community, our character growth, and the presence of the Lord. We can only recognize this part of the testimony as we are a part of each other’s lives. I see the testimonies of the choir, and I see the hand of God.
“ ‘The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’ ” (Rev. 19:10, NKJV). So, when I am in awe of a teen mom being loved and a part of our choir, I am really saying, “Thank You, God. Do it again.” When I see a widow declaring the goodness of God, I’m really saying, “Thank You, God. Do it again.” My vision is bigger because I see God working in the situations and hearts of people around me.
And that is why I go to church.