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Welcome…to Worship in Ethiopia

{A Five Minute Friday Post}

We stood outside the church building under a brilliant, nearby sun. I had no idea of the time as I hadn’t been able to keep track since we’d arrived in Africa. Eleven hours earlier (or was it later?) than back home. Either way, whatever day it happened to be in Washington, it was Sunday in Dilla, Ethiopia. And we were going to church.

Dozens of people streamed by us, smiling, staring, waving. They wore their Sunday Best, many wore brightly colored choir robes, hair braided and tucked beneath scarves. Lots of bare feet, the color of dark clay, more and more smiling faces. And children. Children in tattered clothes and giant grins.

The air outside the church began to vibrate to the bouncing rhythm of the Ethiopian music playing within. Voices strong and rich, high and deep pushed through the block walls and thatched roof shaping words I didn’t recognize to a tune as foreign to me as I felt to this place. But the spirit of the music was a Spirit I recognized and it chanted, called, invited me in Amharic, the “heavenly language”, a single word: welcome.

Welcome.

And in my spirit, the words said:

Welcome. We are glad you’re here. We welcome you in worship. Here and today we worship God together. We praise, we pray. We pray with faith in Africa, a faith as gritty as the soil of our farms and the dirt of our floors. We pray with a faith as real as these hands that clap and raise and open to heaven. We pray with a humility that presses us to the floor and keeps us there until that Mighty Hand lifts us up. We can help each other. You have so much to give, so much to share. So do we. We have faith. We have hope. We have a spirit that is a fire. That we can give you. Come in. Welcome home to Africa.

We crossed the threshold and walked through a sea of singing, swaying, smiling Gedeo people. Together we cheered and sang and prayed and wondered. We spoke in languages as contrasting as the color of our skin, translated, transformed, transcending all differences the Word brought us together in as one. And we welcomed each other. We welcomed prayers and shouts and praises, differences and sameness, diversity and oneness. We welcomed hugs and smiles and a greater sense of Home than my heart has before known.

{This post is part of The Gypsy Mama Five Minute Friday. Click the link to find more five minute posts. Just writing; for five minutes}

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My husband and I left our four birdies behind with a wonderful lady who played mama for two weeks in November 2009. We traveled with New Covenant Foundation, a different kind of ministry based on seven initiatives of partnership and sustainability. Please visit their website or Facebook Page to find out more about what God is doing in Ethiopia through the Ethiopian people partnering with New Covenant Foundation.

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5 Comments

  1. Alyssa – this is beautifully written. I felt like I was THERE, with you, watching the giant grins of the children and the brightly colored scarves. Thank you for sharing with me – and I hope I can learn to have “a faith as real as these hands that clap and raise and open to heaven.” Just beautiful. Blessings, Hilary

    • Thanks, Hilary. I my faith was more than challenged by Ethiopia, it’s been changed. I think the hardest part is realizing than faith that real is birthed from pain, loss, and having nothing else to rely on except God. I want that kind of faith, but it still scares me – does that make sense? Anyhow, thanks for reading and sharing it with me 🙂

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