Twice on my trips to South Sudan, I’ve woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of drums. When I say middle of the night, I’m talking about 3 in the morning middle of the night. I assumed it was some sort of tribal celebration or a wedding, since those can last for a week. When I asked in the morning, though, I found out that what I heard was the sound of an all night church service.
This really made me think. Would we ever see something like that at home? If the prospect of an all night church service was available to me, would I go? It really struck a chord with me that whoever it was I heard was operating under a different set of priorities and a different level of commitment than myself. You stay up all night for something that’s important to you; for something you really care about. A faith that we see as something private, that is just one of many things in our life that may or may not be important is nothing to stay up all night for. A faith that is something useful to complete your social persona is also nothing to stay up all night for.
On the other hand, a faith that goes through to the core, a faith so deep that if you didn’t have it you wouldn’t be the same person; now that’s something that would cause you to stay up all night. So would a faith that would cause you to appeal to God to save your family, or your village, or your nation from perils that are too numerous and too terrible to list. The people I heard were praying and worshipping because they are appealing to their Dad, because He is the only one who can save them. They pray and worship because it is the first thing that comes to mind when there is a problem, not the last thing or one of many things. That’s the kind of faith I want to have, and that’s the kind of faith that gives me hope for South Sudan despite the numerous and sundry problems that exist. In second Chronicles, it says; “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” This goes for us as well. Healing begins in the heart of each person, through humility and prayer, and it’s where we have a deep lesson to learn. I pray that we haven’t become so cynical that we become lost as a people.
For the South Sudanese at least, I hold hope, because I’ve seen where their hearts are.
I’ve begun going through the voluminous video clips I shot on this most recent trip. Appropriately, here is a link to some video of a worship service in Bor, South Sudan.