I had an interesting experience while traveling home from Mwanza, Tanzania this past February. We had an overnight stay in Dar Es Salaam at The Luther House located less than a block from the Indian Ocean. Next door to our accommodations was a beautiful old Lutheran church built in 1898 by German missionaries. The front entrance of this church faces the waters of a lovely harbor. At 6AM I awoke to the sound of music and singing coming through my window. As I gradually became more aware of what it was, I realized it was live music, so I decided to investigate the situation.
It was a lovely morning outside with the sun reflecting brightly on the water, promising to be another hot day in the city. I discovered that the invigorating sounds were coming out of the Lutheran church, which had all it's windows and doors wide open. One thing about the Christian churches in Tanzania, no matter what denomination, they seemed to always have the volume turned up loud with all the windows wide open for the whole town to hear the music and preaching. They are certainly not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! As I looked into the crowded church, I thought, "Why not check it out more closely", so I went on into the building.
The church was full to overflowing and alive with excitement! The floor seats were full, the balcony was full, and extra chairs were set up on the porches. I managed to find a seat up on the balcony next to a friendly young man. I estimated there to be about 500 people present. The praise and worship band was giving it their best, while the congregation was clapping and singing out enthusiastically. As I watched the people lifting their hands in praise to the Lord, I was reminded of the Charismatic churches I used to attend years ago. I didn't know that Lutherans could put forth this kind of praise music, but then again, this was Africa! Really one should not have stereotypical ideas about different types of churches. God desires us to have a heart of worship whether it be loud or quiet.
After the singing was done, the pastor had us pray with the person next to us. It's a good thing that God understands prayers in Kiswahili, because I sure don't! After that, about ten minutes into the sermon, I decided it was enough for me -- time to go for a walk. It may have been a good sermon, it just wasn't doing me any good not understanding the language I never did find out why the church was so full at 6AM on a Thursday morning. It wasn't a major holiday or feast day. Perhaps they do this on a regular basis, getting up early to attend church and then going on with their regular day's activities. I don't know. At any rate, it was a pleasant experience seeing Christians enthusiastically praising God so early in the morning. May it be an encouragement to us, instead of groping for a cup of coffee to get us going, to start our mornings with the an attitude of thanks and praise to our merciful, loving Heavenly Father.
May the peace of Christ be with you,
Br. Nathan Dunlap