So here goes… we haven’t found a church yet. It stinks. We visited a congregation that friends recommended several times. The kids sort of acclimated. All I could say when we walked away was, “It was fine.” Here’s the rub. I don’t want fine. I don’t want to settle. I want to wake up on Sunday morning and be excited about going to a worship service. Right or wrong… It’s too hard to get this many people ready and out the door and then feel like I’ve been through a wrestling match as we leave. I’ve questioned whether or not I was giving it a chance. The singing was nice. The people were friendly. Sunday after Sunday I walked away feeling, well like something was missing.
The big girls said they liked it. When pushed, after starting a new school it sounded more like they were settling just so they wouldn’t have to feel out of place again. We know we are here for three years. We know our kids are at an extremely formative age. We desperately want to get this right…for all of us.
So this week, we tried another church. I knew that the website said all the right things about what they believe about salvation. We talked to the kids. Yes, it was time to try something different. I’m sure I’m going to get gasps from some of the people that we’ve attended church with in the past. A few of you out there might be cheering at what I’m about to say. Some of you, who only know me from this blog may roll your eyes. Go ahead. Wait, let me back up to the beginning.
Since getting married we’ve always attended Church of Christ congregations. If you aren’t familiar, you can read more about it here. Here’s the basics. Don’t add to. Don’t take away from. Base everything on the Bible and try to do things the way the New Testament church did them. That’s it in a nutshell. Nondenominational and conservative as the day is long. It means no instrumental music. You won’t find instruments in the New Testament. It means sharing communion every Sunday. It means when you decide to follow Jesus you are baptized by immersion right then. Here’s the tricky part for me. I’m wondering how close we really are to the New Testament church. Are we focused on the same things? Are we spending our money in the same ways? Are we fellowshipping the same way? It is a dangerous loop.
So on Sunday, we went into this new church. We sat down and my kids’ eyes were as round as saucers. There is a band! No, I didn’t get up and leave. I sat down and acted normal. The music started playing. I can tell you, I don’t know if it’s having four kids, where we were sitting or what. Usually I don’t like a praise team. See, I have this horrible judgmental nature. I don’t want to be facing you wondering who you are singing to it distracts me. I have to tell you, when the singing started, I didn’t notice the praise team. I was too busy trying not to cry. Every word suddenly had meaning. The people around me were clearly moved. The words were flowing off our tongues and shockingly I’m at a loss for words other than to say I was truly moved. I was moved in a way that I haven’t been in a very long time.
I won’t bore you with the rest. It was a long worship service. We heard two young boys, close to Arleigh and Hanan’s age talk about their medical mission trip to Samoa. The girls were already at the edge of their seats asking if they could go too. These boys talked about helping a grandmother who was the only child care provider for her family to see again just with glasses. They told stories about giving away the shoes off of their feet and how the experience affected them. I hung on every word. Finally a man got up and told his story about how he had become a probation judge. He talked about a case file of a young man that was quite lengthy. He talked about the sentencing process and although it was against his nature, he was fair but on the lenient side of years sentenced. Then he introduced the man. They went on the mission trip together. The man stood up and told how God had been at work on him all those years and what he was doing with it now. Of course I’m oversimplifying all of this. It was a fabulous story from both men about how providence had brought them together. Then he said they would express it the way Hawaiians do.
At this point several men stood up in traditional white silks and leis. They started doing a hula type dance to a praise and worship song. When you see a big guy about my age, pouring his heart into a hula that is praising God to the point that he is moved to tears. I dare you not to be moved. I’ve never seen anything like it. As I watched tears fall down his face toward the end of the song, it was all I could do to control sobs. While it may sound a little out there. I have to say of all the worship meetings I’ve been too, I know God was there. As they finished and stopped to hug each other, I felt like I was spying on a family moment.
Now, there will be people… I can probably name them who will tell me how sinful that it all is. If God didn’t outline in the Bible to do it, then it’s wrong. I also know that when you are preparing for mission work, you are taught to embrace a native culture. When we walked away and Ray and I talked about it. It seemed very much like the Hawaiian culture. At this point, I’m losing sight of right and wrong.
When we left, the kids were ecstatic. I am pretty sure they were feeling whatever I was. I know Jack was. This is the first time that he’s been in a church service in Hawaii that he’s been totally relaxed. You may think this is no big deal. We didn’t let them go to a children’s program and no food or drink were allowed. This is big for Mr. Jack who expects enough milk and goldfish to get him through any service. He was soaking it in too.
What’s next? I don’t know. We haven’t totally given up on the other church. We would like to hear the regular preacher at the church we just went to. We are now looking for others to try. As moved as I was and frankly I think Ray was too… I don’t know that we think this is the right church for us. It was an awakening experience though.
While we are looking, we would appreciate you praying for us too. It’s hard moving every three years. The decisions are hard too. We want to be confident in doing exactly what we are supposed to do for all of us.