I don't know what I expected when I agreed to attend a "Worship Group" instead of attending the typical Sunday service in my village. I was picked up in a bright red sports car and driven about two miles to the other side of the village. From the moment the car pulled into the driveway I realized I had gotten myself into something I could never have imagined. We had arrived at a family fale, not a church like I had envisioned. Wearing my Sunday Whites I felt way over dressed as the rest of the group wore regular pulatasi's and other colorful garments. A band of three musicians played rocking music on drums, piano, and electric bass as a choir of 5 sang their hearts out into microphones in the front of the fale. In the middle of the room was a plastic Christmas tree heavily adorned with colorful butterfly Christmas lights and a podium lit up in the same fashion. Green fabric encircled the fale with white Christmas lights casually draped over to bring the full Christmas spirit to light. The congregation consisted of 3 rows of plastic chairs with no more than 5 people per row, but the chairs were unnecessary, for as I quickly learned, the whole service was to be conducted through song and dance, with a brief pause towards the end for a reading (and sitting).
I was ushered to the front of the congregation and placed between the pastors' wife and daughter. My bag got to sit but I was not given the chance as the congregation around me was already swaying and singing praises at the top of their lungs. I gently moved from side to side a little and nervously fanned myself. Towards the end of the first song everyone started just shouting praises and I was asked by the pastors wife if I was okay since I was not singing out my praises, too. So, I gave a few weak alleluias and prayed for the service to be shorter than I knew it would actually be. The second song in I was still nervous but by the third song I realized I needed to just cut loose and do what the rest were doing. I busted out my best dance moves, avoided the singing/praise part, and tried to look like I knew what I was doing! In front of me, totally oblivious to the chaos surrounding them sat two 3 year old kids, quietly blowing on broken balloons. No one seemed concerned, after all, we were in Gods house. The service continued like that for two hours. I said a little blessing when it was finally over and thanked the pastor for exposing me to such an interesting form of praise before anxiously looking for my ride. I was hungry and a little freaked out. Part of me thought I was going to be led to some water for baptism or something.
As I waited for the car to pull up I was profusely thanked for coming and hugged by every person there. Although our religious views may not be in line with one another, I did enjoy meeting the congregation in the end. For the most part, they seemed to simply be a group of people who love to sing and dance and find that individual worship fits them better than an organized weekly prayer session. Although it may have felt like a night club gone terribly wrong to me, to them, it was just what they needed to bring in the new year. I was told many times that Jesus will be coming soon. According to the pastor, all the signs are there: A group in Kansas that has just begun a 7 week vigil of pure prayer; tsunami's, earthquakes, and wars. Soon we will fly up to meet Jesus. I wish I could believe but sadly my imagination doesn't go that far. While the country waits for this magical return, I will do my best to stay out of the way and just teach some solid English. Shalom.