Church Hopping #1
Our very first church visit was to an African church, Gospel Light Eritrean Baptist Church, near our our home. The address is: “11110”, so I knew numerologically, this church was special. It was fantastic.
I parked in the back lot and we were greeted by a teenage boy who led us through the youth section (where a few teenagers were singing their own church service) to another part of the building. We found Jann on our way and were lead through a fellowship hall, where several children were excitedly playing, then across the hall to where the service was.
We chose to take the boys (Zayden 3 ½, Nikko, almost 1) with us into the service where the choir was already singing. We found a spot in the back where we could watch the service and the boys playing on the floor with other small children who had joined their parents.
Everyone was very friendly to us (and very beautiful with mocha skin, black hair, big eyes and cheekbones) and we quickly felt welcomed and comfortable there.
An older lady, who seemed to be the head matriarch, asked if she could help us. When I told her we were there for the service, she asked if we understood the language. I smiled and shook my head “no.” , not even knowing what language it would be. Later, a gentleman came and sat with us to translate; he said it was a language similar to Aramaic. Knowing Jesus spoke Aramaic, I wondered if he had looked like these exquisite people.
We sat listening to the music and the robed choir (only words we understood were “Hallelujah” and “Jesus”) for over an hour. My kids played on and around us and comfortably crawled amongst the congregation. Everyone seemed to sway, some danced (including my boys and other small children), and some let out an enthusiastic yelp from time to time, reminding me that their roots were far away. Some people seemed to be praying and most were singing along to the monitors. The cool air conditioning was one of the few reminders that I was not, in fact, in their African country of origin. It was very peaceful.
After an hour more people and all of the Sunday school children quickly trickled in, some sharing seats with their friends. A handsome family in front of us took their baby (about Nikko’s age) up to be blessed. They invited us to take Nikko, but I didn’t want to take away from that baby. An older robed gentleman spoke and prayed for that baby. We all raised our hands to send good energy to the handsome baby boy and his parents.
After that, the minister had us newcomers stand and be recognized. They asked our names and applauded us. It was a lovely gesture and very warm and enthusiastic.
After this the children’s Sunday school classes (speaking and spoken to in English) came up and sang and recited scriptures and a few read for the congregation. Then they all went back to their classrooms.
Later a younger man spoke to the congregation. I believe it was about the “holiest of holy’s” and about how Jesus was coming at any time.
At about this time, a friendly middle-aged woman (who Nikko had befriended way earlier) asked if Zayden wanted to go to the classroom with the other children. To my surprise, he agreed!
Soon after though, tired Nikko started spinning in my arms and so I stepped out with him into the hallway. There I met an Eritrean mom, Sami, who worked the nightshift at Walmart.
After the service ended, we climbed the dark, narrow staircase to where all of the Sunday school classes were being held. We finally found Zayden, sitting happily amongst 20 or so African children, actually listening to the teacher. I will never forget their sweet faces in that empty room, with no papers or toys in their hands.
Zayden accepted a doughnut as we all left smiling and somewhat sad that we would probably never see our new friends again.