October 3, 2004
A Frustrating Day
A few weeks ago at Dan’s installation service the Mvano (Women’s Guild) of St. James CCAP Church presented me with one of their uniforms. It is a black skirt and a long sleeved white blouse and white headdress. The women wear it to worship and sit together, they wear it when they sing as a choir and they wear it when they prepare meals for church functions. Wherever the Mvano are, there are the “penguin”(Dan and the girls’nickname for them) uniforms.
Today was the first Sunday that we were able to worship at St. James since the instillation. Dan has been preaching at partner churches all over the Synod. For instance, last Sunday I went with him to Mulanje CCAP, and the week before he preached out in the bush at Balaka CCAP. Today, however, he was scheduled to preach at St. James CCAP. Last night Rev. Nasiyaya called and told Dan that it would be a special Sunday. There would be only one Celebration of Worship, not the usual three, and it would begin at 7 a.m. It was what he called a “Paper Sunday”when everyone in the congregation brings money (paper) for the new Fellowship Hall and Christian Education rooms that are being built.
When the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. Brooke was grumpy. She has learned that one worship means one LONG worship. Her grouchiness made Dan uptight and he backed into the church parking lot at 6:30 a.m., he hit a brick wall and broke the right tail light on the truck (his mood did not improve much). After prayers and announcements (that was when Dan found out that Nasiyaya would not be there, he had obligations at another church) with the Session, we walked into worship at about 7:20 a.m. (nothing in Malawi starts on time). Of course, I had on my new Mvano outfit.
As the girls and I walked over to the Mvano section of the church, I noticed, much to my consternation and chagrin, that absolutely no one else had on their uniforms. They were all dressed up in fancy dresses for the special service! I felt like a fool. It is bad enough to stick out like a sore thumb because of your skin color, but when you inadvertently do something that makes you stand out even more, when all you want to do is blend in, it is very humiliating. Of course, no one said anything about my faux pax.
So the girls and I sat in the front pew (our assigned seats) for the next 4 hours and listened to Chichewa prayers, hymns, announcements and exhortations (with no one translating for us or telling us what was going on). We could understand Dan’s sermon, and it was very good (not that I am at all biased!)
Then the congregation was called up to put their money into offering baskets. We found out later that they were called by Cottages (sort of like regional prayer groups). But we had no idea of what was going on, so every once in a while we would just get up and put some kwacha in the basket. I have to admit that even the choir’s melodic singing did not soothe my ruffled spirit. Maybe God was trying to teach me humility. After the service Brooke gave me good advice, she said, “Get over it, Mom.”So I am trying to.
Of course, we went home and had to deal with Heather who, by mistake, erased over 2000 songs from her MP3 player yesterday (for those of you who are not media savvy –that is a mini stereo with ALL of her music for the year on it) so she is threatening to go home. A teenager without her music is not a pretty sight. We are trying to replace some of it. Life here in Malawi is not all sunshine and roses, but we know that God has a plan for us that God is working out, and so we take life one day at a time, and meet the challenges head on!