So my second “moment of clarity” is actually a series of moments from last Sunday (May 5th). The Mister and I were able to attend church services for the first time here on the island, and I was struck by several things over the course of the morning and evening services.
1. I, as an American Christian, am spoiled beyond belief.
Our taxi drops us off in front of the building and the first thing I notice is that the doors and windows are all wide open. We quickly discovered this is because the building has no air conditioning, which should not have been surprising, since electricity is an incredibly expensive luxury here on the island. The building is stifling hot, despite the ceiling fans and brief breezes from the coast, yet all the attendees are still modestly and respectfully dressed to worship the Lord. The evening service was slightly cooler, but mosquitos buzzed around our heads, a small lizard climbed the wall behind the pulpit and at one point a bat flew in the open door and hunted moths over our heads for several minutes. When was the last time that happened at home?
I won’t say it was all I could think about, because I did enjoy and appreciate the sermon and the worship service, but a prominent thought in my mind throughout was, “What would the little old ladies say about this?” Every congregation has those individuals who want to complain about how hot or cold the building is or how uncomfortable the seating is; we all know who they are. I would just like to remind them, and you, if you are one of those people, to say a prayer of thanksgiving every time someone goes to adjust the thermostat for you. Be thankful you have a thermostat to be adjusted, because so many of our brethren don’t.
2. We, as American Christians, often keep ourselves too secluded.
The doors and windows of this church building are wide open throughout the services. The minister, Brother Prentiss (they all use “brother” and “sister” here), speaks through a microphone, not caring that his words are booming out over Five Points (an outskirt section of Basseterre, the capitol) and might be disturbing someone in a house nearby. Our singing drifts out over the streets and housetops, not caring that someone might be trying to sleep or study. The gospel is for all; the gospel should be shouted from the rooftops; the gospel should not be shut inside a building and only available to those who venture inside.
3. The gospel is everywhere. Christians are everywhere. Christ will not be stamped out and conquered.
The Mister and I were surprised to learn of two St. Kitts congregations and one on nearby Nevis while we were still in the U.S. We go to worship on Sunday morning believing this to be true. There are two other new Ross students there, and two more regularly attending students expected back from break next week. Sunday night, on our way out to the main road to meet our ride to evening services, we are approached by a Ross security guard asking where we are headed. It turns out he is a Christian as well and worships with a third congregation just south of Basseterre. On a piece of land in the middle of the ocean, where we thought there would be few Christians, there is a Sunday school teacher guarding our dormitories.
It turns out there are three congregations on St. Kitts and two on Nevis. The largest, the one we’ve visited, has about 75 people on a good Sunday morning. The others range in size from about 35-50. They are just like our congregations at home. They worship three times a week, have a similar order of services and sing the same songs in the same ways. They have visiting preachers and singing services, and they have social gatherings and enjoy each other’s company (albeit they have potlucks on the beach, whereas we go to SportsCom). They greeted us like family and welcomed us into their arms. We are all connected. God is everywhere.
4. The gospel is still relevant, no matter where you are.
Sunday morning the Mister and I sat in the sweltering heat of the church building and swatted away the constant flies. We listened to the scripture reading and struggled to understand the heavy island accent reading in the King’s English. I thought of the beautiful (air conditioned) buildings of home and missed the beautiful singing. I thought about how coming to all three services might interfere with the Mister’s study and exam schedule, about how much it would cost per week to take a taxi to worship, about how it is hard to concentrate in such heat. I thought these might be good reasons to only worship on Sunday mornings and perhaps study alone in our apartment on the other nights.
Then the sermon was on excuses.
I have been struck on several occasions in my life with the feeling that a sermon was delivered especially for me. This time, the irony slapped me in the face. Satan wants to see if we will use our new surroundings as an easy excuse to drift away from God. If we take these excuses now, what’s to keep us from someday using crying children, hectic work schedules or unwashed dishes as reasons to avoid worship services? Life will always have mountains to climb, but as long as we keep our priorities in order the rest will work out. The Mister may have a lot to study, but if God is first, his schooling will work out. Our money belongs to the Lord first anyway, but if getting to service is the first priority, our finances will work out as well. (And already have, since we’re now on the pick-up list for the various members that run around the island picking people up each week.)
The gospel is the same, no matter where you go. Truth is always truth, sin is always sin, and God is always listening. You just have to be paying attention when He sends His answer.