Church in Madang
We’ve gone to the same church for the past two weeks here and, in case any of our dear friends and family back home may be wondering, we thought we would share what church in Madang is like—at least, what the church we’ve been attending is like.To begin with, we’ll list the similarities:
- There is a worship band. That’s right-drums, guitars, microphones, amplifiers—the whole deal. There is no Josh Kellso, but still. We sang Ancient of Days last week and Celebrate, Jesus, Celebrate!’ today. So far, those are the only songs I’ve recognized. There is a worship band and people worship.
- There is a message with points—today, we heard eight things we can learn from the life of Abraham from a podium and all. The sermon lasts for roughly 45 minutes.
- There is a dress code. While women, it seems, wear very similar clothes every day here(longish skirt, long, loose blouse), you see the dress code most in the men. Three-piece suit and ties with dress shoes are common to the pastors of the church, while the other men wear nice slacks with collared, button-up shirts, and dress shoes with or without a tie. We weren’t exactly anticipating that, so Matt has worn the same outfit to church the past two weeks—minus the dress shoes—and will most likely wear that same outfit every Sunday for the rest of our time here.
- There is an offering during the service. People tithe here and while the structure might be different, the concept is still the same as it is in many churches back home.
Now, for the differences.
- Men and women sit separately, for the most part. Men sit on one side, the women sit on the other, and then they meet in the middle. To those who know us, you might not be surprised to hear that Matt and I try to sit in the middle.
- It’s not in a building. At least, not in an enclosed one. The church building is basically an outdoor ramada with fluorescent lights and fans and a sound system. This means, of course, that there is no A/C during the 2 hour service.
- There is no childcare. Let me repeat: there is no child care. And what’s even more remarkable than that is that the Papua New Guinean kids—for the most part—sit still and quiet in the service the ENTIRE time. This has been a challenge for our four small children, but they have made it through two entire services so far.
- Black-outs are common during the service. As soon as the electricity went off, the worship team transitioned surprisingly smoothly. The seven or eight people standing on the little platform simply put down their instruments and microphones, stepped down to the floor, and kept going with an acoustic guitar and, well, acoustics. Everyone kept singing, everyone kept clapping. When it came back on about 15 minutes later, they transitioned back up to the platform and resumed the amplified version.
- The tithing is done in buckets. Halfway through worship, three people from the wooden bench pews get up and grab six buckets (two each). They stand in the middle of the floor and people who want to tithe just walk up and drop something in one of the buckets, labeled ‘Tithe’ and ‘Missions’ alternately.
- We are the only white people in the building. We’ve been introduced twice now as the ‘missionaries from the USA’ and when we tell people what we’re planning to do—go to the Blue Mountain (their term for the Finisterre Mountains) and tell people about Jesus who have not yet heard—their response is always ‘Thank you.’ While it’s hard not to feel different what with all the white skin and the being American and having children who really do not know how to sit still for two hours in a hot and humid environment—it’s also a privilege to spend time with believers who are completely different than me and to praise God for the work He has done to draw people to Himself from totally different backgrounds and cultures.
- There are no words on the screen–in fact, there is no screen. And, trust me, words would really, really help since most of the songs and mostly all of the message is done in Tok Pisin. One more reason to work hard at language learning!
Today’s message was about how Abraham had faith in God to obey Him when He asked him to leave his home country. The pastor talked about how important it is that we have faith to trust God and step out of our ‘comfort zones’ (his word, not mine).I sat there and thought, ‘Well, God, that is indeed what we have done. I’m pretty sure I left my comfort zone way back in San Francisco and have been leaving it more and more ever since.’ Sometimes, I feel as though my faith–while present–is so small. But God promises good things even for those with small faith, so I will keep trusting the One who made us and brought us to Papua New Guinea.