Friday, July 07, 2006
This is another service from the same era (1970's) in a much more civilized spot. We had pews made of 2 x 4's or sometimes 2 x 6's and we did have a p.a. system. I looked for a picture from the remote spot, but couldn't find it at this moment.
I love the internet. We've spent the last few days brainstorming ways to alleviate the sound problems that we're having in the church auditorium. With a perfect rectangular-box building, we have problems with standing waves, echoes, excess reverberation noise and bass control (so they tell me). I only know that if the monitors are up loud enough to satisfy the musicians, the noise bounces off the front wall into the congregation and mixes with the sound from the speakers muddying (good technical term!) the sound and increasing the volume (bad combination). And if the monitors are soft enough to avoid that echo and maintain a comfortable volume for the congregants, then the singers can't hear themselves sing. That's not so comfortable.
I love the internet because with some time and a few keystrokes, we've hit on a simple, low cost plan to try in lieu of spending $16,000 on a consultant and accoustical panels.
But it started me thinking over years of "churching" experience and made me laugh: we've come a long way! When I was 13, my mother, the church pianist died, and I inherited her spot, or rather I shared it with a dear little lady who was tone deaf and often changed keys in the middle of a song. She usually played on Sunday morning while on Sunday evening I reigned supreme. Sitting with my back to the congregation, the song leader in my mirror view, I banged away on the ivories. Banging it was. We sang without any P.A. system and didn't need any. The rafters rang in our little thirty-by-thirty frame building set at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere. But we sang with joy!
But I'm sure my most primitive church experience was in Ecuador in the 1970's. We had gone to this remote area to preach at a little church. I cannot remember the name of the place now. It was VERY remote. The last 2 or 3 miles, we walked in with a three-year old and a four-year old -- and the mandatory accordion! The building itself was built of split cane with a thatch roof. It was dark by the time Bob got up to preach and the tropically hot day had turned into one of those "I-can't-breathe, where-did-the-air-go?" tropical nights. The deacons dutifully lit the kerosene lanterns and carefully hung one on a wire right about the pulpit so Bob could read his Bible. (This is just a few feet below the very dry thatched roof). But that night I wasn't even thinking about fire.
No, that night I was entertained to watch the cockroaches climb out of the thatch (probably due to the heat from the lantern) and drop onto my dear husband. There were cockroaches in his hair which ran down his clothes. A very large one turned sommersaults on his tie for several minutes. Bob preached away, unaware of the insects. Occasionally he'd run his hand around the white collar of his dress shirt, but he believed he was wiping away sweat. He was blythely unaware that his sweat had grown legs, although I was chuckling because I thought my fastidious husband was stoically ignoring cockroaches. I could hardly wait to hear how he'd managed to stay on topic. But what happened was far more interesting.
God meets us in the strangest places. People from all over the rain forest had gathered. They'd heard there was a white man coming to preach the Gospel of Christ. For many of those people, we were the first and only Americans they would ever see. Every spot on the split logs which served as pews was taken. People were standing around leaning on the cane walls which were only built to about waist height to let in the breeze, had there been one.
My amusement at the bugs and my detachment disappeared when Bob finished his sermon and called for prayer. Numerous people came forward to accept Christ. The tears of their repentance mixed with sweat as we prayed together. Then, as God's spirit began to move several were filled with the Holy Spirit. One little girl, maybe 12 or 13 years old began to pray in perfect English. She gave an unaccented and grammatically correct expression of worship and adoration. I was amazed. It's the only time I've heard anything like it. No one but Bob and I had any inkling of what her language meant. To the saints there, she was simply speaking in other tongues. There were no other English speakers in the congregation that night except Bob and I and our two little boys. We questioned numerous people later. That child had never been out of the jungle; she didn't have radio or tv; she had never heard English spoken; she didn't speak or understand a word of it; we were the first Americans she had ever met. She was radiant with God's Spirit although she didn't know the extent of her miracle that night. She just knew that she had been changed. We knew that God had met us in a new and different way.
If this is the first of the phenomenon of tongues that you have read about and are interested in learning more, John L. Sherrill's They Speak with Other Tongues is a classic that explains his research intended to prove that speaking in tongues was fake and his subsequent discoveries. If you'd like a more theological approach, Jack Hayford in Baptism with the Holy Spirit (Biblical Truth Simply Explained) does a terrific job.
Yes, I love the internet, but even that resource can't top the simple power of God's Spirit. He moves in spite of bad sound systems, no sound systems, cockroaches or amused missionaries who get awakened to the power of the Spirit. God meets us in the strangest places!