Today we went to a commissioning service at another church, Kapita CCAP, so we could see what was in store for us in a few weeks. The morning started with confusion about what exact time we were to be ready to leave for the service and whether or not the collar that David was wearing looked right. Not being sure what quarter eight meant (was it a quarter past eight or a quarter until eight?), we rushed through breakfast, grabbed our bibles, hand sanitizer, and sunscreen, then the phone rang signaling that our ride had arrived. We met another elder from the Lingazdi Congregation who was providing a ride to the service. We were both nervous, not knowing what to expect and wanting to be ready. The ten minutes of travel time passed quickly, as I eagerly looked out the window trying to see something familiar. David identified that we were driving away from Old Town. Glad he knew that, because I had no idea where we were…except that we were in Lilongwe. I noticed a familiar building, the Parliament Building; it is huge and the title is written in large writing across the front, hard to miss really. As we arrived to the church yard people were scattered everywhere.
We drove around to the rear of the church and parked. We met up with Rev. Zembeni and Vasco and then walked towards the backside of the church. I saw only men. Pastors or elders. Feeling out of place, my eyes searched the surroundings for a pastor’s wife somewhere. None. Then the men started talking in Chichewa about where I should go, if I should come in with the men or not. They decided I should stay so that I knew what was going on. They would translate. A door was opened; I followed Vasco through a short hallway then turned left into a small chapel-like room –filled with pastors and elders –all Malawian MEN. Yes, I now felt very awkward, like I was let into a club to which I didn’t belong. We shook hands with a few people, were introduced, they spoke in Chichewa, and prayed for the service. We all stood up and, as we were in the first row, some people shook our hands and others smiled and passed by. I thought, “I hope no one here is offended that I am here.” I’m sure there will be many more times I feel out of place, this was just one of those times. It is a delicate balance between trying to be sensitive to the culture and abandoning the culture from which I came. In America, men and women would be praying together in preparation for a service, but here, that’s not the case.
…Then after the men had all gone into the sanctuary we followed, behind Vasco, through that same hallway, a door, and red silk curtains into the sanctuary. What followed was a five-hour service, spoken in Chichewa, in a warm overflowing sanctuary, sitting on wooden benches. Vasco sat to our right and Davidson to our left. If it weren’t for them, we would have no clue as to what was happening. Even so, it was a ton of listening—sermon after sermon, choir after choir (there were 18 choirs in all), listening to the beautiful language, but only knowing a word here or there. I watched as primary school children watched, listened, sang, and danced through the five hours of praise and celebration.