Sunday, July 5, 2015

Articulating Gratitude

This afternoon, I joined a small east African congregation here in Saskatoon for their Sunday service. Apart from the air conditioning and cushioned chairs, there was something very familiar about it that made me feel right at home.

There were three hymns books, two dialects of the Sudanese represented in the church, and one traditional English hymnal. There were about 12 of us plus kids and it was lovely to have little ones running around, dancing and making noise. I miss that in "big church" where we've separated kids from parents for the sake of "distraction". I mean, they're adorable and funny and well...distracting in the best way.

This morning, Pastor Simon welcomed me and asked me to stand up and share something with the group. I'm not sure why, but if this happened in my church, I'd be embarrassed, even slightly offended and super reluctant...but this morning, it was natural and easy and I just told them a little of who I am and why I was curious about their gatherings.

We sang together, songs that anyone could suggest, and from the three choices of hymnals. I was able to read one that was phonetically spelled in their language, and of course the English, but there was one where I was just happy to hum along and listen to the words roll of their tongues. It's amazing really to hear familiar songs sung in a different language. It makes you really think about the words and that's something we often gloss over when songs become familiar.

The loveliest thing about this church was this ~ they spent time praying for our country and our government and expressing their gratitude for the way our country had taken them in and afforded them a better life than most of their families are living. Sudan is a war torn country - it was when they left in 1994 and it is today...with minimal periods of peace and stability in between. The pastor, who has been here for 12 years, told me that he had lived in a refugee camp Ethiopia with his family for years, with nothing to do, nowhere to go and no opportunity to thrive until Canada opened its doors to him and his family.

It reminded me today, as the week of July1st for Canadians, and July 4th for Americans, has just passed, that freedom is something we take so for granted. I was humbled to hear the prayers for our country articulated by those who've only recently been granted citizenship, or indeed are still waiting.  I think those of us who have grown up here articulate more complaints than gratitude sometimes, which freedom affords us the right to do. I would just say that freedom is never without cost. And regardless of whether you're Canadian, American, English or French, the fact that we live in countries where we have the rights and freedoms we do means we have a responsibility to speak and act on behalf of those who do not.

I've challenged my friends and family and readers before....choose a country that's in the news. Learn what you can about their situation and struggles. Find someone from that country and take them for coffee or tea and listen to their story. Speak for those who have no voice. It really is the very least we can do.


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