Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sunday at the church


This morning I went to the local Christ church. Most people here are raised Christian, and going to church on Sundays is their routine. I went to the Brethren in Chris (BIC) church, the largest around this area. The church is located in a well-constructed brick building similar to the houses on campus. The interior was a T-shaped room with long benches on three directions of the “T” and a podium in the center. When we got there, the room was already packed. There was a lady at the door to escort us to our seats. Women and men were seated at two opposite sides. Children were sitting on the ground in the front just under the podium, and students were in their uniforms sitting towards the front as well. Old women were dressed in pure white and wear a white head cover.

The service started by a group of women, all addressed in beautiful African gowns made of Chitenge patterns, singing cheerful African songs in front of the podium. The lyrics were in Tonga mixed with English. The song sounds like a medly and towards the end of each segment, the audience would sing along with it. Everyone was smiling and moving with the rhythm and the echoing made up powerful sounds in the church. There were some men sitting on the podium. I guess they must be the priests and important figures of the neighborhood(such as a chief or headman). After the singing was over, two priests came up to the front of the podium and made some announcement. One of them would make the announcement in Tonga, and the other would translate it into English. One announcement I remembered was that there were some sort of Women’s conference at the church next week.

I was reminded in advance that as a tradition they ask new comers to go up to the front and introduce themselves to the entire church. So not surprisingly, the priests invited “the visitors to identify themselves and come to the front”. So I went up along with a few others. After I introduced myself in English, the translator said something in Tonga, and people laughed. I was very confused, later they told me that the priest didn’t get my name so he translated “her name is her name”. It’s funny cuz people frequently pronounce my name as Ping (my favorite is that one of the doctors in the hosptial called me “Pink”…) Among other visitors, there are a group of people from South Africa selling Bibles, and there was a guy from Kenya.

The rest part of the service include a speech by Dr. T, who is a pediatrician from the U.S and has been working in the hospital here since the 70s, he is also the director of the research institute and helped made my trip possible. He gave a moving speech about patience, service, and gratefulness. Although I am not religious, the main points he delivered is true to life in general.

After the speech, there are more singing by different groups. There was the Macha male voice (I heard that they released a CD recently), the equivalent “macha female voice”, a group of old ladies and a group of students singing. There was even a man singing and playing on the keyboard. The audience also sang along with some of the songs in Tonga. It was quite amazing.

at the end of the service, the children left first because they had Sunday schools to attend right after, then the sequence is students, old people, and men and women. The entire service lasted more than 2 hours so I was super hungry when it was over:)

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