On Sundays, I often find myself thinking about the church in Goz Beida, Chad. It is a 90 minute drive from our village of Maramara and is made up primarily of NGO workers from southern Chad and other countries in Africa. I've had the privilege of speaking there twice and enjoy fellowshipping with those believers – although very few of them speak English.
A couple of weeks ago a friend was comparing the difference between churches in the US versus in other parts of the world. His experience is Haiti. I was thinking primarily of Chad. I'm not saying one is right and one is wrong, but I see many advantages to the church culture in the majority world.
THE CLASHES OF CULTURES:
- In US – short services (60 to 90 minutes). In fact, 90 minutes is LONG!
- In Chad and other parts of the world – rarely shorter than 2 hours. The one I attended a few weeks ago was 3 hours.
- In US – private offering (no one should know).
- In Chad – public offering (to share in the joy of giving as an act of worship).
- In US – Short sermon (so we can get to the next thing). Longer than 30 minutes? Crazy!!!
- In Chad – a long sermon (why would you walk a long way for a short one?). Shorter than 30 minutes? Why?
- In US – you need a parking spot for every two attenders.
- In Chad – the only two cars outside the building were the ones we drove to church in. No parking lot needed.
- In US – sit with family in the same row or pew – with plenty of space.
- In Chad – sit with your gender – shoulder to shoulder – packed in tight.
- In US – if the room is hot – we complain and doubt we would come the next week if we are sweating while we sit. We are blessed (and spoiled). So complaining about discomfort is just part of our culture and is accepted and expected.
- In Chad and other parts of the world – being hot, sticky and squished together is expected. Their attitude at being together for a couple of hours is one of joy. Complaining is rarely heard about anything. (I never hear it, but it happens there… right?)
- In US – most leave within minutes.
- In Chad – everyone shakes everyone else's hand (in an organized way).
More on seating:
- In US – we prefer to sit alone on a mostly empty row to maximize personal space. We might even get annoyed if someone sits right next to us.
- In Chad and other parts of the world – to sit alone is either rude, proves you are lonely with no friends, or very proud and think you are better than everyone else.
Even more on seating:
- In US – we all have our own seat – with a back to it!!
- In Chad and other parts of the world – a wooden bench with no back is typical. An individual seat would be unimaginable!
One thing that my friend, Alexi shared was this:
When he is in Haiti – he sits alone and sweaty and some well-meaning Haitian boy will undoubtedly come down his empty row and sit with his equally sweaty, dripping leg pressed against his thigh – in a touching show of kindness with the white man who must have no friends (at least that is what their culture would assume). It happens every time – it seems.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining about having chairs with backs. I like being comfortable in church. I just wish every Christian in American could attend church in a place like Africa. It changes your perspective.
Let's not forget to pray for our friends in Maramara!