There’s only one good thing about driving 25 miles across the city of Lusaka at the peak of rush hour traffic. And that is having a car packed full of Zambian men and women singing high praises, in rich harmonies, from the bottom of their hearts. Your all-time favorite worship CD doesn’t even come close.
I remember the first time I came to Africa, and entered a worship service in progress. Acapella voices filled the tiny mud structure and transformed it into a holy place. Though I didn’t understand a single word, my eyes filled with tears, and I was sure I was hearing the music of heaven.
Many times since then have I tried to comprehend the rich dimensions of African worship. Is it the sweetness of hearts that have learned to prize Jesus above earthly treasures? Is it a familiarity with suffering that has laid hold of things eternal? Is it the song of those who, amidst great darkness, have caught a transforming glimpse of Christ? Is it the timbre of those who desperately long for and confidently expect His coming? Or is it just a special gift from heaven?
I can’t say. But I do know that pure worship can only flow from a heart that has grasped the infinite worthiness of Christ. And the response to that Worthy One is the unconstrained outpouring of the heart to Him, whether in joy or in pain. And that is something of the majesty I hear in Zambian voices raised in worship and in prayer.
Today I am leaving Lusaka and its traffic behind as I fly to the USA to join Jerry for a season of itineration. Every missionary understands the tearing of the heart that is felt as we say goodbye to those we have come to love and be loved by in the land of our calling. It’s yet another thing I can’t explain.
The singers and songs of Zambia will remain in my heart. Reminding me that the open doorway into the presence of our Great God is entered with a worshipping heart.