In front of me is a stage, there is a lead singer with a guitar, two singers to one side and three singers to the other. Behind them is an electric guitar player and a drummer. The stage they are standing on is big with 5 huge speakers on each side. They are singing gospel songs that I know and begin to sing along with.
I am standing about 100m back from the lapping waves, facing the ocean across from where I can see the Africa Mercy, the big white ship, glittering in the lights. The ship is anchored to the dock far off across to the right of my view of the stage. Standing in front of the stage, on both sides of me are roughly hand-made wooden stalls, selling mostly food and drinks. On my left is a little fair ground with a man-powered Ferris wheel, a small roller coaster and other rides. They are all lit up and the coloured lights shine in the darkness surrounding us.
As one song finishes and the next ones begins the language changes from English to Malagasy and I come back from my little dream world and realise I really need to work on learning the words to the Malagasy songs.
I am standing with a friend from the UK who joined me on this little adventure. We met two local friends on the street who work on the ship as Hospital Chaplains. They stand beside us singing. Other than us, there are a few people standing behind the sound desk, and a few people scattered here and there on the outskirts in the darkness, unreached by the light from the stage. The space in front of the stage is completely empty, yet the team on the stage continue to sing as though the space is full of people praising God.
Faith, obedience, hope, determination and love are a few of the words that spring to mind when I think of the team singing out into the darkness and empty space.
A group of churches in Tamatave decided to hold gospel meetings in this space every day for three weeks beginning December 21st and ending January 11th 2015. I had ended up there because one of the singers on stage is a friend of mine who works with me and he had asked me to come. You just never know what to expect exactly when you say Yes to a request like that, but I’m always up for an adventure.
When the singing finished, the band left the stage, all but the lead singer, Marc, another of our Hospital Chaplains working on board. He began to preach in Malagasy. Now I’ve learnt a few words in Malagasy but only the usual greetings and a few words here and there, but certainly not enough to understand a message. My other friend, Nathaniel, who’d asked me to come along, came down from the stage and greeted us. He stood next to us and translated the whole message, the light from the stage illuminating his face as his mind worked quickly translating from one language to the next with no breaks.
Marc preached about Job and his perfect life and how it was stripped away from him yet he continued to praise God. He spoke about Jonah listening to God’s voice and his disobedience and then obedience and the salvation of the people that came because he listened to God. Marc asked the band to come up on stage and Nathaniel made his way across the sandy ground in front of the stage. Marc continued asking the people, whoever could hear him, all the way over to Shoprite, the local supermarket across the way, and anywhere that the microphone could be heard, for them to put up their hands if they would like to know Jesus. There was still no gathering in front of the stage, but Nathaniel turned back around towards us and when he got close, he whispered, “Look around. Look at the hands.” I turned to the right and left and saw there had been small clusters of people gathering in the shadows during the message. There were arms up here and there throughout the small groups of people. No huge crowds pushing for room stage front and centre, but hungry hearts. Marc led them in a prayer and I couldn’t help but feel extremely proud to be there in that moment.
I admire the faith that this team walked through that evening, if I had been on stage singing with hardly anyone to be seen in the crowd I might have felt as though it wasn’t worth the time, yet God came through. He gathers His children. He draws them into Himself, one by one, we just need to be faithfully obedient to His call.
What is He calling you to this new year?
Yes, the New Year has turned. Happy New Year friends!