By Rachel Kionka

The joy hits before you even get out of the truck. The choir sways out of the small brick church, clapping and dancing. Then they begin to sing. It is a sound you’ve never heard before; the harmonies are more brilliant, more penetrating. Stepping down onto the dirt, you realize you will never be the same again.

The choir, children, and elders greet you and follow you into the church. It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust to the darkness of the humble room. Sitting on a small dirt bench at the front of the church, you are surrounded by young children with piercing eyes. They smile shyly, and love holding your hand, staring at the beautiful differences.

What have you found? Here are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Here they give their all to praise our gracious Lord. Here they show their love through song, and often that is all they can give. By earthly standards they have so very little. Looking into their eyes, you see a glimpse of the greatest strife and sorrows in this world. But you will also see peace and joy. Joy in their Risen Lord.

While the service often lasts over two hours, I can only pick out a handful of Chichewa words, and though the dirt benches are hard, I never tire of going to visit our bush congregations here in Malawi. These services cause tears to run down my face every time. Our backgrounds, cultures, languages, and skin colors might be different, but as we stand together and speak the Lord’s Prayer, sing “Create in Me,” and celebrate Holy Communion, we are unified with something stronger than words can explain. Christ is our Leader and we are His Church.