Grace and Peace, Tom
Sunday, November 8, 2009
A Worship Experience with the Chin in Malaysia
In the moments before dawn I heard the pray call echoing out of mosque a few city blocks away. Our hotel sits in the midst of an area dominated by Chinese businesses. The fragrant scent of incense floats in the air. Small store fronts businesses proudly display their family alters. In this part of town you can momentarily forget that you walk in a country dominated by Islam. Then you wander by one of the countless mosques or encounter a Malay woman in a bright and colorful, but unmistakably Muslim, style of dress. Or you notice that many of the restaurants display signs the pronounce that they food they prepare and serve is acceptable for the Muslim community. Or perhaps you just open the desk drawer in your hotel room and sitting next to the Gideon Bible sits a Koran and the ceiling above offers an arrow the points the way toward the appropriate direction for Muslim prayers. Just when you become comfortable with this dichotomy you encounter an Indian Hindu temple reminding you of Malaysia’s third culture. It is in the cultural diversity that the Chin Christian refugee community gathers for worship. Our host church for the morning shares a chapel with a Chinese Brethren congregation. There are over 11,000 Chin who worship within the Chin Christian Fellowship congregations. Still others worship in specifically Baptist contexts and others within more charismatic flavored congregations. The congregation where we worshipped this morning claims over 1000 members and runs consistently somewhere between five hundred to six hundred participants in a typical Sunday worship experience. There is a passion to the way the Chin gather in worship. Most face truly difficult living and working situations as a routine part of life. Their strong faith and powerful sense of community seems to help them find the strength they need to continue on. It was humbling for Beth and me to be invited to speak to them. Beyond our translated words to the congregation, I only understood a part of what was said and sung in worship, but its power was unmistakable. When you listen to this refugee band of believers sing “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” you understand that despite their circumstances they live as people of the blessing, as true children of God through Jesus. It shapes their worship and their lives. It moves you when you worship in their midst.