Today was our sixth day in Kenya. Yesterday, half of us flew north to the town of Lodwar, which sits in the heart of an area populated by Turkana tribespeople. Their region is generally arid, but it hasn’t rained here in eight months, so living conditions are even more challenging than normal. The Turkana survive as small-scale goat and camel herders, and their livestock is dying. Water has become so scarce that women are walking ten or more miles to a polluted river to carry back a dirty drink for their families.
We purchased four tons of dried corn in Lodwar, rented a Land Rover, and followed a dusty road that eventually became little more than tire tracks in the sand. Passing an occasional cluster of grass huts, we finally stopped under a big acacia tree along the bank of a dry river bed. There, five small children, dressed in rags, were singing worship songs, led by a teenage girl with a traditional goatskin drum. It was Sunday morning.
Before long, a steady stream of Turkana adults and children arrived from distant villages to join the church service in progress. Their worship, punctuated with exhortations from a Turkana pastor, was joyful and exuberant. They sang, clapped, and danced with traditional African leaps, all to the skillful rhythm of a solitary drum. Dust and praise rose towards heaven. It was African glorious.
As I listened with them to Teryl Hebert’s sermon, I thought about how different their lives were from mine. Turkana people rarely bathe for lack of water, and as a substitute, they rub animal fat on their bodies as moisturizer and deodorant. They sleep on the ground on straw mats under the open sky, as their huts only serve to protect them when it rains. Turkana women adorn themselves with layers of colorful necklaces. Most shave their heads—with the exception of a strip on the top—which they braid and often dye. Yet these Turkana people were born of the Spirit, and we’ll be spending eternity together with them!
It occurred to me that in heaven I might find myself surrounded by Turkana saints dancing in their African way before the Lord. Near the end of the service, when they asked me to speak, I asked them if they would teach me to dance. Two-hundred stood to volunteer! The drum started beating, the singing started, and everyone started dancing as my appointed teacher stepped forward. It wasn’t as easy as it looked, and I unwittingly provided the comic relief for that morning’s service as I leaped on the wrong beats and apparently held my arms in the wrong position. With my every error, the worshippers roared with loving laughter. It was heavenly joy. I was dancing with God’s stars!
After the gathering, hundreds of believers streamed to where our four tons of dried corn was waiting to be distributed. I thought to myself, If these suffering saints possess so much joy on earth, what will they be like in heaven? I’m so glad we have the chance to serve them now.