Monday, August 14, 2006

Church; Eritrean style

On Sunday we went with our friend Egmont Mika to visit the church in Stockholm that he pastors. These people asked Egmont to be their pastor about 18 months ago, about two years after he began teaching sessions for them on an irregular basis. They are different from most Swedes in that all are from Eritrea, a small country just above the Horn of Africa.

Their meetings are in Tigrinya and, with Egmont as pastor, Swedish. The worship was mostly in Tigrinya. Egmont preached in Swedish and his talk was simultaneously interpreted into Tigrinya. Most of the people -- refugees from years of fighting in the area -- also now understand and speak Swedish, but the language of the heart is always that learned from mother and father. Some of them spoke English. Two interpreted for us, although I found I was able to understand most of the Swedish.

We did not expect ululation as part of the worship, but it erupted many times during the singing, especially from the women. Ululation is common in Arabic countries, and perhaps this is an import from across the Red Sea. The people are a lighter brown than Africans coming from the west and south. Their facial features show a mix of other races. Their language shares roots with Arabic, Hebrew and Amharic.

During the sermon, Egmont laid out the vision that the Lord has shown him for this congregation: Jesus to Eritreans in Sweden, Europe and Eritrea. Primary vision components will be preaching, teaching, equipping and sending.

After the meeting, we went to the home of one of the members where we ate traditional Eritrean fare. The foundation of the food is pancake-like injera. These are laid on the plate and meats and vegetables laid on top. Food is eaten using torn pieces of a second piece of injera as a utensil. The food was actually quite good. We have eaten it before and approached it with relish again.

We found real kinship with these people. But it's no surprise: whatever their color or language or customs, we have found kinship with the followers of Jesus wherever we have met them on the earth.

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