Sunday, June 14, 2009

How I Missed the Dew of Hermon

By Ayamma Umanah
The Netherlands
June 14, 2009

Yes, its me again! Its my last full week in the Netherlands and  while i have enjoyed my stay in this scenic country, boy would I be glad to be back to good old Naija (that's nigeria, for those of you wondering). Someone might wonder and ask why? Is it because of the cold? Not really, though it plays a part  as I havent still gotten used to the below 17 Celsius temperature. Or the food? Not really that either, even though I'll be glad once more to eat hot spicy (peppery) food and swallow eba! No, none of these things was a major source of discomfort to me. What I missed most was the worship culture of Nigeria! I posted my thoughts on the emptying churches of Europe previously. What i didn't elaborate on was how it impacted on me and my stay in the country. As usual, on getting to a new place, I sought fellowship with other believers. Being in a university community, gatherings of believers wouldn't be hard to find, since that was the norm back home in Nigeria........well so I thought. Maybe I didn't search well enough, but suffice to say I didn't find least none that met regularly. Nijmegen, the Dutch town where I am, is the oldest town in Netherlands and predominantly Catholic. However, that statement itself is outdated because presently a great majority of its inhabitants don't go to church at all. In my first week, so no church. Second week, I managed to find that there was an English service to be held in the students' center and it turned out to be a Catholic service! Get me right, I have absolutely nothing against Catholics, I have wonderful Christian friends who are Catholics and are faithfully serving God within the Catholic Church, but it just isn't it for me. I had hoped it was an Anglican service since that was more in line with what I was used to, but imagine my surprise when I was told the Anglican English services hold only twice a month in that town and alternates with another town! So, due to my faulty calender observation, I'm ending my stay in Netherlands having attended Sunday service only once in 6 weeks. By the way, the Catholic service was good - so why didn't you continue, you may ask? Thats another day's blog. 

Okay, so I can't make Sunday service, let me attend bible study, which is also held twice a month. It wasn't the same either. We were studying the lives of certain persons who had read the bible and drew their conclusions and made certain recommendations. Yes, there was a bible reading, but after that we discussed their recommendations, the bible had little place in the study beyond the reading. Oh and guess whose work we were studying.....Ignatius of Loyola! Interesting coincidence to me. Anyway, despite everything I learnt something and was glad for the fellowship in whatever form it came. 

So, you would ask what is the purpose of this reminiscence of mine? On the last study day, which coincided with the last day I would be in the study, the lady coordinating makes the announcement, that henceforth , the bimonthly Church services will no longer hold there anymore. The reason? The catholic service is being moved from the morning to the evenings which effectively rendered the Anglican congregation homeless. Within me I wondered why then can't the Anglican church use the morning slot? Maybe the Catholics will have their Dutch service then? Imagine my shock when the reason was that there was no Cleric to provide the service! As it was revealed there was only one Cleric covering two big towns so in the morning he goes to the other town to hold services. And the more flimsy reason? People with children can't make morning services! To furhter add to my agony, she goes on to share how in the last three years 3 protestant churches had to combine their churches because of declining number of members, so also is the Catholic church (I guess the Anglican had always been smaller so they weren't ambitious about expansion). Now you see why I miss Naija! At least in the towns, you had an abundance of churches to attend, a flurry of activities, needful and otherwise! There is always somewhere to worship no matter how small, even in the very islamic North. 

I weep for Europe!

Yes, someone might point out, where has the abundance of churches and proliferation of ministries taken us too? I used to reason that way until confronted with this situation. It wasn't for nothing that the bible cautions against forsaking the gathering of the Saints. There is something powerful in being in the gathering of fellow Believers. Yes, christianity is personal, but we need one another to grow well.  There is an anointing that prevails, whenever God's people gathered together in His name. Even when you say, not everyone in church is a child of God in the true sense, but there will be one or two who truely are and that invites God's presence. If circumstances deprive us of that fellowship, God grants extra grace for that child of His. For those of us used to the freedom of worship and abundance of places to fellowship, we may not understand how it feels when that priviledge is denied or can't be exercised. I now understand why people in iron curtain countries, risked everything to meet. I now understand why Apostle Paul always rejoiced whenever he could have brethren visit and fellowship with him. One would wonder, Bro Paul? Why? He understood we can't make this journey alone. Yes, the Holy Spirit is present to comfort and guide, yet we need the encouragement and the push we get from other brethren. Jesus knew this, hence He had disciples while on earth. Some might dispute that reasoning of mine, but explain why on the night He was betrayed, on finding the disciples asleep, He wondered why they couldn't watch with Him? He is God, yet He wanted their input, companionship, you name it! Even now, He still desires our fellowship with Him more than anything we can offer Him.   My point, fellowship matters. It is important and needful. So I'm glad to be going home. Back to the boisterous Nigerian church environment. Our freedom to jump, pray and shout, pray as loud as our voices can carry - (I'm not a proponent of that anyway) - dance and just be us in the presence of God. I miss all that and for me the adage that says" North, South, East or West, home is best" holds true now more than ever. 

But imagine that final homecoming and reunion at the marriage feast of the Lamb! You don't want to miss that, so wherever you might be in the world, however your present circumstance, nothing can compare to that Church gathering up there. Dont miss it for anything!!!!!   As a last word......or words, I was sent a touching video of a father (Dick Hoyt)  and his physically challenged son (Rick Hoyt), who despite their individual limitations, together have undertaken to participate in events most people wouldn't dream of. Their secret? TOGETHER! Together they were able to achieve what either wouldn't have been able to do alone. 

So together as the body of Christ we can exceed the limits life places on us, but more importantly, together with our Father, we can do the IMPOSSIBLE!    


XtianDoctrine said...

Iron sharpeneth iron, so thus a man sharpens the countenance of his friends...

Temi said...

I heard something new today on one of my favorite Christian radio. I heard the anchor...apparently a Believer.....mention the fact that his wife was attending a yoga church..

I was kind of shocked. I didn't know churches now hold yoga classes. I'm I missing something here?

What is happening in the household of faith?

john said...

Ayamma, if the English services are few and far in between how about the Dutch Christian service? You could have attended those and still be blessed even though you don't speak Dutch.......

amma said...

I guess many are dissatified with what they are getting out of the pulpit and so to make meaning of life or to cope with stress, they turn to " innocous" activity like yoga! Its all about our foundation and our personal relationship with God, that is what will help us make sense of everything and not be deceived or carried away by every wind of doctrine.

amma said...

yes john, i guess i could have.

john said...

If there are indeed Dutch Christian services available then things aren't as bad as suggested in your piece. This is not at all to say that the love of God hasn't taken the back burner in Netherlands or elsewhere in Europe. But the argument that the christian churches in Nigeria are more vibrant is then not valid. It's like looking for a Hausa Christian service in Ibadan and not finding any and then concluding that Christianity in Ibadan is dead.