Coming to America: Africa

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When you think of Dayton Ohio you should think of the Wright Brothers. This IS the heartland of America, where bicycle repairmen yearned for the sky.

This weekend Dayton is different. Some 200 central African immigrants, many of them Free Methodists, have come together for a time of fellowship & renewal. Last night I was concerned that the platform might collapse with so much dancing and jumping and singing! Church is always better when we get carried away with joy.

These friends of ours have had a long journey. Most are Burundi who were displaced by the war and went to Rwanda. Then they were displaced by the next war and went to Congo. Then they were displaced by the next war and went to Tanzania where they've spent over a decade in refugee camps. And now, they've been resettled by the U.N. in America.

They come with two things: Their songbook and their Free Methodist membership certificate (& sometimes a bible!). We can't even imagine their level of identity with the church. Their church membership is way more important than their citizenship.

To us, church membership is like, well, it's okay but kind of a thing of the past.

To them, being a Free Methodist is the most important bond left to them. War destroyed their family, war destroyed their tribe, war destroyed their country, but the church followed them from country to country, from camp to camp. And now, no matter where they are here in the U.S. they've brought us their vibrancy of faith and life.

These Africans seem naive to us in material things; things like shopping and traveling and eating-out and our laws.

But I'm afraid we Americans seem naive to them in spiritual things; things like praying and singing and suffering and staying faithful.

May the Lord give us hearts to yearn for the sky from them.