Ecclesiastes 3:4: “a time to weep, a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance“
Stephan, Bekki and I decided to go for a walk around midnight. This wasn’t the best idea since we had all forgotten to bring our flashlights and there didn’t seem to be any electricity in this village at all. I can say that the walk wasn’t a good idea, because for the most part it was my idea.
After stumbling around and getting lost and laughing in our exhaustion, we returned, only to remember all too quickly why we had left in the first place.
Dust was everywhere. The noise was loud and harsh to the ears at times, making conversation difficult, I had tried to take pictures, but the dust was so thick in the air. In fact, that could have been why we were so tired. So much dust being breathed in means less oxygen to the brain, right? That and it was midnight.
We grabbed a couple of mats and laid them out by our groups motorcycles. Most of our group was lost in the crowd of loud, dancing Ivorians.
The whole week, we had been looking forward to this event. The church was calling it an evangelisation. We were finally going to get a chance to do some real evangelizing! That Saturday night (well after dark), 13 of us hopped on some motorcycles and raced down a highway through the heart of Cote d’Ivoire toward our destination – a small little village halfway between Bouake and Korhogo. We arrived in about an hour’s time. Those who followed us on bicycles arrived about an hour later. In all, our group was about 20-22.
The way we understood it, this evangelisation was going to take place as an all-night dance party in the petit village followed by a sermon and door-to-door evangelizing. So after spending about 3 hours awake in the village, we figured it wouldn’t be too wrong for us to go ahead and get some sleep so we could be awake and ready to evangelize at 6 am.
So we sat down on our mats in the dirt and after talking briefly with some of the others in our group and even a few non-Christians who were attending the party, we laid down and fell asleep. As I fell asleep to the sound of rambunctious joyfulness and loud African music, I recalled seeing on our walk that those of the village who weren’t participating in the veille didn’t seem too irritated by the fact that the sound resonated throughout the entire village. In the United States, the police would have been called 5 hours ago for disturbing the peace.
The next morning, I was quite groggy. Sleeping on the ground has never been easy for me, and I was having some brief back problems at the time making sleeping much less easy. Nevertheless, when my eyes opened at 6 am the next morning, and I saw everyone standing around me in the grey pre-dawn light, I jumped to my feet and pretended to be wide awake. I followed everyone else as they packed their things onto the motorcycles. Then I hopped on the back of my motorcycle and the group from Niakara took off back down the highway toward home as the sun painted a beautiful, golden sunrise across the…
What happened to the evangelizing part of this evangelisation? Where was the sermon? And the door-to-door evangelizing? I mean. The dancing was fun and so was the sleeping outdoors. And don’t get me started on the exhilarating motorcycle trips, but that wasn’t what we came here to do, right? We had come here to evangelize this village! What happened to that?
Despite the misgivings and questioning glances of Stephan, Bekki, and me, our caravan of motorcycles headed back to Niakara and got there just in time to get ready for our own church services. I won’t lie, We felt a little let down, and didn’t quite understand why there was no evangelizing…
A Few Weeks Later….
I walked across the dirt road in the dark. My eyes were having trouble adjusting to the intermittent light as I walked down the quartier toward the mosque at the end. It was about the time that I normally head to bed, but I wanted to make a point to visit Stephan’s family who lived a small distance away.
Suddenly my ears picked up the sound of a constant horn-blowing coming from my right and moving across to in front of me. As I looked, I saw headlights illuminating the intersection in front of me and suddenly, a truck and about 10 motorcycles came by honking relentlessly waking up anyone in the area who happened to be unfortunate enough to be asleep yet.
At first I thought to myself just how rude this would be in the United States – people being so inconsiderate of their neighbors. But then I realized exactly what this was happening in front of me – it was a celebration, probably a wedding.
Then a light went on in my head.
I remembered that loud night in a distant electricity-less village whose name I don’t recall; the night when we slept through the dancing and loud music and celebratory noises preparing for evangelizing in the morning. What if we slept through the evangelizing?
Now I know for a fact that the French word for “Gospel” is evangile. So evangelisation could be translated into English as “gospelization”. This got me wondering about the roots of the word “gospel”. So I looked it up and it turns out that the Greek is εὐαγγέλιον (euaggelion) meaning “good news”. Thus the English word “evangelizing” really at it’s roots means “goodnews-izing”. Do you follow the language logic here? It’s really quite fascinating…
So what then can we say evangelizing is? Is it saving people? Preaching to them? No. It’s sharing with them the gospel! It’s telling the good news!
Recall in Luke 15 when Jesus talks about the parables of the Lost Sheep…
“And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’” Luke 15:6
…and the Lost Coin.
“And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’” Luke 15:9
What is the common ground here? In each case, the parables involved someone finding something that gave them great joy. And what did they do with this joy? Did they keep it to themselves and have a mini celebration with pizza, a beer, and a good movie? No! They went out and called all of their friends together and said, “Come on!!!! I’m so happy because I found this thing!!! Be happy with me!!!!”
Now I know that this parable was meant to tell the Pharisees about how rejoicing occurs in heaven over just one sinner being saved (which is an astounding and lovely fact), but I am convinced that it is also an example of how we should spread the good news. Upon receiving the glorious gift of salvation, why just hold it in? Why keep it to ourselves? Is it not far better to be extroverted about it? And what better way to do that than by all-out partying for no other purpose than showing our joy in God?!
So while I’m not entirely convinced this is exactly what the Ivorians have in mind when they throw an all-night dance party and call it evangelizing, I think it is a great lesson for us to learn from them. The Ivorians love to celebrate things that bring them joy in a loud and rambunctious fashion that invites all of those around them to join in. In the same way, sometimes the best way to show others Christ is to simply let His joy and love shine through us in the most remarkable and crazy ways, inviting in those around us. And that is my goal for the rest of my time here.
So go out, start spreading the euagellion without hesitation, with joy in your heart, and with love in your every action. Let nothing hinder you, because the joy you have in your salvation is too great to be suppressed. I will be praying for you as you do take on this task which is much easier said than done. And I would like to ask that you do the same for me.
With Love in Christ Jesus,