A letter from Kay Day in Rwanda
Dear Family and Friends,
When was the last time that you literally jumped for joy? Wait—dignified adults don’t do that. We may say we “could jump for joy” when we are delighted by something or someone, but we don’t actually jump. That is for children and for undisciplined dogs, but not for grownups who know how to behave. We are too mature, too refined for such foolish action. That was certainly the opinion of King David’s wife Michal when she saw him dancing before the Ark of the Covenant. What a disgusting display of emotion! She despised him in her heart (1 Chron. 15:29).
But that is not the opinion of many Christians in Rwanda. Jumping for joy before the Lord is actually part of worship. Twice this month in Kinyarwanda services I have been invited to jump and dance in a time when the congregation was invited to step out and express their delight in being in the presence of the God of the universe, the creator of all that is. Both times the members of the congregation moved to the front of the sanctuary and, to the rhythm of the drums and the singing of the people, danced and literally jumped for joy before the Lord. With abandon, members young and old moved without thought to their “dignity.” Their focus was on expressing delight at being in the presence of God, just as David’s was before the Ark of the Covenant. This joy is contagious. I confess that I stood for some time clapping and singing, but not jumping, but the joy of the moment, the delight of the entire congregation, overcame my American restrain. As I moved forward, an older woman danced toward me and, standing in front of me, began to jump and dance, inviting me to join with her—and I jumped for Jesus (albeit in a modified way since, with two artificial hips, I have to be careful). I jumped and found the release of joy amazing.
After the first service I discussed it with the students who had accompanied me. They explained that this is a relatively new practice in the church, initiated by the young people. Some of the elders are a bit cautious, as I was, but when it is combined with the drums and the singing, they are willing to join in. Much of it is rooted in the mode of traditional dance of the country that is now being revived. The youth think that if the jumping is good for a wedding or other traditional celebration, it should be good for Jesus, who is the source of all our celebrations. They reason that we should express our delight to God with all our hearts and with our bodies. This is certainly sound theology. Just look at the Psalmist’s invitation: “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs” (Ps. 100:1-2). “Praise him with tambourine and dancing” (Ps. 150:4). I am learning to jump for joy to the Lord. As the “frozen chosen,” we may not literally jump, but maybe we can thaw enough to rejoice with delight, to dance a bit before the God of the universe. Care to join me?
Many of you do join me in prayers and in financial support. For that I can jump for joy to the Lord. I hope that your partnering with me in these ways gives you great joy as well, however you express it. This month I am preparing a paper for presentation at the installation of the new chancellor of the college the beginning of March. Please pray for this work as I also teach and preach. I pray for those of you in the States who are struggling with the extreme cold. May God protect you and warm your spirits as well as your bodies.
Yours in Christ’s love,
Kay (Cathie to the family)