On the radio this morning, they asked the question, “do children really have a sixth sense?” They invited listeners to call in with stories of whether or not their children saw ghosts. Some of the stories were easily explained and laughed at, others were admittedly creepy. It reminded me of this summer in Africa.
First, I need to explain myself. I am a Christian. I have a healthy sense, I’d like to think, of when things are explained through science and rationality and when things are more supernatural, even if I personally attribute all things to an Almighty God. Sometimes He uses science, other times He uses mystery (if you were God, wouldn’t you do the same?)
Although I am a firm believer in the spiritual world, I am incredibly skeptical of mystical things. I believe in ghosts, for example, but I don’t think mediums genuinely communicate with them, at least not very often. I believe in the likelihood of aliens, but I’m pretty disbelieving of people who claim to have seen them. I believe in angels but don’t think I’ve seen one, and I believe in demons but again, haven’t seen one.
All that said, I was confronted with my spirituality and my skepticism this summer in Uganda. For the first time in my life, I experienced a culture vastly different from my own, and accepting in ways I could hardly understand.
The history of Uganda in the last 60 years is devastating. Ask any local, and they will explain it to you, but I don’t have the room to post about it now. I will start where they start, with a mystic named Alice. They say she would “throw stones,” and the “stones would explode” in her efforts to overthrow the government.
“Throw stones?” I questioned. “Do you mean bombs?”
“No, no,” they would reply adamantly. “Stones. She would pray, and the stones would explode.”
After hearing the same account from different people three or four times, I stopped questioning. I wouldn’t be able to understand what happened, but to them, she threw exploding stones.
That was my first encounter with Ugandans acceptance of the supernatural. Then, there were the personal stories. “I was plagued by a demon,” one person told me. “The demon made me very sick. Very, very sick for many, many years. I could barely eat.” I hoped my skepticism didn’t show on my face. “The demon made you sick,” I repeated. “Yes,” they nodded emphatically. “But then, I met Jesus. They prayed for me and the demon came out of me. I fell to the floor. I was healed.”
I wondered about what he said. I believe in Jesus, but I also believe that when I am sick, I am sick. No demons. Medicine could heal me, or at the most God might use medicine to heal me. I hadn’t met anyone in the U.S. who was miraculously healed by faith, although I chuckled when I saw that sort of thing on T.V. Was I being rational or irrational?
Finally, there was church in Uganda, Truth Fountain. I love church; my husband and I attend almost every Sunday. I feel refreshed, encouraged, affirmed, and inspired by church. But I have never in my life been to a church like this. It was more like a concert than a church. The entire place was alive.
The people collected in a big, cement building. Banners hung from behind the stage. Guests were invited to get up and dance on the front stage as everyone welcomed them: a mixture of cheering, whistling, shouting, clapping, and stomping. During worship music (which carried on for over two hours), everyone stood. Everyone danced. Some people got so excited they came up to the front to dance. It was like a mosh pit. A congo line broke out. Women of the church waved giant flags, like color guard. The church was filled with the shouts, songs, and praises of people worshiping God. It was so loud that a woman who brought a whistle and was blowing it with all her might couldn’t be heard over the noise.
Church was undeniable. The joy, excitement and hope I felt was real, even surrounded by worse poverty and oppression than I have ever seen. The Spirit was alive there.
And I thought, maybe they are the ones who have it right and I am the one missing out, blinded by my skepticism. We live in a spiritual world (yeah we do, yeah we do).