Posted by: JennyRain | October 19, 2007

Sacred Touch

An hour and a half into the bush in Zambia of leg-throwing bumpy roads, our team began preening our eyes to locate the cavernous potholes far in the distance, less we be thrown from the back of our brisk Lorie onto the narrow roadside. Our arrival in Sinde village was heralded by first de-crusting our teeth of the road grit, though we were soon repainted with leftover soot from the fire that would breathe on us during the four-hour church service.

This was the part of our journey that I had been resisting all week. Somehow, if I could serve the people in Zambia’s bush country without participating in a ride on the back of the Lorie or having my senses assaulted by the staining tendencies of the villages, it would make it more palatable for my senses.

The Sinde Service…

We ducked through the narrow doorway of the church in Sinde to find that the village had placed 9 “American” seats in a place of honor in the front of the congregation. Our team stalled awkwardly in the doorjamb, staring at the narrow 6-inch high, 4-inch wide shaved logs that the congregation sat on. We were humbled at the chairs the village had provided for us to sit on, and four hours later as the service rolled to a stop, we were immensely grateful that we could still feel our legs. Our team marveled collectively at the physical endurance required by the villagers to remain on such narrow seating for so long.

Enchanted by the female worship leader’s vivacious and engaging style, my heart was encouraged at the trust the Zambian Pastor placed in her abilities. With a baby in tow on her back, she was able to lovingly invite each participant, Zambian and American, into the worship experience through energetic songs, dance, and responsorial psalms. The worship experience in Sinde involved our entire being. It required our hearts, minds, hands, legs and mouths to be engaged and energized in responding to the Divine presence among us.

I found myself clapping my hands and tapping my toes to the rhythm in my heart as the music infected my spirit and the singing filled my lungs with a new breath. My face mirrored the joyful countenance of the congregation when my mouth was not attempting to form the Tongan lyrics. My mind was filled with a vision of the nations joined in song as I realized that at the very time we were worshipping, my church in Greensboro would be gathering for fellowship and song.

Touching the Untouched…

We participated in four hours of the Sinde service and the time seemed to race by us. The Sinde pastor asked our American pastor and male leaders to lay hands on those who had need in the church. Slowly, one-fourth of the church padded forward to be prayed for. One had bad dreams. Another had financial troubles. Three were ill. Many simply needed a reassuring touch from God. The Sinde pastor asked the women to step behind those being prayed for and lay hands on them as the men were praying.

One of the women being prayed for was very ill. She had a growth on the side of her face. Instinctively, I recoiled, wondering if she might be suffering from AIDS. As our Pastor reached out to pray for her, I felt a great resistance rise up within me as racing thoughts besieged my mind and heart, “What if she has AIDS? What if I touch her and get AIDS? She is sick, what if it is contagious? I can’t touch her. I might go home sick!” Though I knew cognitively the ridiculousness of my thoughts and understood that AIDS is non-communicable by touch, I could not stop my mind or move my leaden arms.

Her name was Rita and she stood alone. I remained at a safe distance. Untouched and untouchable. Immovable. Stayed in my struggle, unable to bend my mind to a person in need.

Rita waited, her head down, her hands open, her withered palms facing up. She was ready to receive. I was not able to give. She looked so innocent, I pondered the depth of her suffering and willed my legs to move closer. They would not.

“Why won’t you touch My people?”

Those words reached out to wreck my soul just as Isaiah was seared by the touch of the angel’s hot coal. My heart was holy-burned and my eyes opened at that moment. I imagined Jesus pushing beyond His fleshly fear to burst through the wall of separation as He stretched out His hand to touch the leper. They of His time had need of His warming caress and He was there to give. He saw their humanity, not their sores. 


I beat back the curtain of shame threatening to close me into its dark room of isolation and mentally unhinged my feet from the shackles of fear chaining them to the ground. I stretched out both hands and tore down the barrier between Rita and I. As my hands grasped her shoulders, I held on from my heart and connected with her. I connected with her pain and suffering, her desire for health, but most, I connected with her humanity.


All writings copyrighted by author (c) 10.19.2007

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