We stepped out of the small taxi and paid him for his time. He thanked us respectfully and eased off down the dirt alleyway as we stepped through the gate into the church yard. It was five minutes till 4pm, when the service was to start.
"Jaymasee...Jaymasee." (Victory in Christ) Everyone greeted us with soft voices and hands pressed together. Many spoke broken English. We slipped our shoes off and stepping into the dark two-room building and met Pastor Bedu, the young pastor of a 70 member church in Pokhara, Nepal. Some of the team sat down on the four chairs that had been brought in for us. The rest of the church would sit on the floor. I walked up to the front to see if I could prepare myself to lead worship in the few minutes I had left before the service started.
The young Nepali man that led their worship introduced himself. He led with guitar. I silently wished that I could, also. He stood next to the wall, flicking a light switch intermittently. Nothing was happening. "No electricity. It will come on at 4pm." Nepal's electricity is created through hydroelectric plants and this was the dry season. So electricity was rationed to certain hours of the day in certain parts of the city.
Suddenly, it worked. 4pm, on the dot. The one light bulb in the middle of the room came. "Ah! Ok. Here. This we get for you." He pointed out a toy keyboard set on top of stand next to the pulpit. It was about two and a half octaves long (perhaps 2.5 feet) and looked like "My First Keyboard". It had 6 or 8 different sounds it could make. The keys were about half an inch in diameter--perfect for a child to play. Two of the keys were duck-taped together. So, if you played one, they both played. Suddenly, I desperately, desperately wished that I knew how to play guitar.
"Ah, thank you very much!" I smiled at him and began looking over the few (but important) settings. I realized that they had very little and it probably took some effort to produce this keyboard for me to use. It would be very rude for me to not use it. I immediately turned to him and asked him to play with me. I pointed out my chord charts and offered him one. Shyly, he bobbled his head and agreed.
After the Nepali worship, which was lively and full-voiced with lots of hand-held noisemakers, I was asked to come up and lead worship. After I introduced myself, I prayed and jumped right into "I Am Free" by Jon Egan and Desperation Band. I played the bass note with one finger on my left hand and a chord with my right hand. The Nepali worship leader strummed hesitantly, trying to find the rhythm. I sang strongly and, despite sounding like a five year old's Tonka toy concert, soon people were joining in with the repetitive chorus. Then the noisemakers started and it was a regular noise-fest of awkward worship to God. I began encouraging the congregation to pray for their families, their church, and their city, Pokhara (pronounced: "PO-car-ah"). Of course, I pronounced it "po-CAR-ah".
I transitioned like a train wreck into "Open The Eyes Of My Heart". My wonderful Nepali worship leader tried to slow his rhythm and match me, while energetic Nepali church people were still banging their noise makers to a high tempo beat. Then suddenly, the power to the toy keyboard went out. The power cord had some loose. I kept banging, but nothing was happening. Undaunted...(well, more like).... Terrified, I began to sing even louder. Realizing that the guitarist and my melody were not on the same chord, I began pointing at the chords on the chart at the time they needed to be played. He tried to follow along but inevitably changed chords at the wrong time, conflicting with the melody I was singing. All the while, the congregation was going to town on their noise makers. It was pure, gut-wrenching, pandemonium to me.
But then something began to happen. People were lifting their hands. Some had their eyes closed and others were pressing forward as they all began to sing in unison, "Holy, holy, holy, I want to see you." They were worshiping! They were actually worshiping! It shocked me and then encouraged me. If they could worship to this, then so would I.
After that song, one of the team came up to encourage the young church for a few minutes. While he spoke, my Nepali friend and I tried to get the power cord to stay in the slot. It cut in and out for the next song which was more distracting then having it on all the time. I prayed a few more times over "po-CAR-ah" and then I finally didn't use keyboard at all for the last song. And through it all, they worshiped.
After I sat down, trembling, horrified, in awe and humbled by the amazing Nepali people, our host whispered excitedly, "Great job!" I responded without thinking, "That was rough!" He smiled and shook his head. I realized that it was time for me to be quiet.
Kenneth spoke and was well received. After the service was over, we stayed to pray with people. A line formed quickly and people came forward for prayer for all sorts of things, including sickness, financial difficulty, family issues, demonic harassment, bad dreams, and marriage trouble. We prayed until they brought out food. From the tiny kitchen in the back of the building, they brought out enough Dal Baht to feed everyone there. People lingered long into the night. They were so encouraged to have visitors come spend time with them. And we were so happy to be there with them. It was an incredible night that I will never, ever forget.
Moral of the story for me:
More people need to go visit this incredible church.
It is not about me. It is not about me. It is not about me!
And I really need to learn to play guitar.