Whenever I go to a women’s conference there’s always something lacking: when we sing, I miss the men’s voices. My favourite singing voice is not the soprano! But I do love to listen to the Welsh Male Voice Choirs. Pardon my preferences, but give me a bass, baritone or tenor any day! So imagine how thrilled I was to see a few dozen men coming into our church’s evening service recently. They were so friendly and happy, warmly shaking our hands before they sat down in two blocks. Later, they stood up and sang for us and how I loved their wonderful harmonies!
I guessed where these men had come from. One of our branch churches is at Koo Wee Rup, the asparagus capital of Australia! One day a ‘little old lady’ – as the local pastor, her son, calls his mother – saw a man riding a bike past the church door. She ran out and called to him, ‘Why aren’t you in church?’ He replied, ‘I’ll be back’. The next week he returned with his fellow workers, all asparagus pickers. Since then, they’ve become part of the church family there and are a great blessing to the congregation.
They come to Australia regularly so they can earn money to send back home to their wives and children in Vanuatu. They’re very good workers and love to sing. Their bosses appreciate their work ethic and now we’ve had the pleasure of meeting them too.
A couple of weeks ago some of them came back to our church to sing for us again and lead the worship. Here they are in this skinny photo, crowded onto the platform! I’m sorry that it’s hard to see the ones at the back! How wonderful it was to participate while they sang songs in English. What fun we had when we tried to join in, even when they used pidgin, which some people in our congregation understand. I loved the way they clapped, swayed, raised their hands and harmonised beautifully. A wholehearted choir, glorifying God together. Lovely!
A couple of them also read from the Bible, in their own language and in ours. I admired their facility in English. When I think how little I know of any other language, I feel embarrassed. These people are successful at what they do. They make me wonder, How successful am I? I see that I can learn from them. I’m not a natural risk-taker, but they’ve taken risks that I never will. Leaving their homes for such long periods during the year is a big undertaking. They must miss their wives and children while they’re here.
As I’ve written before on this blog, we have regular Culture Nights in our church. Different nationalities in the congregation lead the worship and show us the way they danced and used drama and song in their birth countries. Bright garments, scarves floating from their hands above their moving bodies and different music styles make for regular experiences in cultural diversity for us all; something we’d never see otherwise.
I remember from my childhood how Vanuatu used to be called the New Hebrides. Missionaries went there with the Gospel of Jesus and taught the people about him. Times have changed and now they’re coming to our country. I love their smiling faces and wish I could meet their families. The church is a great place to start getting to know them. We all have the same Father. It will be great one day in heaven when we meet each other again and worship him together. In the meantime, we’re practising here!