On Friday I ran into some fellow American missionaries in town. We were in agreement that it is much better to shop the weekend market on Friday or even Saturday than on Sunday, when the selection is better, but it is super crowded. One friend commented, “You know, it’s Sunday, and you’ve just been to church, and you’re tired…” We all grimaced and nodded.
I sat in church today and a wave of homesickness washed over me. Sundays are tough days for lots of church-going people. Ask any parent of young children, person who has lost a loved one, or someone who is new in town how it feels to go to church and you might be surprised just how difficult it is for them to make themselves do what they know is right.
For missionaries, who were usually involved in their church back home, we miss our friends, we miss feeling important, loved, and known. We miss eating with our friends or extended family after church. We miss the comfort of the familiar pews or seats, air conditioning, heating, carpet, even getting dressed up in “Sunday clothes” that no longer seems appropriate or convenient when we walk through the mud.
We miss the service, the way we’re used to doing it. We miss understanding the whole sermon. It takes a lot of effort to listen in a second language, especially if you’ve been on call at the hospital the night before. Man, oh man, we miss singing in our native language. Something I have heard many excellent second-and third-language speakers say that there is nothing like singing praises in your native tongue and that it never feels quite right any other way. An unusual amount of cultural differences can be observed and felt during a church service—the food, the interactions between people, the teaching, the way they sit down, stand up, clap, you name it. I think I feel most “different” or like a fish out of water on Sunday mornings.
We feel badly for our kids, who would much rather have “home church,” who don’t understand what is being said, who feel like “the gringos” too.
And we just attend church, a church with lots of foreigners. During our stay in Lima, we spent time with a family who is part of a pastoral team. Sunday means a long day of preparing for the worship, teaching Sunday school, time spent with new disciples, speaking Spanish, hosting them in their home. They have a thriving church and there is a lot of maintenance required. Our other friends haven’t found a place to serve in their church yet, even feel rejected and out of place although they moved there to help. Other friends in tough countries feel upset by the lack of attendees, longing to see their friends join in worship with them. Others are waiting for a more formal church to start, meeting to pray in their home with team members or one or two slow converts. Sundays for these friends mean waiting, hoping, asking the Father for help, and surely some homesickness for the churches they have known in the past.
So my plea is that you pick a group of people and pray for them on Sundays. You could pray for the underground church, new churches with few members, missionaries in foreign countries, people who are looking for a church, people who have just moved to your city, parents of young children, pastors’ families, people suffering a loss. I’m sure you can add to this list. We’ll pray too, where we are, thanking God for a group of believers and praying for Him to be magnified on Sundays wherever people meet.