Before today, I had never though I would encounter a road that would be better traversed via pack mule than automobile. But such roads exist, and I spent the better part of the day on them.
A small caravan of us bounded across dirt and gravel roads through the backwoods of Croatia to visit house churches. When I say “house church,” envision nine people in a farmhouse’s dark, shabby-but-clean kitchen, sitting on rickety wooden chairs, singing joyfully, but out of tune. The “joyfully” bit matters more than the “in tune” part, so everyone was happy.
I must admit, though I have experinced a lot of things, I have never worshipped anywhere where a herd of sheep listened in, nor where roosters shouted periodic “hallelujahs”.
The only way to navigate a sermon given in a language other than your own is to make a game of it. See how much you can decipher. Croatian is in no way related to English. German, French, Spanish, and a handful of other foreign languages sound similar enough to English that one can generally figure out what’s going on. No such luck listening to Croatian. Croatian is the liguistic lovechild of Russian and German, mingled with something that almost sounds Chinese to my untrained ear. But Bible words tend to sound the same in every language. God…Jesus Christ…amen. The really important words sound the same, somehow.
Prayer especially seems to be a kind of universal language. Prayer is always given in the same tone of voice, with heads lowered and eyes closed. Then it’s easy to join in, in your heart, echoing he sounds of praise inside you, even if your spoken words would not be understood. God speaks all tongues. After all, He gave us the toungues that form the words.
Bouncing back down the roads, I watched each village acquire a little more civilization as they passed us by. Broken down farms turned into more efficient ones. Brick houses became houses shod in stucco. Gravel turned to asphalt. Flatness replaced the untamed roll of the hills we had left behind. But I had left behind a small number of hearts that loved the Lord in exchange for a city full of people who may never know Him by name. Now will they care to.
Somehow I know I’ll be back down that road one day. Where two or three are gathered, God is in the midst of them. I will always be happy to be where God is.