[SLIDESHOW=38764,38765]MBERENGWA, Zimbabwe (BP) — A group of American songwriters, worship leaders and ministers gathered near a fire in Zimbabwe as children approached them, hearing the strum of guitars.
The 16 volunteers welcomed the children into their circle located in the in the middle of an orphan care facility. They seized the opportunity to share English Gospel music with the Shona speakers, harmonizing to songs like “Everlasting God.”
[VIMEO=105392154]About 20 children returned the favor. They sang, clapped and joyfully danced around the campfire. Within moments, David Gentiles, a songwriter and worship leader in Huntsville, Texas, found himself standing on a chair playing the guitar while orphans and other Americans sang, danced and laughed together.
“It was awesome to dance and to celebrate the good news of Jesus!” Kevin Jones, worship pastor at Stonegate Church in Midlothian, Texas, said. “They worship Jesus not just with their lips but with their hearts.”
All week long, the men engaged in worship at the orphanage and at local schools, where they shared their music, the Gospel and gifts of notebooks provided by advocates of the International Mission Board’s ‘One Notebook’ project. Since many of these Zimbabwean children did not own notebooks, the project helped meet a need and shared a Gospel message and a True Love Waits statement about sexual purity presented on the brown covers.
As the group traveled from school to school, many conversations arose about what makes African praise music so uniquely different from standard American worship.
“[Their faith] becomes not about ‘my pilgrimage’ but about ‘our pilgrimage,'” IMB missionary Gregg Fort, who hosted the volunteers earlier this year, said. “That’s what I love about Africa.”
Jones noted that American worship is more individualistic. “Here in Zimbabwe it’s quite the opposite … it is very family-oriented,” he said. “There is a celebration that literally causes them to dance.”
Around the campfire each night, the team brainstormed ways to incorporate African-style worship into their music for the next day’s events. They added snaps and claps to familiar songs like “Soon and Very Soon.” Throughout the week, they challenged one another to use what they had learned back home in the United States.
“It’s going to change the way we write songs and view worship,” Hank Murphy, songwriter and worship leader at The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., said. “I want for us to have an explosion of responding to the goodness of God!”
Learn more about the One Notebook project by clicking here.