Susan: As we focus on Stories of Christ from around the world, my friend Robert shared this story of Joy with me from a KY Baptist Fellowship partner church in Morocco.
Last month I had the opportunity to journey to Rabat, Morocco to attend a meeting of Protestant Churches in Morocco. During this trip I was fortunate enough to worship with a migrant house church. I accompanied Jumel, who is employed by the church in Morocco, to connect with the migrant house churches across the country.
We went into one of the poorer neighborhoods of Rabat which is populated mainly by Sub-Saharan African migrants and poor Moroccans. The worship took place in a small, 3-room house located in the back of the neighborhood. I entered the house and was offered a seat right up front (not the first choice of most Baptists). The service had already begun and the congregation of 55 people was fully engaged in worship. They were literally packed into this small house – it was hot – and it had begun to rain onto the leaky roof. That did not put a damper on the worship that was taking place. It is important to note that these gatherings in house churches are illegal and are often interrupted by the police.
The entire service was in French, so I was at a major disadvantage. But one thing was very evident: these individuals were filled with joy and were expressing it through their songs, their prayers and their response to the sermon. As I sat in that service and took it all in, I was struck by the exuberance of the joy filling those rooms. Here were migrants in a country not their own, as Christians living in an Islamic society, unemployed or greatly underemployed and living in less than adequate conditions and yet, they were joyful. This was truly a gathering of what many of us would consider the “least of these”.
In spite of the conditions, this congregation was gathered together in worship - celebrating being a part of the family of God. Throughout the service it was amazing to watch the sincere and joyful worship taking place around me. I found myself questioning “how much joy would I have if I were in their shoes?” “How have we in the United States defined joy and how do we relate to God as God’s children?” I walked out of that two hour service with a new appreciation and understanding of what it means to be joyful. I was also challenged to find my way back to the roots of my joy in my relationship with Christ.