Easter Sunrise Service on the Congo
When I woke up at 4:00 AM it was raining hard. My brain went to work on options. We had planned a sunrise Easter service on a hill overlooking the Congo river in the very spot where Henry Morton Stanley made his camp in the late 1800's. I was afraid that a torential tropical downpour might dampen our enthusiasm.
We could try to fit everyone inside nearby Simm's chapel, which is the oldest standing building in Kinshasa. But, the chapel would be much too small for the crowd that we expected. Really the only option was to pray. So pray we did. The rains stopped just as we were leaving our house for the river.
When we arrived it was still dark, but already men from the congregation were setting up plastic chairs on the hillside facing the river. The choir was there and musicians began to arrive. I wondered if people would be discouraged by the rains, but soon a line of headlights appeared on the road and families with sleepy children began to arrive.
We began the service promply at 6:00 AM as the sun rose over the Congo river. We could see fishermen in dug out canoes casting their nets. There was a hint of a roar coming from the impassible rapids nearby. The rains had freshened everything, made everything seem clearer and cooled off the city. What a great blessing to share Resurrection Sunday with others on that hill.
Like many pastors, I was busy up front before the service making sure that everyone had what they needed for their part in the service. When I stood up to welcome everyone and pray I was surprised at all the people who came out so early on Sunday and so close to a rain. I felt that the Holy Spirit had encouraged us all to be there on this special occasion.
We started the service by repeating the ancient Christian creed "He has risen, He has risen, indeed". We sang great Easter hymns. The choir did a wonderful job with their special music. Charles Jones, from International Ministries read the scripture for us. Ray Schooler, also from IM, gave a very encouraging sermon on the crucifixion and resurrection from Peter's perspective. There was a show-stopping moment when, just as Ray was explaining Peter's horrible realization that he had just denied Jesus for the third time, a rooster crowed loudly from the yard next door. It couldn't have been timed better.
After the service we had a wonderful time of fellowship with coffee and cakes. Many people stayed around for a long time just to look at the river and meditate. Others, chatted and enjoyed the company. I heard many encouraging words spoken. It was a great ending to a great Easter sunrise service.
He has risen.
He has risen, indeed !
( “... You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here..." - Mark 16:6)