Yesterday was Sunday. We went to church as we do every Sunday. Actually it was a special Sunday as we were ‘installing’ a new pastor. New to the church, not new to the ministry. Pastor Abdu and his wife Oumma and 3 year old daughter Beni were on the original team that traveled with us to Diffa. They pastored the church there. The church here in Niamey needed a boost, as the current pastor didn’t have the time to devote to growing it due to his busy schedule. Pastor Abdu was our first choice for a pastor here that would bring leadership and vision. Anyway, it turned out to be a great service as Pastor Omar stepped aside and encouraged the congregation to receive Pastor Abdu and family with open arms. A few tears were shed, but it all went well. Pastor Omar will be in more of an itinerant role, preaching in various churches on the weekends and doing evangelism, without the responsibilities of a pastor.
But that’s not exactly why I’m writing. Tobi got some money for Christmas. He wanted to buy a drum- conga style. “Why”, I asked, “You already have a drum.”
“Mom, that drum is too small”, was his reply.
Thursday we went to shop for his drum. Because the man who sells the drums considers Tobi his friend, he had to pay only about $25 for the drum instead of $30. While in the ‘store’ Tobi tested several drums carefully before choosing the best sounding one (according to his highly trained ear!). He played the drum on and off the next few days – umm, yes, it’s loud! Saturday night he asked me if he could bring his drum to church. I was a bit surprised, and the reason is because since our move to Niamey in August, he hasn’t really seemed ‘comfortable’ in church. He hasn’t really owned it like he did when we were in Maradi. It’s not that he said anything negative about church, but it was obvious that he didn’t quite feel like he fit. I can relate to that. Church in the ‘big city’ is much different than in a more rural, raw African setting. And then there’s the language difference. We know Hausa. Church here is done in French and Zarma. So…when he asked about the drum, I was both surprised and pleased. The next step would be to see if he’d actually play it. What was I thinking? When he’s decided to do something, he does it. He sat about halfway back in one of the sections of benches. I thought maybe he felt more comfortable hiding a bit. He started beating as soon as the music started. I motioned for him to come to the front. Without hesitation, he stood up, picked up his drum and with his silly half-grin, walked to the front. He situated himself and began to play. And he didn’t stop until the music stopped. He was quite good I might add. This church sings 1 hymn each Sunday. That was the only time he faltered. I realized it was because the hymn had more traditional ‘western’ rhythms – something he’s not at all used too. But he eventually figured it out enough to keep time. Then it was time for the choir to sing. He immediately picked up his drum (he was the guest musician, whether they invited him or not). While he was playing during praise and worship, he could be heard, but wasn’t particularly loud. During the choir, he was. But he really did complement them. It was great. After he was done, I whispered to Tobi that his drum playing was a way to worship God – and that beating the drum was even written in the Bible. He gave me a funny look and simply said, “I know Mom.”
Although he’ll always have a special drumbeat for Maradi, he’s beginning to feel at home in Niamey too. The drum says it all.