Two Palms Up

I can hear the beating of the drum from the street. We walk down the beaten path, and I have to lift up my new Rwandan dress to keep the bottom of the skirt from collecting dust. We turn the corner to find a small building with glassless windows, the singing and dancing from within erupting out of the walls.

We enter amidst an overwhelming welcome, and I find a place in the back row of wooden benches. Everywhere, people are dancing, clapping, singing. The entire right side of the building is filled with children of all ages jumping up and down, and among the adults dancing on my side there are two women shaking tins full of rice. They clap and dance to their own beat, but they all sing the same words. It’s seems to be a repeated phrase chanted in Kinyarwanda.

“What are they singing?” I ask the MOC guard who has brought me to his church.

“Our God gives us good gifts,” he says.


For the rest of worship, I clap my hands and can’t wipe the smile off my face, though I don’t understand the words I am trying to hum along to. After each of the four choirs has taken a turn leading us in songs on stage, the pastors bring all of us visitors up to the front to introduce ourselves to the congregation.

“Muraho,” I say as a greeting into the microphone, and everyone in the church laughs because the only white person in the building is attempting to speak Kinyarwanda. I tell them that I’m incredibly happy to be there. That I come from America, and I’m so thankful for their welcome and hospitality. They smile and nod and continue to laugh, and I begin to wonder if it’s my accent or the fact that I’m trying pull off the same outfit as the dozens of Rwandan women in front of me.

With that, I go back to my seat and for the next four hours, we praise the blood of Jesus. It is the overwhelming theme throughout three sermons, multiple choir performances and many, many prayers. One hundred Rwandans and one mzungu rejoicing in the fact that we are covered– covered— by His death on the cross and the sacrifice that He became for all on Calvary.

Our God gives us good gifts.

Throughout the entire service, I can only pick out one word without the help of my translator. A word that keeps appearing throughout each song and from the mouth of each pastor that transcends languages and continents and races and skin colors.


The God of Israel. The God who promises to bring His people out of their chains and into the freedom of His promises. The God who– through blood of the Lamb that was spilt for all of humankind– promises us the same.

And when I hear the word, I smile. Because I’m going through Leviticus; a book about Yahweh– the God of Israel– that used to be a boring explanation about sacrifice requirements for sin, but is one that has come alive to me in Rwanda. It is no longer ancient instruction for a chosen people. It’s a reminder of the DEBT Christ paid for ME.

Our God gives us good gifts.

The service ends, and the pastor invites me into his home for lunch. We eat and talk– as much as can be said in broken English– and we pray. After we say ‘Amen,’ I ask if they wouldn’t mind translating, and the head pastor peers at me through circular glasses and says, “We thanked the Lord for choosing to bring you here to Rwanda. And we asked that you might return changed, telling everyone what you have seen.”

Our God gives us good gifts.

I thank them for lunch. My guard and I hop on ‘motos’ back to the MOC and as the wind hits my face, the blessings hit my heart. Eucharisteo after eucharisteo.

I’m finding them a bit difficult to digest, though.

Over the past week, I’ve watched three dear friends– including both of my roommates– head back to the States. On the back of that ‘moto,’ I’m wishing they could have been in attendance with me. I felt like I had just settled in, when their departures nudged me right out of my comfort zone.

Why is it still so difficult to open ourselves up to the uncomfortable? Why do we hesitate in allowing Yahweh– the One who has held the world in His hands for thousands of years– hold our own lives?

Our God gives us good gifts.

I don’t want to ever be comfortable. I want my life to be one uncomfortable leap to the next, with open hands and open heart to wherever He may lead me. But I can say that, and I can write about demolition days and Rwandan rain, but what am I truly living out when I’m nowhere near comfortable?

What’s a heart to do when–as difficult as it may be– it desires to remain out of its comfort zone?

The answer is right there in a song in a small Rwandan church. It’s declared by a chorus of voices who don’t have much of the ‘comfort’ the materialistic Western world would say is necessary.

The answer is in their sermons. It’s in their prayers. And it’s in a crucifixion and a resurrection that took place so many years ago.

Our God gives us good gifts.

I choose to keep counting. Keep counting the gifts because a heart bent low in praise cannot also stand with wobbling knees or a shaking fist. Grace is all around– in or out of our comfort zones– if we choose to see

…The bracelet slipped on my wrist by a small Rwandan preschooler.

…Monopoly games with MOC students and staff.

…Skype working long enough for me to see faces from the States.

….A message from Brittany; encouragement from the mzungu in the States to the mzungu in Rwanda.

Our God gives us good gifts.

In every season. In every shade.

2 thoughts on “Two Palms Up

  1. Cindy Scharkey says:

    counting the gift with you as i read…
    with tears streaming down my face.
    our GOD gives us GOOD gifts.
    you are my counted gift today.
    i love you!

  2. Tom Allen says:

    Our God gives good gifts: Kristen Scharkey IS eucharisteo to so many in Rwanda.

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