power of forgiveness…

He was standing, arms held high… singing quietly with his eyes heavenward.  And I was amazed.

I attend a church in which part of our shared vision and mission is to cross barriers – to bring together people that were previously divided.  I love being a part of something so powerful and meaningful.  It isn’t always easy and it isn’t always pretty… as we have people from all races, colours, backgrounds, socioeconomic divides, etc…  Sometimes that looks messy, or we don’t understand each other so feelings might get hurt, etc.  But yet, I still love it!

A few months ago I was standing at the back of church during worship – the singing part of church.  I love singing (even though I am not terribly gifted in this area) and I was thoroughly enjoying myself standing at the back, where not too many people could see my attempts at rhythm (dancing a bit) or hear my “occasionally off-key” voice.  This particularly day, the worship leader introduced a new song – and it happened to be an Afrikaans song.  Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch and was first spoken by the Dutch settlers in South Africa.  If you know the history of South Africa, you know that people of colour were oppressed by a white government during the Apartheid era.

Under this Apartheid government, blacks, Indians and other people of colour were discriminated against and not allowed the same privileges as the whites.  One of the most famous protests against the Apartheid government was the Soweto Uprising, where more than 20,000 young black students rallied against Afrikaans being used as the main language of instruction in school.  The protest ended terribly, with police opening fire and killing at least 176 confirmed unarmed school children.  Some reports estimate as many as 700 students were killed.  So incredibly sad.

The impact of that horrifying day continues, as it is remembered as Youth Day each year on June 16th. The photo below is a famous one, captured that day, of the death of Hector Petersen, the first black student killed during the uprising.

The young boy being carried was one of the confirmed dead.  His sister runs beside...

The young boy being carried was one of the confirmed dead. His sister runs beside…

So with all this history in mind – picture this.

We have a worship band with a white Afrikaans pianist, a black Zulu drummer,  a white English guitar player and a black Zulu vocalist.  The first song that day was a zulu song.  A middle aged Zulu man (he would have been a primary school student during the latter years of Apartheid) from a nearby rural townships sits with his wife and two children.  He remains sitting during the Zulu song.  I can see him singing but he stays on his chair.  The second song is a new Afrikaans song that the band is teaching us.  As the song starts, I watch him rise to his feet, join in the chorus, and raise his hands to heaven.  I can even hear his voice, haltingly singing those Afrikaans words…

Why?  Why the change in his posture when this new song was introduced.  A song in a language that his peers had fought against…  a song in a language that had represented pain and discrimination against his race in the past.  He stayed on his feet for the entire song, worshipping with his whole heart and soul in a language not his own.

I didn’t speak to him to find out what made the song so special… but I learned something that day.  When God breaks down divisions, He heals our past hurts and eases the pain that we have caused each other.  When we can worship Him out of that pain – in the language that we used to fight against, how much more powerful and meaningful that must feel!  To be freed from anger, pain and hurt.  To walk with your head high – knowing you can sing and worship in a language that used to represent everything that was against you – but God has redeemed you from the past.

The power of forgiveness.  Nothing compares.



4 Responses to power of forgiveness…
  1. Rachel V Reply

    Wow Mish! Captivating…!

    Thanks for sharing xxxx

    • Michelle Reply

      Thanks Rachel. Love and hugs to you!

  2. Ruth Reply

    Michelle, don’t you love it when we catch glimpses of God and the really important stuff. That is what your blog equals to me today. A glimpse of something much bigger than what it looks at first glance. Thank-you.

    • Michelle Reply

      You captured that precisely in your words “bigger than what it looks like at first glance.” It feels like moments like that are what our world needs. Grace and forgiveness and a willingness to move ahead.

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