We heard these words often at La Casa Grande. The children there LOVE to sing, and love to learn new songs. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that every child there (including the 2 year olds) knows about 60 songs off by heart - church songs. Quite possibly more. And anyone, from the toddlers to the teenagers, can be called on at any morning devotion to choose and start a song for the group. Same goes for praying. Any of them can be asked to pray before the meal, and they all do it. There's no such thing as saying "no" to this request.
|telling a story at morning devotions|
Our 2 children are not used to being called on in these ways, so there were stunned looks when they were asked to lead a song or pray in front of the whole group at La Casa Grande. I usually intervened and helped them out, but these experiences gave me pause. They made me wonder (again) why we don't expect more of our children.
Zoe already wrote about the expectations for doing chores and being involved around La Casa Grande, and this is another example of the children's involvement.
I think that sometimes in our circles, we don't want to embarrass someone or put them on the spot by asking them to pray out loud or lead a song - even adults. But this is a foreign idea to people in Benin. While Zoe and Eden were embarrassed to be asked to do these things, their Beninese friends were asking them to do them as a sign of honour, respect, and inclusion. To deny would be to imply we didn't want to be included.
It's a stretch for me too, praying out loud. Especially in French. :)
During this past month, our children have learned more about prayer. They thank God for the new experiences of every day. They pray when they are worried about their parents not being able to flag down a taxi in time to get us all to the Paris airport. They prayed at Ouidah, the slave port in Benin, pleading with God that this type of tragedy will never be repeated. They prayed when they were feeling sick on a bumpy car ride to Cotonou. They prayed that they would somehow see their friends from La Casa Grande again.
When our friends dropped us off at the Cotonou airport, they sang us a song. At our farewell evening at La Casa Grande, they went around the circle and each of the 31 children said something in appreciation. Many of them sang a song - some were solos, and some started songs and the others joined in. These children have the language, even the 2 year olds, to bless others. They said things like "May God bless you, and may God accompany you in your journey home."
Singing is part of every day, from morning devotions, where 3-4 children are called on to choose and start singing a song, to singing while you are doing chores, to singing in their bunks at night. One of the sweetest sounds I heard in our time in Benin was the singing that came from the girls' house at bedtime: beautiful, pure voices joined together to thank God for the day, mixed with the sound of crickets. And still, if I pause for too long to think about it, I get all choked up.
Our friends in Benin sing all the time, and they pray all the time too. Before leaving on a trip, you pray. When you get back from a trip, you pray. When we visited a hospital in Benin that was started by Mennonites, we prayed for the ongoing work of the hospital. Before someone speaks at morning devotions, you pray. After someone speaks, you pray. After a visit at someone's house, you pray. You can never pray too many times in the day in Benin.
And honestly, when you've driven on the roads here, you can see why you pray then thank God for a safe journey. But it makes me think about the control that I think I have - how I don't pray before I drive somewhere in Canada because I think I'm in control. This "pray every day, pray all the time" kind of mentality orients your day in a different way - towards God, towards something bigger than yourself.
I've put together a few snippets of music - some at different church services, some at La Casa Grande children's home - for you to hear a bit of Beninese singing.