On Saturday, 125 youth from various local churches gathered at our organization’s headquarters for a celebration organized by Calton to commemorate 505 years since the publication of Luther’s 95 theses marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  The day began with breakfast, opening remarks, prayer, and a reading of Psalm 46.  Three guest speakers lectured on “A Panoramic Vision of the Protestant Reformation”, “Challenges and Paths for the African Reformation”, and “The Christian’s Devotional Life”.  Several choirs and soloists presented music.  I sang an original song in the tribal language while accompanying myself on guitar, then later played several numbers on violin.

After the hardworking volunteers served up a lunch of rice, beans, salad, and soft drinks, everyone returned to their seats on the pavilion for a singing and poetry contest.  I headed up the panel of four judges and devised a system whereby each one’s independent rankings would be added together to produce the final result, using the system I’d learned years ago while judging speech competitions.  It worked like a charm and although our rankings weren’t identical, we were all satisfied with the first, second, and third place winners for both poetry and singing.

The very first contestant in the first category, poetry, not only ended up taking first prize, but also brought the day’s highlight for me:  an impassioned delivery of a lengthy original poem developing and reiterating the theme, “Let’s return to the Scriptures!  The Bible is our authority!”  His brother, one of the guest speakers, won second prize with his piece proclaiming that it started with Luther, but now it’s our turn to carry the reformation forward.  Third place went to a humble but profound two verses about Christ’s death on the cross.

The first place in singing was awarded to Jacinta, whom I’d met a year and a half previously when she’d come to me for counseling, weighed down with her sin and reluctant to accept the Biblical reality that Jesus’ blood is powerful enough to cleanse her from it all.  The Holy Spirit soon touched her with His grace and I was privileged to witness her heart’s transformation as we continued meeting.  Today she shared her testimony in church, and in December she’ll marry a Godly young man who came into her life this year.  Her prizewinning solo was a heartfelt piece proclaiming, “Christ took my guilt and suffered in my place”.  Second place went to one of the first Mozambican gals I’d met upon my arrival five years ago, singing about “the narrow way”.  The third place winner accompanied himself on guitar as he used both of our local languages in a simple but moving song about devotion to Christ that had many in the audience singing along by its end.

May God continue to raise up talented African poets and musicians who use their skills for His glory!

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