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A deeper journey: lament and praise

Having completed their first term of ministry in North Australia, CMS missionaries Derek and Rosemary Snibson have just returned to location from Home Assignment. Reflecting on ministry and what they have learned from the indigenous church, they have rediscovered the importance of lament and praise.  

We have been reflecting on life and worship while in Melbourne for Home Assignment and have enjoyed learning some new praise songs and hymns that some of the churches are using. 

After experiencing worship and fellowship gatherings in remote areas and Darwin, it seems that ‘lament’ as part of worship often seems to be missing from our Western mindset. Indigenous people very quickly ask for and choose songs about hope in their struggles; getting ready to meet with Jesus or about his second coming.  

This is a community of lament with so many funerals and layers of grief. For Christians here, the only hope is that Jesus rose from the dead and he is coming back some day. 

Funerals are a big event in Aboriginal culture. People travel from far and wide to attend. There is a lot of expense for families including the flight back to country, and the coffin: it can take months to arrange. Another factor is the weather. Most funerals are conducted in the dry season, so people can attend when the flood water is down. A remote community could have up to 20 funerals in a row over the dry season. We observed that people then experienced layer upon layer of grief each week, almost punch drunk with sorrow. 

This is a community of lament with so many funerals and layers of grief. For Christians here, the only hope is that Jesus rose from the dead and he is coming back some day. 

We remember a particularly sad funeral at Ngukurr. Songs were sung as people wept around the coffin. One of the old church leaders stood near the front. She is very tall and moved between draping herself over the coffin in tears and standing to lift her hands in praise to the Father, who wipes away tears and raises the dead.  

Both lament and praise were strong and profoundly held together in her faith.  

There is a lot we can learn from Aboriginal Christians. As they face struggles and despair, their pain is coupled with the living hope that Jesus knows the darkness of Gethsemane and abandonment on the cross. He died and rose for them, is with them through it all and will one day return to lift up those weighed down and make all things just and new. They have reminded us, at times like these; that God’s promised presence and call to praise and mission are not in ‘lockdown’. 

“But you have saved us from our foes,..  

In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever…     

O Lord…why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? 
For we sink down to the dust: our bodies cling to the ground. 
Rise up, come to our help, redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.”   [Psalm 44:7a,8,24-26] 

 PRAY 

Give thanks that God hears our lament and praise. Ask him to continue equipping and enabling the ministry of Indigenous Christians and CMS missionaries as they serve alongside them.