How can I keep from singing?

By Chris Elliott

Chris Elliott, who is a volunteer with the Church of the Brethren Global Mission program in the Africa Great Lakes region, sent in this reflection from the Great Lakes Bible School in Gisenyi, Rwanda. Please find a prayer request for the violence occurring over the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the city of Goma, in this week’s Brethren bits:

During the early hours of a recent morning, I was awakened by the sound of bombs exploding some distance away. Across the border from us, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there are frequent skirmishes between rebels and the government forces. It is not uncommon for us to hear gunfire and explosions. There is no imminent danger to us here, but knowing that others are facing death and destruction is disconcerting to say the least.

The following morning, Wednesday, we gathered at the church for the weekly “Morning Glory.” It is a one-hour prayer and praise service that begins at 5 a.m. About 30 church members typically attend, and when the Bible school is in session, the students and staff attend as well. Along with prayer and a devotional message, there is singing and dancing. As is the tradition in African church services, it is very participatory.

Bible school students assist with the daily task of food preparation. Photo by Chris Elliott

The service concludes each week promptly at 6 o’clock, just as the sun is rising. On this occasion, as we were walking the path back to the house, it occurred to me that it had been during this same hour that I heard the bombing just the day before. Whether or not such an event had happened on this morning, I had no idea, as our singing would have drowned out any such noise.

A track on Joseph Helfrich’s album “While I’m Here” (available from is titled “When I’m Gone.” It is a song about many of the things he won’t be doing once his earthly life is over, so he’ll have to do them while he’s here. “I won’t be singing louder than the guns” is the line that came to my mind on this day.

In no way am I suggesting that we make a lot of noise so that we can ignore the suffering of others. This is not a call for Jesus’ followers to bury their heads in the sand. But it is a reminder of the beautifully compelling message that we share in song. In spite of the wars and rumors of war that plague our human existence, we have a song to sing! We have hope, we have joy, we have salvation! Jesus is King!

— Chris Elliott, writing from Gisenyi, Rwanda


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