Do This in My Memory

by Erik Tryggestad

Worship with Christians in Togo and you'll likely drink fruit of the vine from a calabash-a hollowed-out gourd cut in half.

It's equally likely that you'll drink it in a mud building with a thatched roof-or under a tree, said Brett Emerson, a missionary who works with the Kabiye people in this West African nation.

Compared to most churches in the U.S., communion in Togo may seem informal, Emerson said. But the Kabiye consider the Lord's Supper to be a time of celebration.

"Their own traditional, animistic beliefs require a systematic series of sacrifices," he said, "and when they learn that Christ sacrificed himself once and for allthey are full of joy."

Around the globe, Christians begin each week by sharing in remembrance of Christ's sacrifice. The emblems of his body and blood vary slightly from place to place. At churches in eastern Nepal, for example, the fruit of the vine is green, reflecting the color of grapes that are easiest to obtain, said Abha Eli Phoboo, a church member from the capital city of Kathmandu.

How Christians take the emblems varies as well. In France, church members rise from their seats and form a line to take communion, said minister Jean Paul Hundley. The wait "does give more time to think about what you are doing," Hundley said.

Regardless of how it's taken, the meaning behind the Lord's Supper is universal, Hundley said. "We are remembering the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord."

For Christians abroad, communion with fellow saints can have profound meaning. In Saudi Arabia, where non-Muslim faiths gather in secret, small groups of believers meet to praise God and take the Lord's Supper, a church member working in the Middle Eastern nation told The Christian Chronicle.

"Sincere faith under duress is most fulfilling," said the church member, who requested that his name be withheld. Thousands of miles from home, it's easy to feel lonely, he added, but communion is a reminder of the constant presence of God.

"No matter where you are-in prison, in Africa or in Nashville, Tenn., your finest association is with Jesus Christ," he said.

Roger Pritchett, who served as a missionary in Kenya for eight years, thinks of his brothers and sisters in Africa-and the time difference that separates them-when he takes the Lord's Supper with his congregation in Little Rock, Ark.

"It is remarkable to think that at any given time-from sometime on Saturday until Monday-people around the world are celebrating the body and blood of Jesus in a way similar to me," Pritchett said.

"Our fellowship inthat sacred feast may be the single strongest bond among believers of all cultures this side of heaven."

From the May, 2008, issue
of The Christian Chronicle.
Reprinted with permission

Erik Tryggestad is assistant managing editor of The Christian Chronicle.

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