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The Ashes: A Celebration in Zimbabwe

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The smells. The smoke. The bells. The masses.

 

The Roman Catholic Cathedral in Gweru, Zimbabwe is constructed to hold as many people as possible. Tonight, I watched thousands pour onto the small wooden benches. Then, the service began.

 

The words weren’t different. Based on the structure of the service, I could’ve been in any Roman Catholic Church in the world. I wasn’t.

 

People began to beat drums mightily. The masses started to glide down the aisle. The swaying. The claps. The movement. One by one, people returned from the altar with ashes ascribed to their foreheads. When it was my turn, I just started to move.

 

God was in the thumb that pressed the ashes against my forehead. God was in the ashes. God was in the lights. During those moments, God was everywhere.

 

By the time I returned to my seat, the entire congregation was standing in song. The words were familiar. “All to Jesus I surrender…All to him I freely give…” People were singing as loud as they could. I was too. Tears fell down my face. The power of Jesus to bring the world together was not lost on me. I was in it.

 

I didn’t want it to end.

 

Maybe it won’t.

 

Amen.

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