The air was hot and still. It was 4am and pitch black.
The town dogs had stopped barking and the donkeys were silent. Nothing disturbed the hot air in the house apart from the rats under our bed and Paul Quincey’s gentle snoring… Then… “Good Morning Sefi Beret”! The Muslim call to prayer blasted out across the town at ear shattering volume. PQ was no longer snoring! An hour later it was the turn of the Orthodox Christians, who continued until 7am. A brief moment of quiet and then it was the turn of the Mulu Wongel (full Gospel) Church to sing and preach until dusk.
Thus the dusty town of Sefi Beret welcomed the third day of celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of its church.
The church compound, surrounded by a corrugated iron fence and large gates was the size of a football pitch. To the left was a large temporary canvas, to shelter from the sun the thousands of faithful who had travelled for this special event. Dry grass was spread on the ground as a carpet and plastic chairs placed in regimental rows.
The congregation, in a variety of brightly coloured Sunday best clothes, enthusiastically swayed and clapped to the worship songs led by a local chap who had learned to play the keyboard from YouTube. Speakers connecting right back to the founding of the church gave earnest messages celebrating their heritage and their hopes for the future. PQ spoke, bringing greetings from CPA who have been associated with this community for over 20 years.
All present were fed breakfast, lunch, and supper and were accommodated for the full three-day event. Countless goats and oxen were slaughtered to feed the thousands, along with endless supplies of injura made by ladies from the Sefi Beret church; a celebration feast of Biblical proportions.
The event culminated in the opening of a new concrete church with a tin roof, which had been built by the community over several years. PQ was invited to accompany a little girl who carried scissors on a pink cushion, to cut the ribbon (to whoops of joy) and to declare the new church open; a great honour for CPA. Immediately everyone crowded in and the young people spontaneously danced and sang.
The old men and women, who had founded the church and had suffered persecution under the communist dirge, now stood weather beaten and scarred with their hands raised. They prayed over the younger generation that they would continue to be a light in the community and that God willing, they would be back in another 50 years to celebrate both the golden jubilee of the new church and the centenary of the church in Sefi Beret.