I’m typing away in my hut when the sound of beating drums summons me outside. At first I think it is our girls praying in the front yard, but then I realize it’s actually coming from behind the huts, in the village. Hard to tell how far away…the intensity of the drums makes me think it’s not so far…yet it’s so very dark. I can barely see the tops of the huts against the night sky. In another direction I see the glow of a fire in the distance. Another sound added to the music…something I can’t quite distinguish. It’s not familiar, but it’s pleasing nonetheless. There is wooping, clapping and the high-pitched Acholi woman celebration cry (ayiyiyiyi!!). I wish I could capture that sound and replay it on those days that it starts to fade from my memories. For now, I’m grateful that it is so familiar.

I stand all alone surrounded by the darkness, just listening and appreciating the beauty of the seemingly limitless stars across the sky, some blinking more brightly than others. There is a brief flash of lighting…heat lighting. The crickets chirp and remind me of summer nights spent outside star gazing with my Dad, waiting to catch that rare falling star. I always seemed to miss them, but Dad never did. The drums bring me back to the present…pounding in unison…there are several playing simultaneously now. I envision the people sitting around a fire, the men banging the drums and the women dancing along to the beats.

I fight the urge to dance along, coyly swaying my hips back and forth the way I’ve seen the Acholi women do so many times before. I thank God for music, singing, dancing, beauty, joy, resilience and contentedness. I take it all in, recognizing the moment of peace that God had granted me. A woman laughs heartily which makes me smile…it’s contagious. I wish I could see her face as she laughs. It sounds like the kind where you grab your belly and cry…I love those kind. They chant too. I wish I knew what they were saying, yet I feel I know everything I need to at the same time.

I wish my family and friends could experience more moments like this with me, maybe then they could understand better. But you can’t transfer a feeling can you? The chills you get when you have an inspirational conversation, hear the beat of an African drum like its beating in your heart, or feel the very presence of God in a small child, in a neglected person, in a moment….no, you can’t. Those things are not transferrable; they must be felt from within. How will I ever be able to make anyone understand this with words? Will I ever be able to share it in a way that makes sense to people?…in a way that makes people want to know God more?…in any way at all? Will I lack the words, or perhaps worse, sense the corresponding lack of genuine desire to know, to learn, to feel that is so often poorly disguised in the form of polite small talk?

…“It was great, thanks.”