Preface: This story is about a dark valley that brought me to the place of renewed focus and purpose. In our village we faced a very difficult trial when for 18 long months we were kept awake as many as five or even six nights a week by an all-night entertainment bar which used unbelievably loud speakers. But this was used by the Lord to help me keep my focus on why we had come to Sierra Leone and what was truly important. Happily the bar is now out of business but during those 18 months these are the sounds which greeted us most mornings. I call this the “Symphony of Morning Mayhem.”
Original journal entry: Saturday, December 18, 2010
II Corinthians 5:20 “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
It is four in the morning and the all night entertainment bar has increased their decibel level as it heads into the final hours of raucous noise pollution. I notice the ticking of my kitchen clock angrily reminding me of the earliness of the hour.
A few measures into this symphony we add the brass section: horns from the transport trucks begin alerting the groggy early morning travelers of their soon departure to distant villages, towns, and eventually the big city of Bo.
The wood winds begin their part in the voice of crowing roosters and an occasional barking dog. Between four forty-five and five o’clock the various mosques each have their own call to prayer. The resulting overlap with the bar makes for an interesting, dissonant blend and is a stark testimony to the culture: the bar owner and most attendees are Muslim, good Muslims they will tell you, yet they linger at the bar rather than attend morning prayer.
At five thirty in chimes the church bell to remind the non-Muslim community of their morning prayer meeting. This, however, is not actually a bell but part of a transmission retrieved from a decaying vehicle abandoned on the side of the dirt road. The rhythmic banging and clanging of this corroding hunk of metal could never be mistaken for the harmonic chiming of church bells.
Behind all of this, barely noticeable and almost forgotten, is the constant ticking of my clock. The night is far spent, the day is at hand.
By five forty-five the mosques have concluded their worship services, broadcast via loud speakers, and are finishing their final Arabic chant – a Capella by the imam in a wailing nasal falsetto. The last few horn blasts sound from the trucks before pulling out. The roosters have mostly concluded their farewell to the night.
Then, at six o’clock, while still quite dark, a hush falls over the town as though on cue from an unseen conductor’s baton. Here we enter the pastoral movement of our symphony – the bridge between the discordant, frenzied night sounds and the chaotic sounds of the day. The crickets hum, the frogs chirp, the grass rustles; peaceful, refreshing, pleasant — QUIET.
Yet, behind that is still the ticking of my clock; the ever present metronome of life reminding me that another day is now past and a new one is beginning, the vapor of which will all too quickly vanish away.
Enjoying the quiet I linger a little longer, listening to the last strains as the sounds shift. The night giving way to day, crickets replaced by the early twitter of birds, darkness displaced by light, rainy season consumed by dry, time exchanged for eternity . . .
And my clock keeps ticking urgently reminding me of the lateness of the hour.
Post Script: It amazed me how these sounds truly did follow a rhythmic time pattern each night and early morning, impressive for a place where time is inconsequential. Victory in this hard trial only came as I allowed the Lord to keep me focused on my purpose as an ambassador for Christ. The lesson this particular morning was deeply profound to me as I realized that being in Sierra Leone isn’t about me or my small comforts. It’s about lost souls in a desperately dark place.