Joe Pormai found the guitar works just as well as the piano to reach across cultural and language barriers to connect with children.
Photo: Tom Bruckart
Last year, I arrived at my placement site in Hamburg, Germany, during winter Christmas celebrations. It was amazing to see how Advent is celebrated in other parts of the world. Streets everywhere were decorated with lights and the traditional four red candles surrounded by twenty-one small white candles in churches and other public places. Each one of the red candles represents one week of Advent leading to Christmas. Each white candle represents a day leading to Christmas. Each week, the Advent celebrations intensified, with fireworks all over the city. It was indeed a life changing experience for me, coming from Sierra Leone.
As a Global Mission Fellow, I work as a ministry assistant primarily with three programs at two United Methodist churches active in responding to the social needs of people in the margins of society: Hamm Church and the Hamburg International Congregation. One of my responsibilities is working with the children in the Children’s Ministry.
Pastor Silk, the Children’s Ministry teacher, introduced me to the children at the Hamburg center. But, when the children first saw me, they were afraid, crying and cowering. At first, I thought there could be no place for me in their midst. Saddened, I left the hall for a moment.
But then, I reentered the hall and sat at the piano on the other side of the room. I started playing songs like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” When I turned around, I saw the children coming toward me. It was like God had directed me to use the piano to break barriers between me and the children. It was great joy, and I felt so good.
From that moment, any time they see me, the kids run to the piano and start to nod their heads. I scheduled Thursday afternoons for music sessions with them. Indeed, there is music in our souls that help to break barriers – barriers of loneliness, discouragement, stress, sorrow and trauma.
This situation reminded me of when God asked Moses, “What do you have in your hand?” Moses said, “A rod.” God told Moses to use the rod in his hand to divide the red sea to liberate the Israelites from the hands of the Egyptians. The sea was a barrier in the lives of the Israelites.
We all have something within us to break through barriers we encounter. Whatever you have in your hand (talents), God can use it for God’s purpose. Amen
Joe Edward Pormai is a Global Mission Fellow, International, from Freetown, Sierra Leone, serving with refugees, children and disability ministries in Hamburg, Germany. He holds a bachelor’s degree in the Social Sciences from Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone.
More Advent devotionals
Sign up for Global Ministries and UMCOR emails