Sunday, April 21, 2013

Pharaoh, Pharaoh! Oh Baby! Let My People Go!

Introducing PNG to a VBS staple!
“Pharaoh, Pharaoh! Oh baby! Let my people go! Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah….!” My two colleagues and I snaked our arms in the stereotypical Egyptian dance as we sang through that great, theologically-deep song I knew from my days of camp staff. Who knew that I’d be dregging it up in Papua New Guinea (PNG)?!

Sometimes the ladies danced and swayed with flowers
Currently, I’m in Wewak, on staff for an Oral Bible Storytelling Workshop, where 30 participants from seven different languages have gathered to learn how to memorize and retell the Bible stories of Moses and the Exodus (you can read more about that here; stay tuned for more!). Each of the groups have faithfully and diligently been working to commit to memory all the little details (and figure out how to translate tricky concepts, like “chariot” or “holy”), and so on Wednesday of last week, we thought we’d take a break and do something a little different.

The triumph at the Red Sea called for a victory dance!
While in America, storytelling is often thought of something reserved for children, but in PNG, storytelling is a very powerful tradition that is highly valued with great respect. In addition, music and dance are commonly used to share stories and history, teach lessons and values, and commemorate important occasions. So, one of the assignments for this course was that each language needed to compose a song describing the parting of the Red Sea in their own languages.

They rounded up brooms and mops to be percussion instruments
One afternoon last week, during that horrible point in the day when you’d rather just succumb to the heat and take a nap, we all gathered, bright-eyed and excited to see the performances. And what performances they were! Complete with costumes and impromptu musical instruments made from mops, brooms, and cups (having no traditional kundu or garamut on hand), each group sang through the story and praised God for His deliverance (translating the lyrics for the rest of us afterward).
Some found some cups and waterbottles for makeshift kundu.

Of course, since all the other languages presented a song, English needed to be represented as well. And so, to the delight of my Papua New Guinean friends, that’s how I found myself standing before a crowd, waving my arms and singing, “So I raised my rod and I cleared my through (uh-huh) and all Pharaoh’s army did the dead man’s float!”