16 October 2018 // Articles & Stories

A new song

Music can stir the soul and as scripture is the food of the soul we wanted to create some scripture-based songs that would connect with the hearts of the Jie, a sub-tribe of the Karimojong. Men particularly love to sing and dance in a very distinctive style, these dances usually involving praising cows or cattle raiding – the main idol in Jie culture.

So at the end of August Wendy, an experienced missionary and ethnomusicologist, came to Kotido. She helped us run a song composition workshop near rural villages where there are a handful of fledgling congregations. Most who attended were professing Christians but the majority were illiterate and have no access to the Bible. We ran it over four mornings with lunch prepared by women from a nearby village. Each day we started by looking at what the Bible says about singing – from the types of songs in the Bible, to the question “does God sing?”, to 2 Chronicles 20 where singers lead out God’s army in the battle he has already won for them.

We then spent the majority of the first few days exploring the different songs in Jie culture – celebration songs from Grandmas on the day a baby is born, war songs sung by warriors going to raid cattle, laments, songs praising bulls, songs about becoming an elder, songs for grinding sorghum or thatching roofs, nursery rhymes/lullabies, songs to bring rain and dancing songs. It was a wonderful exploration of Jie culture and life. We then split into men’s and women’s groups to try and create new songs in the appropriate local style.

Using Isaiah 6 – where Isaiah is confronted with the holiness of God, realises his own sinfulness, is forgiven and then is sent out to serve the Lord – we tried to find scriptures representing each part to create new songs. A total of 14 new songs were created in the however the participants continued to create new songs in the evenings. It was particularly wonderful to see the men singing and dancing to the Lord.

There has been a wonderful response to the new songs – several participants confessed that they felt they had really grown in their faith over the workshop. One of our church teachers has shown himself to be a gifted musician and was woken up one morning by other young guys wanting to be taught these new songs they heard him singing the evening before. And this Sunday several men walked the 10km to the main church in town to present the new songs to the church there. We have found many have felt liberated to praise God using the tunes of their hearts without jettisoning their culture.

Please pray with us that this will be the start of a great movement amongst the Jie.
“Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
    tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvellous works among all the peoples!” Psalm 96:1-3

Paul & Helen Shepherd

We work in Kotido, north east Uganda among the Karimojong. We serve in the local health centres and hospital, whilst also working with the local church doing discipleship and Bible storying in rural villages.

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