Posted by Reuben Morgan on 10 June 2014

I didn't have the kind of childhood that most of my friends did. While they were hopping on buses to visit city museums or learning to navigate ther way around shopping malls, I was exploring tropical shores in leaky fishing boats and learning how not to get lost in the rainforest. 

I grew up in a coastal town on the north side of Papua New Guinea. It was beautiful - sometimes enough to leave you breathless - but the magic of the place spoke through more than the sunsets and sandy beaches. The thing that amazed me was the way that God was so tangibly at work.
 
Thanks to the patience of the local Catholic priest and a missionary who had arrived to work with people suffering from leprosy, I tasted the power of music. But not just for the sake of it. Under their guidance I found myself learning to love the way music could transport me right into the very presence of God. 
 
There I saw that it didn’t matter how polished or perfect the music was - what counted was the destination. I’d sit wide-eyed through church meetings, the only pasty white family in a ramshackle black church; no instruments other than those massive island voices pounding out hymns like ‘There’s Power In The Blood’ and ‘He Is Lord’. Worship was raw and unfiltered and the presence of God was thick enough to pin your shoulders to the wall. That’s when I learnt that even leaky fishing boats can be enough to transport us to the wonders of the rainforest.
 
I often find myself thinking back to those days. I wonder what it was that made the difference. Was it the quality of the voices, the lack of material riches or the spiritual history of the area? I wonder whether it was a mixture of all these things and more, colliding to make one of those ‘thin places’ where the space between us and God appears so much narrower than elsewhere.
 
Since then I’ve travelled far and wide and been blessed to encounter many more of those times and I have come to see that my first experiences of worship were great, but not unique. I’ve been in stadiums and street shacks when the sum of the worship is so much greater than the parts, and I’ve grown to love even more that sense of God being lifted high through our praise. While the sounds might change and the rhythms range wildly, it’s clear that we are all united by the one same truth; that Jesus is the hope of the world.  
 
While the sounds might change and the rhythms range wildly, it’s clear that we are all united by the one same truth; that Jesus is the hope of the world.  
 
Wherever you go in the world you will find Christians worshipping God. You’ll hear them offering up their praises and making massive statements about the power of the blood of Jesus, about the sovereignty of the Lord and the fact that there is no hope quite as strong as His. Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming to try to get your head around the mysteries of worship, but being reminded of the power of God is no bad thing. 
 
Recently I wrote a song with some friends and we called it ‘Hope Of The World’. In some ways it reminds me of those early days on Papua New Guinea, feeling dwarfed beneath the voices and captivated by the Spirit of God in the room - exactly the same way I feel when I think about what God has done; small and alive, outmatched by the power but called farther up and further in.
 
The song starts out in that place of awe, talking about the cross and the hope of the world. But then there’s a change, a shift in focus that creeps in. The chorus reminds us that this God of ours is personal and loving as well as mighty and powerful. This God we serve who knew the bite of the nails on the cross is the same one who is ‘calling us home with arms out wide’.
 
Whose arms? His? It does us good to remember that the same God who swept stars, sun and sky into place welcomes us with the love and open arms. But they could be our arms as well, with God calling us to turn back to him, to open our arms and be truly vulnerable in front of him. 
 
Romans 15:13 reminds us that our search for hope, joy and peace should propel us in one direction only; God’s. That’s what counts in life, that’s the journey that really matters. 
 
When I think back my childhood and the church and the missionaries who were sacrificing so much for the sake of God’s love, I’m not only reminded of the way the worship felt, but of the way these people lived. They lived like Jesus was not just their own hope, but the one true hope for the people they were serving. That trust in God had sent them thousands of miles from home, caused them to live with boldness and purpose and led them into the most amazing adventures with Jesus. Where will it lead you?

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