Praising the Lord
My sisters looked great in their dresses and hats. "There comes
the bus Vonnie." I said to Yvonne and Leonie. We would be
somewhat disappointed at the sight of the approaching bus in the
distance. It was usually filled with other worshippers and kids
on their way to go praise the lord. As the bus pulled up next to
us we smiled and climbed the steps onto the bus. Trying to hide
our moods and disappointment to the other occupants we entered
the bus trying to look as friendly as possible. We greeted
everyone politely while trying to find three open seats together
and as far away from the other occupants as possible.
Our church was on the other side of town at least eight
kilometers from our house. For the next twenty minutes or so the
driver made his way via strategic pick-up points collecting other
churchgoers en route to our church. We never spoke much on the
bus. We just sat there clenching our bibles watching the road. As
we got closer to church so did the bus get more and more
jam-packed. Some Sundays it got so chock-a-block that Leonie
ended up on someone's lap. With luck we got to church at nine.
Sunday school was from nine until ten and was followed by the
morning service at ten thirty. We were in different classes
according to our ages and level at school. Before we separated
for Sunday school we arranged to meet in front of the church
toilets afterwards. The toilets were in a separate little
building overlooking the main church building and were divided
into two separate parts for males and females. After Sunday
school it sometimes took a while to find my sisters amongst often
a few hundred worshippers parking their cars chatting and doing
last minute preening.
Church was a weekly fashion parade which was very competitive and
somehow often made us feel slightly under-dressed. Aunt Bormann
always took the prize Yvonne and I decided. No one, no matter how
hard they tried, could ever keep up with her outfits and matching
hats and we often laughed with amazement. She was the pianist and
organist for the church and her hats were always completely over
the top and larger than the Holy Spirit itself. When she entered
the church, which was always perfectly timed, you could hear a
pin drop. As she sashayed down the aisle in time to the
pre-recorded organ music she knew that she had the attention of
the whole congregation.
Confident and very seriously she would take her time walking down
the long aisle to where she would take her position behind the
piano or organ in the front of the church. She was a great
pianist and even the feathers on her hat often seemed to be
moving in tune to her playing.
Our church was always packed to capacity and everyone knew what
they were in for. A two hour service was nothing out of the
ordinary for our congregation. It all depended on the workings of
the Lord and the Holy Spirit the pastor said. The singing alone
was an unbelievable experience. Aunt Bormann alternated playing
some hymns on the piano and some on the organ. While the pastor
led the congregation into lengthy prayer aunt Bormann provided
background music on the piano. Miraculously she would sometimes
be behind the organ when we came to our senses and opened our
eyes. We never knew how she did that. The congregation seemed to
grow bigger every week resulting in the need for a bigger venue.
An old cinema not far from the current location became available.
It was perfect. The weekly prayers and appeal for donations paid
off. In the record time of just over a month the Lord provided
and the cinema became our new place of worship. Our new church
was also where our sister Leonie exchanged vows and got married
some years later.
With ample room for expansion and an enormous stage Aunt Bormann
was joined by the new resident band. Led by her with a second
pianist and joined by percussion, guitar and drums it became a
truly amazing experience. The jam-packed congregation got
completely carried away. They could easily sing and clap for an
hour non stop while praising the Lord. People would give
themselves over to the Lord as they threw their hands into the
air shaking. Some really lost it as they were literally crawling
on the floor while speaking in foreign tongues. The speaking in
tongues at first was weird to us and we could never understand it
or the meaning thereof. The pastor once explained to us that it
was the working of the Holy Spirit that caused people to speak in
these foreign tongues. It was totally fascinating and captivating
to us. Although we often had our reservations about our weekly
trips to church it often made us feel better. It was always a
mind-blowing experience which we giggled about sometimes but it
also frequently touched us deeply and gave us hope. Afterwards
everyone seemed rather exhausted but in high spirits as they
slowly made their way out of the church.
It was already after twelve as my sisters and I made our way
through the crowds towards the bus. We were starving and couldn't
wait to get home. We knew that my mother's great lunch was
waiting back home. The bus that picked us up for Sunday school
only left again after the morning service. We were always pleased
when we decided to stay for the service. Some Sundays, depending
on our state of mind or circumstances at home we were just not in
the mood. As we got older we were faced with often having to make
one of three decisions. These were obviously without my mother's
knowledge and were done under sworn secrecy. Like good children
we could attend the service after Sunday school and take the bus
If we stayed for the service we knew that we were in for at least
two hours. The other option was to spend the duration of the
lengthy service in the toilets. This ridiculous decision amused
us a lot but was rather tense and became our preferred choice.
After Sunday school we would hang around on the lawn where we
became part of the arriving worshippers. As the last of the
congregation entered the church we slipped into the toilets.
Yvonne and Leonie were on the female side with me hiding away in
the men's toilets. Stocked up with two lemons each from the tree
outside the long wait started. We used to get hungry and the
sweet, thick-skinned and easy to peel lemons made for great
snacking. From where I was hiding away in the toilets I had a
full view of the church building. Through the window of the
toilet I could almost follow the service through the open windows
of the church. I often caught a glimpse of the pastor, heard them
pray and sing along to Aunt Bormann on the piano. From where my
sisters were, only separated by a dividing wall, they had no clue
as to how the service was progressing. I was their eyes and ears.
Our only way of communicating was to hammer on the wall. One
knock meant that a female member was approaching and on her way
to the toilet. This is when it got rather nerve wracking. Yvonne
and Leonie would have to pretend to be on the loo or washing
their hands or something realistic. "Use your imagination," I
said cleverly. This was also the case for me when I had a male
member needing the lavatory on my side. When I heard the pastor
delivering his closing speech two knocks on the wall was the
signal to get ready. As the congregation started pouring out a
final knock indicated that it was now safe to leave our hideout.
Our other option was not an easy one. It took courage and
boldness. It dawned on us that we could walk home after Sunday
school. At first walking home seemed impossible. The idea
fascinated us but it couldn't be done we decided. What a pity.
Eight kilometers walking back home was just too far. Towards the
end of primary school, Vonnie and I were thirteen and Leonie
nine, we attempted the long haul home for the first time. We had
taken up the challenge. "Are we walking or staying?" The question
was after Sunday school. It was a daring and exhausting excursion
through our town that often caused us great amounts of laughter.
Hopefully, with careful timing, we would get home at the same
time as it would take attending the service and the bus trip
home. After Sunday school as the hordes of worshippers started to
arrive we disappeared into the crowd and sneaked out the gate.
The pennies that were meant for the collection board were enough
for a cooldrink to share as we set out on our grueling two and a
half hour walk home. The challenge when we got home was to
pretend to be the obedient children that attended church and took
the bus back home.
I got undressed as quickly as I could and rushed to my sisters'
room. We had a little meeting and again sworn absolute secrecy.
Leonie especially was exhausted. When Yvonne removed her dusty
shoes we burst out laughing. Her somewhat puffy feet and the
sight of her tattered pantyhose made us roll around laughing.
"Come children. Come and eat." My mother called from the kitchen.
Lunch was ready, we were famished.