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 back home.
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
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.
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