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Then He Smiled at Me



I’ve often wondered what I have to offer to the One who created me. In my limited travels, I’ve experienced worship in other cultures and seen firsthand that we have all been intricately designed to worship God in different ways. Regardless of my cultural or economic background, I have something to bring to Him as my gift of worship.

My first overseas trip was to the country of Jamaica, where I worked at a Christian camp in the heart of the mountains. One Sunday I went to a local church with my fellow Americans. Church members shuffled in well past the service time and settled into their seats. Each person dressed in their best. Older women donned floral-patterned dresses and brimmed hats. Little girls wore lacy, frilled dresses, with a rainbow of barrettes in their hair. An older gentleman stood up front decked out in a black suit, pressed white shirt, and red tie. He carried a battered accordion and led the worshipers in song, his instrument the lone contrast to the chorus of voices.

A man in my group of short-term missionaries stood at the end of the row, his hand in his pants pocket. At the start of the first song, he eased out of the pew and walked toward the front. Out of his pocket he withdrew a harmonica and joined the other man in making music for the Lord. The voices in that tiny room reverberated off the concrete walls, and I felt God’s presence brush over me. All because two men from different races and cultures were willing to let God use their meager talents and battered instruments for Him.

My next trip out of the United States was to the slums of Mexico City. When I first entered the open-air building near the church where I’d be serving with members of my team, I saw bright smiles that contrasted against the gray walls and floor. A group of women huddled around a lopsided counter, which would be their hideout during my 10-day stay. Their makeshift kitchen was where they prepared meals for my entire team, using their limited resources to feed those of us who had so much at home.

I was further humbled when a family opened their home to me and a group of nine girls. Throughout our two-week stay, our hosts endured our stomach illnesses, sheltered us during a nearby volcano eruption, and unselfishly gave of their food and possessions. We spent time in their church, worshiping the same God in different languages, and I realized they understood the heart of God better than I did. The sacrifices they made on my behalf represented His love and humility. They displayed worship the only way they knew how — offering their limited resources to bless others, transcending language barriers to represent the hands and feet of Jesus.

During college, my global perspective broadened when I became part of a campus ministry called World Christian Fellowship. One of our speakers was a missionary with Voice of the Martyrs. He shared harrowing stories about delivering Bibles to people in desperate need of God’s word. Although I’d never visited these faraway lands, his depictions transported me to places like Xinye, China, Ittanwali, Pakistan, and Karaj, Iran.

I imagined hovering in a darkened alleyway in China, waiting for my turn to enter the hidden church door. I imagined being beaten by my Muslim friends in Pakistan after I shared my Christian faith, listening to their threats to torture and humiliate me, then being taken into custody by the police. I imagined sitting in a house church in Iran and watching security officers in plain clothes confiscate my precious Bible and handcuff me, taking me away from my family.

As I listened to this man’s stories and visited Voice of the Martyrs’ website, I realized how little I’d sacrificed to worship God. I’d never faced threats of torture or arrest and I wondered if I’d be willing to sacrifice everything like those dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Their worship was borne of necessity, and they gave everything they held dear — their life, their family, their security — in order to honor their King.

My understanding of God’s presence and individual design throughout the world came full circle after I got married. My husband and I vacationed in Hawaii, and we decided to visit a local church one Sunday. The congregation met in a warehouse building on the island of Maui. When I entered the room, I spotted a massive drum set and a slew of guitars up front. Despite my hesitation of being an outsider, the tension in my heart eased as the band began to play. The electric sound of the instruments and the joyful voices around me echoed off the high ceiling.

The last song that morning was Chris Tomlin’s “How Great Is Our God.” It was a familiar tune, and I closed my eyes as I sang. I knew no one in that room, but we all lifted our voices to the same God. I sang words about praising the King and admonishing the earth to rejoice with me, and I was struck by the reality that members of my home church had finished their church service six hours ago.

As I counted the hours to Hawaii time, a new recognition hit me. Every hour of every day, someone, somewhere in the world, is worshiping the God of the universe, whether in song or in words and actions. I remembered the two men in the Jamaican mountains who brought that small congregation closer to God with their accordion and harmonica. I remembered the selfless worship of the women in the Mexico City slums. I remembered the stories of people persecuted for their faith in China, Pakistan, and Iran. All these people worshiped God at different hours of the day, with different gifts and sacrifices, honoring and praising the same Creator as I did in that moment.

I began to wonder: What do I have to give back to the One who created me? How can I worship Him just like the humble and brave people of those other cultures I’d visited? If they could draw me close to God with their limited earthly resources, how much more could I bring? And more sobering, how much more accountable will I be in heaven one day because of the earthly resources I possess?

Just like those men in Jamaica, I can give of my talents, however meager they may seem to me. Just like those women in Mexico City, I can give of my possessions and time to shelter and feed others. Just like those men and women in China, Pakistan, and Iran, I can sacrifice my safety, if that’s what God calls me to do for the sake of worshiping Him.

Every hour of every day, I can remind myself of my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, how they sacrifice of themselves to demonstrate God’s intricate design within them. And that inspires me to do the same.

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Sarah Forgrave is a work-at-home mom whose writing has been published in a Pearl Girls™ anthology and Guideposts' A Cup of Christmas Cheer collection. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Sarah writes romantic novels that blend her love of health and fitness with her passion for God. When she’s not writing, she teaches group exercise classes and loves spending time with her family in their Midwest home. To learn more -- or to sign up for her health-inspired newsletter - -visit

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Then He Smiled at Me

by Sarah Forgrave time to read: 5 min