In Christ there is no east or west, in him no south or north,
but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.
Join hands, then, people of the faith, whate’er your race may be.
All children of the living God are surely kin to me.
—In Christ There Is No East or West, by John Oxenham (1908)
“I thought you’d dropped off the face of the earth.”
“Have you been ok? I haven’t seen your writings for awhile…”
When two friends made these remarks one day last week, it underscored that it had been a while since I had submitted a column. Furthermore, it encouraged me that some folks look forward to my columns and miss them when they do not get their regular fix.
One week we had the joy of celebrating my parents’ 70th wedding anniversary at the beach, followed by the sadness of attending a family funeral in Indiana. That, plus some responsibilities to attend to–in addition to a dose of midsummer lethargy, all led to a dry spell in my writing. But we all experience “dry and drier spells” in life now and then… especially if your name is “Dreyer.”
Although few would state it so bluntly, at least in public, many in our culture believe that religious people are ignorant and backward, trapped in their darkness and superstition, while secular folks are the truly up-to-date, sophisticated ones.
Some years ago, however, the prestigious Wall Street Journal carried an opinion piece with the opposite conclusion.
That column claimed that Christians are among the most aware in the US regarding overseas geography and cultures. The author’s reasoning was, many American churches routinely send out short-term mission teams to other parts of the US or world, and they also regularly invite foreign guest speakers and/or American missionaries serving overseas to address their congregations.
In addition, many American churches sponsor an ethnic church–maybe Hispanic, Chinese, Korean or other–on their campus.
All this routine exposure gives American believers an insight to the larger world that most non-church goers miss out on.
That article came to mind recently as two young American couples serving in Honduras and Cambodia spoke at church in Roanoke last spring. (You can read my thoughts about Cambodia in Parts I, II, and III.)
Recently a visiting pastor from the East African nation of Uganda, Peter Wamono, spoke at church one evening.
Pastor Wamono began with his personal story growing up in Uganda. His parents were both teachers: his mother taught social studies and English and his father was a chemistry teacher.
Unfortunately, his father’s main interest in chemistry was alcohol–he struggled with a drinking problem. Wamono remembered that his father “drank himself lame” and thus he grew up ashamed of his dad.
Due to the alcoholism and low teacher salaries in Uganda, his family was poor. Wamono joked about growing up wearing “air-conditioned clothes.” That is, the clothes he wore were so old and full of holes, they had natural “air conditioning” as he walked or ran. Realizing his future options in his hometown were limited, he looked for a change.
Seeking to improve his life and horizons, Wamono moved to the capital of Uganda, Kampala, after he graduated from high school. In Kampala, one of his cousins invited him to Watoto Church. Wamono immediately liked the church because of the music.
He had grown up attending a Catholic church with his devout mother. However, he had not had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. At Watoto Church he heard the gospel message in a new way that he could understand, so he gave his heart and life to Jesus.
That turning point began what Wamono calls “the astronomical turn of my life.”
Growing in his newfound faith, he later got involved in full-time ministry at Watoto Church as a children’s facilitator which led him to join the world-renowned Watoto Children’s choir. In that capacity he has visited and performed at the White House, Buckingham Palace, the US National Prayer Breakfast, as well as countless churches and schools across America and the world.
He marvels how his involvement with the choir enabled the young man who grew up wearing “air-conditioned clothes” to eventually travel to five continents. “Growing up, even getting to the airport just to see a plane take off was a big deal,” Wamono says. He has been through most of the United States having visited 45 states. Now, he routinely flies around the world, as God leads him.
Wamono believes God can use anyone who is willing and available to be used. He claims, “no matter where we are born, what our family is like, God has a plan for us and a role for us to play in this world if only we follow Jesus in obedience.”
Stay tuned! To be continued….
– Scott Dreyer