I bet you never thought you’d see those two words in the same subject line!
But they actually define my first full day in Uganda.
After a great night’s sleep and a hot shower at a local Kampala hotel, we began the five-hour journey to our ministry partner in Kamonkoli. Long bus rides in Uganda are great for having your bones rattled by the uneven roads, your senses overwhelmed by the smells of vendors selling chicken on a stick and your eyes widened by things you never see at home. But the best part is getting to know your fellow travelers better.
And this trip did not disappoint.
I spent much of the ride listening to and learning from a college student who has spent the last two summers in Greece.
Before your mind wanders to fancy yacht parties on the Mediterranean, this student worked with Grecian anarchists to minister to and meet the needs of Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis, Afghans and others in refugee camps spread across the country.
Bet you’ve never seen those words in the same sentence either!
As you might imagine, his experience led me to ask LOTS of questions.
Here’s a little of what he said:
Sharing Jesus with the Muslim people was easy. They know Jesus as a prophet and “good man” in their own religion. The hard part was getting them to accept Jesus as the Son of God, Savior of the world, and the one whose death and resurrection gives us the assurance of eternal life. The hardest part was helping them overcome fear of abandonment by friends and family if they became Christians.
Muslim millennials are walking away from their faith, just as cultural Christians in America are walking away from theirs. He said, “the young people want no part of religion. They don’t want to be part of an institution or the establishment. They want to do good, but they want to do it their own way, and not hemmed in by rules.” He was talking about twenty-somethings from Tehran, but could have just as easily been talking about folks from Tampa.
He also said those same millennials, and this is a good thing, are dropping their adherence to the Muslim faith because the small minority of extremists have given their religion a bad name. And while they cannot disavow their dark skin or country of origin, they can disavow their religion…and many are.
I asked him about his thoughts on refugee camps as pipelines for would-be terrorists to enter our country and western Europe. He said he could only speak from his experience, but that’s not what he saw. He said, “they are refugees from the same oppression and terrorism that America is fighting against. We’re on the same side.” I’ve encouraged him to share more of his story and perspective – we need more knowledge on this polarizing subject!
Over the course of his two summers, along with folks from Antioch Church in Waco, Texas, the student led worship services, had many Gospel conversations, shared Bible lessons with children and, just as Jesus taught us to do in Matthew 25:31-46, he met the needs of his fellow man.
It’s on this last point that the Greek anarchists entered the picture. He said, without fail, the anarchists were the most caring for the refugees, the most compassion in meeting needs and the most creative in stretching scarce resources a long way. He even told me the Greek government welcomed the anarchists’ involvement. How ironic!
So…the next time you wonder if you have the courage to share Jesus and serve others in the comfortable confines of the U.S., think about my new friend, the Baylor student, who did so…among Muslims…in refugee camps…with anarchists!
Swimming in His grace,
P.S. I forgot about the pizza. Halfway to Kamonkoli, we stopped in Jinja for pizza at Surgio’s. They really do make great pies. You should try it the next time you are in Uganda.