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The Children’s Choir from Imani Milele, a nonprofit organization helping orphaned children in Uganda, performed in our fellowship hall after church today, they were great!

I wasn’t going to go to church today.  The rest of my family is out of town.  I worked all day yesterday.  The air here in northern Utah is full of wildfire smoke, and it’s murder on someone, like me, who has asthma, so I don’t feel well. I stayed up late last night watching soccer on my DVR.

I had many excuses.

But I decided to go anyway.  I hauled my coughing, hacking, self out of bed about 8:20 this morning and managed to wander somewhat aimlessly into the sanctuary at Community United Methodist about 5 minutes before the service started…just enough time to whip out the IPhone and check the soccer scores before we began!  Yeah it felt like one of those mornings.

As the prelude wrapped up, I brought my attention lazily into focus and said a quick “hello” to Coach Cravens, who sat next to me, Jan, Tom, Bill, Claire and some others that were seated around me.  Then I noticed something different, a group of young children dressed in the wonderful, colorful outfits processed in and filled the three pews in front of me.

This was…..new……

As it turns out, these children were from an orphanage in Uganda, and were traveling through the United States on behalf of their own charity, Imani Milele, to raise money for themselves and other orphans in Uganda.  Nate, our liturgist today, told us that they would be singing for us after church in the fellowship hall.  Well, I was just going to skip out after the service and head home for….you guessed it…..more soccer, but I decided I wanted to stick around and hear these youngsters sing.  I’m glad I did.  Check it out:

That’s just a bit of their performance that I recorded with my phone and uploaded to YouTube this afternoon.  The singing was great, as was their dancing and general ENJOYMENT of the moment!  Wow, my phone video doesn’t do their smiles or the flurry of colors justice!

As it turns out, these are just a few of the orphans from Uganda.  Their choir director took a few minutes and described Uganda as a country about the size of Oregon.  The population of Oregon is approximately 3 million.  In Uganda, there are more than 3 million orphans alone.   Wow.  One of the young men in the choir told us a little about his story.  He had never met his father because his mother didn’t know who his father was.  His mom had some issues and he ended up doing child labor for a pittance just to try to live.  Finally he ended up at Imani Milele where he has been able to get an education and basic health care.  It was very moving.

Look, I know that there are gonna be some skeptics out there.  Not all of these “children’s charities” are on the up and up, but I can tell you from experience that these kids DO need help.  After I graduated from High School I spent parts of 2 summers working at Casa De Elizabeth orphanage in Imuris, Sonora, Mexico.  I’ve seen how donations of dollars and time can make a difference in a child’s life.

Some of those memories flooded back to me this morning as I wondered what became of any of those kids I worked with.

But beyond that, beyond money or orphans or anything like that, something else happened.  We have a part in our service, right at the beginning, where people all mill around and greet each other.  Now I’m not overly social, so this is always some kind of awkward for me.

Today though, the children of Imani Milele were sitting in front of me, as well as a couple of their adult leaders.

They didn’t just greet, they gave HUGS.

Okay. Generally I don’t do HUGS.  I’m what you’d call a “personal space” kind of guy.

But you know what, as I embraced those kids, and their leaders, those hugs were genuine, those hugs were powerful.  It wasn’t an “arm’s length pat-on-back” hug that was going around.  No, these hugs were more the “back thumping total embrace” type.

And I realized, not for the first time, but for perhaps the clearest time, that what we call “The Church” is one body across the world.  There I was in Ogden, Utah of all places, embracing men, women, and children from Uganda in the love and peace of Jesus Christ.  These were my bothers and sisters in the Spirit.

As I was driving home I pondered the things that we cling to here in the US.  We rage about the “right” to carry our guns .  We are so attached to our own symbols of power and privilege.  We take what we want, and if you don’t like it, tough rocks.  One of our top presidential candidates is running pretty much an entire platform against people like these brothers and sisters of mine as we seek to “protect” our own disproportionate wealth and privilege.

I also thought about what I cling to, about what is important to me.  Soccer scores, that big milkshake I was craving, my upcoming vacation, my cell phone, the cheap Star Wars bag I had gone out of my way to purchase on the way home…wow.  These kids, they get none of that.

Yet there they are, my brothers and sisters.  There is one Lord, there is one faith, there is one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, there is one Christ, and we’re all a part of his body.

How then can we serve the least of us, either across the world or in our own hometowns? How can we draw more people into the loving embrace of Christ, which I imagine would feel a lot like those hugs I got this morning?

These are our tasks, this is our mission.

And I would have missed all of this had I not gone to church today.

*If you would like to learn more about Imani Milele, check them out on Facebook or at ImaniMilele.com