"My name is Makumbi. When I grow up, I want to be a musician."
"My name is Irene. When I grow up, I want to be a teacher."
"My name is Julias. When I grow up, I want to be President of Uganda."
These quotes are three of numerous snippets heart at Willow Creek Community Church's North Shore campus this morning when the congregation welcomed the Destiny Africa Children's Choir to today's church services. Vibrant colors, African drums and Ugandan children took center stage in place of the traditional guitar-strumming-worship our congregation is typically used to, and the service progressed through a variety of ethnic songs, dances and celebrations that expressed God's goodness across cultures and included a sermon on justice and compassion worldwide.
Arnold Muwonge, founder of the Kampala Children's Center in Kampala, Uganda, home to Destiny Africa's participants and an orphanage dedicated to providing a "safe and loving environment to at least 1000 children from war torn areas, slums and AIDS affected families," spoke about the evolution of the center, the power and importance of dreams, and gave several powerful illustrations of God's love at work in the hearts and lives of boys and girls who come to the center.
"God turns our mess into a message - He can do anything," Muwonge stated in an interview on stage at Willow Creek. "Just because something affects you negatively doesn't mean you can't have a good life."
There was hardly a dry eye in the house after a video about a young boy, John Mark, was told on-screen. He had been abandoned by his birth mother on a Ugandan doorstep at 1 1/2 years of age with a note: "I have abandoned my son because his father won't give me help." John Mark was luckily recovered by the police and, by nothing short of a miracle, able to be taken in by the Kampala Children's Center, where he is now "laughing with his playmates."
For those interested in participating in Willow Creek's Celebration of Hope, there are several more opportunities to pack seeds or give financially: check out the following websites for more information on activities at a Willow Creek campus near you (there are seven around Chicago)!:
In the meantime, check and see if Destiny Africa will be performing at a church near you - they're tearing up the East Coast in the coming weeks. Destiny Africa Tour Schedule
At the end of today's service, the North Shore campus pastor challenged us, as a congregation, to take part in a day-long fast tomorrow, dedicated to prayer for the hungry and oppressed around the world. Isaiah 58:6-10 is the main text he focused on for this calling:
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry, and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday."
-Isaiah 58 : 6-10-
According to the pastor, the fast doesn't have to be from food - he encouraged us to think outside the box and give up Facebook, the internet, etc...and I'll definitely be participating. Because, the one thing that stood out to me most in this "celebration" was the fact that, no matter how cute or talented these Ugandan children were, they stood for something more than the African songs they were singing: they represented freedom for every single individual and soul in the universe that struggles under a yoke of oppression. These oppressive forces can range anywhere from mental illness to sexuality to slavery to self-image to self-pity to abandonment to anxiety and/or abuse, and I'm not about to waste another day worrying about myself - giving one day up to be concerned with and in prayer for the oppressed around the world is an honor and a privilege, and a challenge I'm ready and willing to undertake. Are you?