By Steven Norris
It is amazing how you can meet a perfect stranger and, within a very brief time, connect with them on a profound level. When my family traveled to Uganda last summer to work with one of our church’s mission partners, I had just such an experience. About a day into the trip, Francis came to pick up our team from the guesthouse where we were staying. He got out of the van wearing khakis, a black t-shirt, and a scally cap. When we saw each other, we stopped and grinned — I was wearing khakis, a black t-shirt, and a scally cap.
Very quickly, I came to consider Francis my “African brother” as we connected over so many different things — our shared loved for music, a shared vision for ministry, a shared passion for leading people in worship, and so on. Before leaving Uganda, we had recorded a song together and were scheming about the music camp that he had been dreaming up for some time.
When I touched down in Kampala on June 1st of this year, it was hard to believe that the dream was becoming a reality. In the intervening months, I’ve hosted Francis in our home, jammed in our living room, introduced him to friends, and performed on the stage with him in Atlanta. This was more than just a mission trip; it was a reunion with family.
When a few of the guys from the refugee center met me at the airport, we picked up right where we left off. Laughter came quickly and flowed effortlessly as we caught up on a year’s worth of activities in the 45-minute drive into Kampala. They wanted to know about my family, my ministry, life in the US, and other general items.
I was really confused when they told me, “We have a mission team from North Carolina here right now and one of the members says that she knows you.” As it turns out, Kim wasn’t just a member of a previous church that I had served. She had been my neighbor, living only three doors down from my family. We had been in each other’s homes frequently. She had been there when my children were born. She and her roommate had trekked through the snow to sing, pray, and worship in our living room during a snowstorm. Kim was family that I had not seen in almost 10 years (and had to travel 7,000 miles around the world to do so).
Throughout the week, this sense of visiting and communing with family was reinforced time and time again as the staff of Amani Sasa embraced me, prayed for me, and prayed for my church here in Griffin. The scriptures remind us that we have been adopted into the family of God through Christ. Trips like this remind me that, as a Christian, I am part of something larger than myself and have been brought into a family so much richer, more diverse, and better than I ever realized.