Turning Back

My time as a marching band member

I was never in the marching band in high school. My brother was. My sister was. But not me. I don’t have a lick of artistic ability. If they had marching math lovers then I might have done that. But I was never in the marching band…until a Sunday in 2015.

To Join a Marching Band

Rashid invited me to a church he was helping to plant in Mukono, Uganda. The young church also has a school for nearby students. They had received the results of the P7 exams for their students. P7 exams are a big deal. It is like having to pass a test in order to go from 6th grade to 7th grade in America. If you don’t pass then you are done with school. In some cases repeating the grade is acceptable but most don’t want to pay more school fees.

Rashid and I at the church after marching

Rashid and I at the church. Oh my, that facial hair.

So this school affiliated with the church plant had a student who passed with a first grade and everyone else passed with a second grade. They told me a first grade is very special but rare, especially for new schools. So they had to celebrate. They wanted to praise God for what He had done. What better way to do this than to march around the village behind a marching band, while announcing the good news?

So we marched. Ok, technically I wasn’t in the marching band but I was marching behind them. It is as close as I have gotten yet.

I knew we would do some marching but I wasn’t aware it would be 8km of marching. I have never run a 5k, but now I have marched an 8k. Dust was everywhere, on the road, in the air, and all over me. I could taste the dust. I had worn pants.  So it surprised me when I got home and realized that even my legs were covered in dust. I had so much dust that I thought my next child should be called Dusty.  You can see just how dusty it was in the videos below.

Finishing marching

It was dusty that day. Just a bit.

But something curious happened. We had just begun marching and hadn’t even made our first turn. We were walking along the big main road. It was then that a young girl, about 15 years old, came up and started talking to me. It was the usual ‘what is your name’ and ‘what do you do’. Then I suppose she became concerned for me because she asked me if I wanted to turn back. She said that if I was getting tired then I should turn back because we had a ways to go yet. Then she suggested I could ride in the cars following us if I needed rest.  You can see the cars in a video below.

I didn’t know if I should be appreciative or insulted. We were only about 1km into our 8km trip. She offered for me to quickly turn back and not endure the trip. I don’t think that says a lot about her view of mzungus (white people).

The Gospel Marching Band

But this got me thinking about the book of Galatians which I was preaching through at the time. In 1:6 Paul is astonished that the Galatians were “so quickly deserting” the God who called them into the grace of Christ. Just like the young girl to me, some other people had come to Galatia and tried to get the Galatian Christians to turn back from following Christ and not endure in the journey after Him.

This begins Paul’s letter into what the gospel is and why we should not add to it and thus abandon it. In Galatia, the issue was circumcision and other Jewish religious activities. They taught faith + works = salvation. In Uganda, these works have different aspects but have the same effect. They are not the gospel at all. Yet many are preaching a different gospel.

In my time at Westminster Christian Institute Uganda, I have learned of how many students have repented of believing a false gospel. I have also heard of the various things many preach in Uganda. Despite a large number of churches and counted Christians in Uganda, the need for true gospel preaching is enormous.

The gospel formula is faith + nothing = salvation + works. Many put works on the wrong side of the equation. We are saved by Christ and then empowered to do good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). Yet Paul, in Galatians, is clear that nothing can be added to Jesus’ work in His death and resurrection. It is all by grace. It is easy to trust in what we do but we must lean on Jesus only. We must march forward in grace. This is a message Uganda needs and a message I need. Every single day.

This is the end of our trip.  Notice the dust and the cars behind.  And that crowd was something.

Here we are beginning our journey.

Marching in the village

Here we march off the main road and in the village.

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