On Ray’s blog we are going to explore his life’s journey of inspiration and faith. Ray will take us back over his thrilling, emotional and motivational years – from working behind the iron curtain to forming the African Children’s Choir and beyond.
We are going to feature stories from Ray’s amazing past through blog posts, in no particular order, in the hope that we can inform and inspire people to help others through their own life journeys.
To start, we’d like to take you back to 1978, when Ray discovered Uganda for the very first time, what you are about to read is an remarkable, true encounter…
Faith will bring you home
Ray heard a story one day that changed the course of his life and work forever.
During the reign of Idi Amin in Uganda there were a group of believers, who gathered together one Easter Sunday to hold a meeting at their Church. Under Idi Amin all churches had been banned or closed, but, due to it being Easter Sunday, this group had assembled anyway. The soulful sounds of singing, music and worship rang out from the forbidden Church, until suddenly, to their horror and dismay, their service was ambushed and they were all arrested and sent to prison.
Ray was heavily involved in work to do with the human rights for believers in the Soviet Union at that time, and upon hearing this story, he decided to take action.
He set to work publishing information and reports about the cruelty these people were suffering under the ruling of Idi Amin and soon found himself, and a colleague, on a plane heading towards Uganda.
Ray arrived, naïve to this new culture and unsure where to start. His first stop was a bible society, but to Ray’s surprise, he was unwelcome as the people there feared his foreign presence would draw unwanted attention.
Fleeing the bible society Ray, and his colleague, retreated to a local hotel, which is now called the Sheraton Hotel in Uganda, but back then, the hotel was Government run – a place where people had been reported to have disappeared, it turned out to be a secret headquarters of Idi Amin.
Before this realisation Ray and his companion had sat in the hotel restaurant whilst they deliberated their next move, whether or not to check in. They looked around and noticed single men, all in bell-bottomed jeans and sunglasses, trying their best to be inconspicuous, observing their surroundings intently – to Ray these men were not discreet, they stuck out – they were Idi Amin’s secret police, and with a rush of fear and uncertainty, Ray knew they could no longer stay there.
The pair hailed a taxi, they had heard from someone at the bible society that there was a Christian guesthouse near Namerimbe Cathedral; surely they would find welcome refuge there.
The national curfew was drawing in, as too was the night sky. After some time it was apparent that their friendly Muslim taxi driver was lost. Time was running out, no one was allowed out after dark, and the driver would not want to continue their fare once the night drew in.
The passing streets of Kampala were beginning to empty of people, and an uncomfortable mood set upon Ray, for a white man to be outside after curfew was just suicidal. Ray had come to Uganda against the advice of virtually everyone. Nevertheless, he had made his decision to come here out of concern for the persecuted church, and in this time of need, he once again reached for his faith and prayed silently to God in the passenger seat of this lost dusty taxi cab, in the darkening eve.
Suddenly amongst the turning light, Ray saw a girl walking along the road, he abruptly commanded the driver to stop – he wanted to ask this girl for directions.
Ray wound down the window, leant forward and questioned the girl about their location and the whereabouts of the Christian guesthouse, despite the enormous danger of interacting with strangers at this time.
Her eyes lit with astonishment and amazement.
“We have been praying for you” uttered the soft words of this young stranger. “I know where the guesthouse is, it is run by friends of mine, I can show you”
And with that, the girl climbed into the taxi and directed the disorientated driver towards their destination.
Ray relaxed, and sank back into his seat.
“My name is Faith” the young woman stated, Ray felt a comforting warmth rush through his body.
As the three became acquainted, Faith told them of how she had been at the guesthouse just that day, and that they were all praying for God to bring them two people to let them know they were not forgotten.
After a short time Faith asked the driver to stop, they had arrived at the top of Namirembe Hill. The group exited the cab, paid for their journey and began to walk together.
“I didn’t want him to know exactly where we were going” Faith explained. “These days you can’t be too careful”. Ray smiled to himself, his heart filling with a warming confidence in their new companion.
After a short distance they arrived inside an immaculate, whitewashed guesthouse where Ray and his travelling friend were greeted with a warm welcome by other Christians.
Ray was relieved to have found sanctuary – Faith had brought them home.