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Aaron Johnson: Defining moments

July of 2002 was an amazing month for the Johnson family. We spent that entire month in Koln, Germany. I had the opportunity to serve an International Baptist Church in Koln while their pastor returned home to Australia.

At the time I was pastor of First Baptist Church in Athens, Ala. The congregation was supportive of my month-long absence.

At this point it might be wise to explain the name of the city, Koln. The locals pronounce it “Klern” and the rest of the world knows it as “Cologne.” Koln is situated in the northwestern part of the country in an industrial region and is best known for its towering cathedral. Until the Eiffel tower was built, the cathedral in Koln was the tallest structure in the world.

Denise and I had visited Germany several times over the years, however, this was the first international trip for our two children, Denae and Jordan. We wanted to make it special for them, knowing this was our only chance to take a trip like this.

A dear friend, Doug Maund, gave us the gift of a lifetime. Since he had traveled extensively in Europe, he knew well how to use the train system. We had always rented a car and drove everywhere we wanted to go. The trains were going to be a new experience for us. He gave us a one-month, 22-country, first class Eurail pass for each of the four of us. I was speechless.

After landing in London and spending two nights there, we were off the to the continent via the “Sea-Cat.” This vessel was huge and fast. The ship ferried passengers and autos from Calais to Dover and back all day long. Once we landed in France, we rented a car and drove to Koln.

An international church is exactly what the name says. The congregation is made up of souls from every imaginable country on earth. The Koln church had about 100 attenders and we met in the German Baptist church on Sunday afternoon. While many languages and countries were represented, the sermons and songs were all in English.

My wife and children had to return one week early to get the kids back in school. On the last Sunday they were there, everyone attending wore the traditional clothing of their home countries. The colors were nothing short of spectacular. That day we had 140 attendees and each dressed in their best.

As nearly as we could count, 46 countries were represented. With that came 46 languages and dialects. Every continent was represented except Antarctica.

We all have defining moments in life. You know, those unexpected moments that create a seismic shift in our lives. I was about to have one.

The last song we sang before the sermon was “Amazing Grace.” Until this song, every song had been in English. Once the congregation began the song, we were right there with them. Then we noticed something strange and beautiful. As we sang in English, every person there sang in their native tongue.

Oh, the tears that flowed. Rarely in worship have I been so touched. Dozens of languages blending into one song of praise.

I looked at my wife as she looked at me. With tears in our eyes, she said, “This is what Heaven will be like.”

She was right. Every tongue, from every nation in one accord. I guess you just had to be there.

In the Bible, in the book of Revelation, it references every nation gathered around the throne. Every nation, every people group, every language, every color. All that makes me think Heaven will not be a place for a racist.

I really don’t think we are as divided by race as some in the media and political office want us to believe.

We have far more in common holding us together than we have dividing us.

Aaron Johnson is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News. He is pastor of Christ Redeemer Church in Guntersville.

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