Oneka Charles: a man of God

Remembering Oneka Charles today. Oneka Charles died August 5 in his home area of Gulu, Uganda.

Oneka was a friend of many of us who lived Uganda from mid-90s till now. He was a tailor and it was well-known that he could sew anything, including clothes for our children, couch covers, drapes . . . anything. He was good at what he did.

Oneka did not hide the fact that he was HIV-positive. He spoke guardedly about his past but confidently and faithfully about the future. He wanted God to change his test to HIV-negative, and he at times became discouraged with yet another positive test. We talked one day about how God has spared his life for a purpose--to glorify God in so many ways on this earth--and Charles fulfilled that purpose. God spared him for more than a decade, regardless of what tests said.

Brent Abney said, "I'll never forget him . . . his amazing faith, his kindness, his guarded stories of his past, his enthusiastic worship leading and singing. He was a man of God."

On our summer 2010 trip to Uganda, my family was honored to visit Oneka and enjoy moments of prayer and his leading two songs we always remembered him leading in "Jinja Church" years ago. When we visited him, he was living in a small room with rent paid by exchanging sewing work for an orphanage on the same property. Charles was always kind to our children, and wanted specially to have a photo of him with the children.

May he receive from God the blessing of reward for a faithful life and as Abney said, "I hope God hugged him."