He saw it on page after page of Scripture — people in Biblical times living their belief in Jesus in an ethnically diverse world, and finding unity.
Yet, John Rajanayakam saw almost the opposite when he moved from his native India in 1997 to the United States, with Christians often separated according to race or background.
“Diversity is imbedded in all of Christianity’s teaching,” he said. “All of our greatest, scriptural stories unfolded before a cross-cultural audience.”
So Rajanayakam took one small step of faith. In 2009, he founded the nearly annual interdenominational Christian Cross Cultural Men’s Fellowship Breakfast.
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“I don’t know if it was boldness or foolishness or maybe a little bit of both,” Rajanayakam said.
The next breakfast — with prayer, a speaker and worship — occurs from 7:45 to 9:30 a.m. Oct. 29 in the St. Peter’s Lutheran School gym, 719 Fifth St. in Columbus.
Rajanayakam attends St. Peter’s, where the Rev. Mark Teike has long been supportive of ethnic and interdenominational togetherness among Christians.
In the past, the event that alternates among a mix of churches has attracted about 100 people — white, black, Latino, Asian, Indian and others. At one gathering, members of the local Jewish congregation attended and blew a shofar, an Old Testament musical and worship instrument.
Cost is $5. But the event also will serve as a Love Chapel food pantry hot meal site for the day for those who need a free meal.
Rajanayakam wanted to make certain everyone can feel welcome, since he strongly believes in erasing socioeconomic barriers among believers, too. His Christian mother in Chennai, India, ignored the caste system and regularly helped the poor and struggling, and he never has forgotten her example.
The Rev. Larry Rowe, pastor of Second Baptist Church with a strong black membership in Columbus, has been a staunch supporter of the breakfast. He will speak briefly at this year’s gathering, and sees joining hands as important, if only once per year or so.
“For many of us, our styles of worship may be slightly different,” Rowe said. “But for those who believe in one Lord, one faith and one baptism, we serve the same God and are part of the same family. We have much more in common than not.”
Your background in this topic stretches beyond the church?
I spoke to 120 students on diversity and global citizenry recently in Clarskville with the Clark County schools.
How do you see your role at each breakfast?
I am simply a facilitator. I have no particular ax to grind.
I basically saw a gap and moved in some small way to fill that gap.
Why is this event considered successful?
We don’t set up a program on our own and then just invite (diverse) people to come.
We have made a point to go to them first.
What can Christians in general do to promote ethnic and racial unity?
They can have an impact simply with one smile at a time, and one small, kind gesture at a time. That’s never going to cost us anything.
What do you remember most about your mother’s example of outreach to various strangers in your childhood?
She welcomed absolutely everyone into our home. There was no distinction between the rich and the poor.
How are younger Christians doing regarding ethnic unity?
The younger generation doesn’t buy this (separation). My daughter led cross-cultural initiatives in college. Young people today are looking at so much through an unfiltered Christ. I think that’s very important. And it’s important that we show people unity by example.
What’s your heart’s desire with this overall cross-cultural effort in five or 10 years?
If I could have one wish, it would be that we pack the Columbus North or the Columbus East high school football stadiums with thousands of diverse Christians, all worshipping our same God.
What: Christian Cross Cultural Men’s Fellowship Breakfast. Speaker will be Todd Townsend, Central Indiana director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
When: 7:45 to 9:30 a.m. Oct. 29.
Where: St. Peter’s Lutheran School gym, 719 Fifth St. in Columbus.
Why: To encourage Christian men of various ethnic or racial backgrounds to join in unity of fellowship and worship.
Cost: $5, but free to those attending as part of Love Chapel food pantry’s hot meal site. Organizers are hoping people planning to attend will register ahead of time.
Information and registration: John Rajanayakam at firstname.lastname@example.org.