God wants to heal His human family, and as long I can remember, I have yearned for that, too. He places a very high priority on the relationships among those He has created. Jesus said, “If you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go. First, make things right with your brother or sister and then come back and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 CEB
Since grade school, I have wondered what I could do about the painful issue of racial injustice. My parents set an excellent example. They actively protested the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War and during the Depression, my mother often cooked food for people who knocked on our door.
My father, a family doctor, served many people of color. Some of his patients did not have the means to pay, so he specified that they not be billed. As a little girl, I remember attending some of his patients’ baby baptisms with him. Our neighborhood and my school had little diversity. My first African American friend was Peggy Brooks, who came to help my mother once a week. As a young girl, I shadowed Peggy in her work, and she taught me to iron. This is still my best domestic skill, although not in high demand these days!
As college students, Steve and I married. We learned about a program for underprivileged minority children. If they lived with families within that district during the week, they could qualify to be considered eligible residents of a superior school district. We did not know if they would accept us – a young couple – as fill-in parents. But they did, and we had two middle-school “daughters” for the next couple of years.
When Pastor Dick Leon established a sister church relationship with Mt. Calvary Christian Center in the Central District several years ago, it meant a lot to me to be part of the formation team. As we traveled in the evenings between churches, we all had to work through our fears of going into unfamiliar neighborhoods. We had challenging conversations as we compared notes about being black or white in our country. As we began worshipping together and meeting in one another’s homes, we celebrated our oneness as Christians. Our shared love of Jesus dissolved the barriers of race, age, economics, gender and culture as nothing else can!
Our country seemed to be moving beyond racism, and as the news reminds us daily, racial tension and hate crimes are still very apparent.
I am thankful that BelPres has created a Justice and Reconciliation Team. Its efforts to engage our congregation in educational programs, service opportunities, and person-to-person ministries can help turn the tide. I am excited for this way God is inviting our church into His work of redemption!
BelPres offers several different options to learn more about diversity and racial injustice:
May 13, Saturday, 9:30am – 2pm: Racial Reconciliation Workshop/Frames & Filters with Tali Hairston
May 24 or June 4: Racial Reconciliation Post Workshop Discussion
May 25-June 29, Thursdays, 7pm: Justice+Reconciliation Workshop/Facing Racism