Credit: Katelyn Skye Bennett

Confession: I am a PK

The same twangy tune plays at the end of every Midwestern Mu Kappa Snow Camp, a man’s voice singing, “I’m an MK (missionary kid); I wouldn’t trade it. If there’s any better life, I couldn’t name it. Yes I’m an MK; I’m glad it’s true, and you can tell your folks you wanna be an MK too.” My friends and I have a lot of different thoughts on the song overall, but hearing it has made me realize something: I’m a PK (pastor’s kid), and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My History

I grew up as a pastor’s kid in a church of thirty. Yes, thirty people. My dad did practically everything: setting up chairs, preaching, organizing the kids’ club on Wednesdays—everything except singing, that is. Mr. Jeff and I took over that for the sake of the congregations’ ears. When I wasn’t at school, music lessons, or friends’ houses, I was at church.

My Sundays began with a 9:15 a.m. Sunday school class through sixth grade, which later switched to a 9:00 worship practice and 10:30 church service. I helped lead worship; listened to my dad’s half hour message; chatted with the church family before, during, and after the service; and sometimes joined them at Wendy’s for lunch around 12:00. Mondays were my dad’s Sabbath from ministry, though he still had coaching and sometimes teaching or landscaping.

Wednesdays we went to Family Night at church, 5:45 p.m. on pizza nights and 6:30 on regular nights. There I first participated in and then led children in AWANA, an inclusive Bible club where kids memorize Scripture and play energetic, competitive games. The adult Bible study took place at the same time, making it easy for families to come and go together. For a few years we had youth group at that time, too.

Credit: Katelyn Skye Bennett

We did everything in the church. My dad even held his tonsil removal/birthday party there! Credit: Katelyn Skye Bennett

On Friday nights I attended a youth group at my friend’s church, where I would sometimes go for weekend conferences if I wasn’t leading worship. The church week never ended, and I was fine with that.

I never quite left the church grounds either. For several years, we lived in the parsonage, or what I called the “church house.” This meant I was seconds away from the actual church building, and Bible studies, Sunday school and youth group were in the living room or basement of the house itself.

If I haven’t made myself clear, I spent a lot of time at church as a PK.

Fighting Stereotypes

Toby Keith captures one of the stereotypes of being a pastor’s kid in his song, “God Love Her.” The young woman in the song is called “a rebel child and a preacher’s daughter.” The opposing stereotype is that PKs are goody two-shoes.

I suppose I have always hated stereotypes, because before I was passionate about racial conciliation or even aware of racial injustice, I fought against the PK stereotype. I didn’t face much flak for being a PK—perhaps because I was around so many Christians all the time, and my family was in good standing—but I overreacted when I did.

When the boy at church youth group said, “Oh you’re a PK” in a negative tone, I immediately countered him by saying, “And a coach’s kid and a teacher’s kid and a landscaper’s kid.” My point: don’t assume I fit the selected categories of (A) Goody-goody or (B) bad girl because of my dad’s job.

Reaching Understanding

Many people also thought that I loved Jesus more because my dad was a pastor. For about nineteen years of my life, I denied it: If my dad wasn’t a pastor or youth pastor, he would still love Jesus just as much. I would still have grown up in a Christian home. But both my parents are so involved in ministry that I cannot separate who they are from what they do. Others minister Christ’s love and grace in just law practice, honest accounting, cheerful mail delivery, compassionate medicine practice, truthful journalism, joyful car cleaning, patient retail work or tireless social work, and my parents do it through faithful church ministry.

When I turned twenty last year, I recognized that this has shaped me. I do not love Jesus more because I am a PK, but being in a Christian family devoted to church ministry certainly helped me to know God and see Him at work.

Credit: Katelyn Skye Bennett

My best friend, cousin, and I began a garden outside the church. Credit: Katelyn Skye Bennett

As a PK, I had to make sacrifices that were not my choice. We did not have much money, and we did not enjoy the privileges many middle class Americans have. However, God always provided what we needed. We were never without food or housing, and we always had sufficient clothes for each striking New England season. God blessed us with loving friends and relatives, although Connecticut did grow lonely for my family, due in part to their status at church. In all the trials we faced, God taught us how to trust Him and how to pray. He gifted us with “daily bread”: exactly what we needed at any time, usually not more, but certainly never less.

Achieving Growth

At just the right time, God moved my family to a new place where they could thrive. They are still so involved in ministry that the church directory had to cut out the allotted “hobbies” section to fit all the ways they invest in the church. They enjoy friends, good jobs, and warmer weather. Life is not easy for them—my dad works three jobs including his youth pastor position, my mom has one, and my high school sister has a couple—but God provides for all their needs.

My children, if I am blessed to have any, will likely face similar challenges, though with a cross-cultural component since I plan to do ministry in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I doubt they will have much materially, at least by American standards, but I believe they will have all they need in order to rely on God and know his goodness.

I cannot predict how they might respond to the MK song, but as long as they love the Lord, I will be pleased.

 

 

 

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Montana. PC: KSB

“My grace is sufficient”: praising God in the face of chronic back pain

“You’re too young to be in pain like this,” they tell me. I shrug and grin sadly. It doesn’t change that I have had chronic back and neck pain for the past six or seven years. I’m only 21.

In high school I went to the chiropractor about once a year for back pain. I thought this was normal, and maybe it was. Doctor Metzger was great, and I appreciated the adjustments he gave when my bones needed it. I also appreciated his honesty, jovial personality, and belief in natural medicine. But in college the pain intensified.

I remember lying in bed in Denver the summer after my freshman year, crying and praying that I could move my body in order to get up. My cousin Jonathan prayed for me from two time zones away, a bad chiropractor stole my money, and I wasn’t well enough to hike in the Rockies. Then sophomore year began.

I composed a mental list of friends who could massage well so I wouldn’t overburden one person when I desperately needed some relief. These student masseuses have been incredibly kind over the years, and I am deeply thankful to these friends. Yet even the most thorough massages would not be effective for long. At first they helped for a couple weeks, then a day or so, then only a few hours. Now they don’t do much at all except to provide very temporary relief and comforting physical touch.

The pain makes college more difficult since I spend all my energy controlling it, which hinders my learning in class and tires me out when it comes time to do homework. Praise the Lord that I have made it this far, with only a few months left until graduation! Although my back and neck issues have caused me to struggle, I am still on track to graduate. I know others whose diseases have set them behind or caused them to drop out of school.

About a year ago, I was in constant pain, and approximately once a week I would break down and not be able to walk, since the pain translated into a weakness in my extremities. I remember collapsing and sobbing in a pile of leaves after church one Sunday, unable to walk the quarter mile from church to the main campus building. Dry leaves served as my tissues, and after the tears had released enough tension in my back, I managed to walk home with multiple rest stops. Typically the pain would build back up over the course of a week until my next breakdown. The pain was usually worst on Sundays, which I understood as a spiritual attack.

This pain hindered not only my own body but also my work in Goma, DRC, this past summer. When I was too weak to teach English one day, I lay crying on a couch in the director’s office and then held my friend Clarice’s hand. My driver took me across Goma to search for medicine so I could prevent more breakdowns and work again.

The pain came to a climax in the first week of my senior year this past fall when I broke down four times in one week. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to finish college although I’d worked so hard to get to this point and God had shown himself so faithful to bring me there. I began going to doctors and having my friends carry my bags and support me physically as I walked.

I have learned to ask for help when I need it, for I cannot do everything on my own. I am weak on my own. But I am not alone, not with God’s Spirit in me and His people around me.

I’ve been to chiropractors in recent years, but they can’t offer an explanation and don’t do much to help my larger problem. X-rays say my bones are fine. Finally I went to an alternative doctor who confirmed that my problems aren’t structural but rather a conglomeration of internal issues that have built up over years and manifested especially in my shoulder and neck — viruses I’ve had since birth or gotten from a vaccine, strep in my shoulder, and so on. No wonder massages and chiropractic adjustments couldn’t fix me.

This doctor’s remedies have helped a great deal, allowing me to go even weeks without thinking about the pain, although my back would still be uncomfortable at times. What a gift! But a little after Christmas break, the pain started to worsen again. Two weeks ago, I had to stop six times on the four block walk from my house to the place where we had worship practice because I wasn’t strong enough to carry my guitar. I just kept praying, “Yesu, Yesu, Yesu,” taking strength in the name of Jesus.

When I arrived at worship practice, the pianist was playing “Because of Who You Are.” I asked her to keep playing piano, just keep playing, and I laid on the ground and cried. That afternoon I decided to praise God regardless of my pain. I told Him and my team that even if I suffer with this pain for the rest of my life, I will give Him glory and praise.

Since then, I have taken new joy in my suffering. Instead of neglecting God in my trials, I will turn to Him. He has shown himself to be mindful and good and gracious and faithful, and my life would be desolate without the hope Jesus gives. The Bible promises that God will make everything new, and I long for that restoration. Meanwhile, God has given me incredible friends to support me emotionally and help me in my physical need, people who pray for me, and people who can relate to me and guide me along. I am blessed.

I believe Jesus heals, and I’ve witnessed Him do it multiple times in multiple places from Goma to Wheaton. I don’t understand why he heals some people and not others or why some people are healed on the spot and others wait for years. In all this, I do know that His love is constant and faithful and sweet. And I will praise Him for all my days on this broken earth and in heaven where all things are made whole.

 

Leading worship at a multicultural worship night. PC: Wheaton College Student Activities Office

Live to worship

7:23 PM – I fiddled on the violin as Henry set up the sound system and turned on the keys. The song began as a rehearsal for Sunday’s worship, but it morphed into something else. After ten minutes, it was a new song, and I removed my shoes.

Every third quarter note, the drum set emitted a crescendo like cymbals. The resonance of Henry’s keyboard traveled across the empty stage to make it ring and fill the room with the sound of ghost musicians. I harmonized in the microphone as Henry led the worship song. My voice filled the space with improvised lyrics, prayers to our Father in Heaven.

Eventually we brought the song back to the original lyrics, closing the song with a prayer paralleling the introduction. “I love the Lord for He heard my cry and He delivered me from my fear/ and He lifted me up higher and higher… I believe You move at the sound of my voice/ You heard my cry and You answered me… I just wanna thank You/ I just wanna praise You/ I just wanna sing a song of love and have Your heart be moved by mine/ O God, be moved by mine.”

The power of prayer, revealed by the Holy Spirit through human voices over electronic keys and soft percussion. The power of prayer, captured in lyrics written by covered and covered by Jaye Thomas, read in the combined quote above. The power of prayer, like a psalm, a form of writing that is itself a musical call to God.

7:48 PM – I slipped my bare feet into my shoes, he shut off the sound system, and we went home.


Worshipping with my friend Henry this Christmas break made me realize how much I miss my worship team in Illinois. It has only been a few weeks since we practiced, only a few weeks since we conquered finals and rode into Christmas break, but those weekly times of worship are precious to me. Every Monday we meet to pray, fellowship, and worship God through music. We practice our pronunciation and have fun on the glockenspiel as we prepare to lead our multilingual community in worship.

This year I prayed for a team of worshippers, people who would want to spend time with the Holy Spirit even if we did not have an event to prepare for that particular week. God answered my prayer and has blessed us all through our habitual times of fellowship with each other and with Him.

This January I have the honor of helping to lead worship for Snow Camp, a winter retreat. My team plans on attending the weekend event as well, although we will not lead the worship together. A colleague is organizing the time, but I have the privilege of contributing to the set and leading vocals. Preparing for this throughout the month of December has thrilled me because I anticipate the Holy Spirit’s presence and power at the retreat and desire to know the Spirit more even now.

One of my main purposes in life is to worship God through music and prayer. Worshipping Him renews the life in me since I am spending time communing with the one who gave me new life: Jesus Christ. What joy!

David and Asaph knew this joy when they wrote the Psalms. They knew God’s heart and His faithfulness as they sang songs of worship and praise, songs that begged for Him to intervene and rescue them, songs that always ended in some form of reflection on who God is. Songs of sorrow and songs of dancing. Prayers, put to music.

Israel Houghton sings it accurately: “To worship You I live / I live to worship You.” This is my purpose: to glorify God. This is the purpose of any Christian, in fact, through whatever gifts and privileges He has granted you. May the new year only increase your desire to know God’s heart and worship Him, the Almighty One.

Three Words on Waiting

Waiting: it seems like the theme of my life. I was wait-listed twice before being accepted into my college. I have been waiting to find the right guy since high school. I am now waiting on my visa from the Democratic Republic of Congo so I can finally visit the country where I hope to live. Although I recognize I am by no means the longest-sufferer around, I feel that I have experienced a good amount of waiting in my short life, and I would like to encourage you in your times of waiting.

1. Waiting is frustrating.

Let me just put that out there. In this impulse-driven American society, even an hour can seem like an eternity. If I don’t want to wait sixty minutes to enjoy a home-cooked dinner, I will stick a potato in the microwave so I can eat in five minutes. Others may call in take-out or go on a Los run. When I see the little check mark signifying that a friend has read my message but then does not reply for a couple hours, the waiting makes my imagination go all sorts of places. (No, they don’t hate you, Skye. They’re probably studying and will reply later.)

And when you are waiting for something you have put your heart into, such as applying to college or for a visa, frustrating may not be an emotional enough word. Waiting can be worrisome . . . unless you realize that God is in control and has asked you to lay your burdens at his feet. In the words of Gospel singer Travis Greene, “He’s intentional, never failing.”

So what do we do in the meanwhile?

2. Wait actively.

In other words, waiting does not equal passivity. Let me be clear: I am not saying, “God helps them who help themselves.” That adage is not found anywhere in Scripture. In fact, that adage elevates humans to God’s level and limits him to a failsafe. In reality, we can see God’s help most when we are helpless. Jesus mentions this in Mark 2:15-17 regarding our need of God due to the sin we all have. But I have digressed.

While God is not our genie in a bottle that we call when we have met our limits, he is also not a genie who does everything for us if we do have faith. We still have lives to live while we trust him, and we can honor God by living lives worthy of Him (not loafing around waiting for him to do something magical).

In my current situation, I have done everything humanly possible to pursue my goal, but God operates on his own time and not necessarily ours. Sometimes there is nothing left to do other than wait for your visa with patience, faith and integrity – praying all the way.

Prayer should not a cop-out to avoid a particular task; rather, it is a powerful and effective tool we use when we come before the King of Kings. It is a pleasing fragrance to him. It is a way to beg our Abba for mercy and grace (and visas). No request is too large or small, but his answers come in his time. Hence the waiting again.

3. There is a purpose to the waiting.

A few months ago when I was in the middle of preparing for my summer trip overseas, a friend shared some encouragement. She and I were texting about a couple matters including my summer trip, and she talked with me about waiting. I did not understand why she brought this up since I was confident in my plans and excited for the summer, but now I find her words quite applicable.

This friend shared a song with which I was familiar through my worship team: “Sovereign Over Us,” The lyrics read, “You are working in the waiting/ you are sanctifying us/ and beyond our understanding/ you are teaching us to trust.” That sounds about right. I don’t understand why I must wait, but I do  know I must trust God. Then comes the promise in the chorus: “Your plans are still to prosper/ you have not forgotten us/ you are with us in the fire and in the flood/ you’re faithful forever/ perfect in love/ you are sovereign over us.” Amen.

Admittedly, I do not know the purpose to this wait. Neither does the organization I will be joining. But I know that if nothing else, God can use this time to glorify himself through all of us who are waiting — if we wait upon him.

 

Hold on to hope, friends. God is for us, and he will not fail his people. Pursue your God-given dreams and plans, and trust him in the process. And if you do not have a specific vision from Him now, honor God wherever you are. He is faithful.

Photo belongs to KSB and the others therein.

Three Truths OMD Tells Me

I can’t hide it. I can’t stop my affections, and in fact, it might be fatal to do so. Friends, I love the Office of Multicultural Development.

More accurately, I am loved by the OMD. Every time I enter the space, I am reminded of three truths. With time I am growing to believe these fundamental reminders, and I can better reflect these truths upon others. As a white chocolate womyn, the OMD reminds me daily who I am in God:

1. I am made in God’s image.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. -1 John 3:1-2, NIV

In person and via email, Associate Director Eva Ortiz always calls us students lovely. I can picture her in her swivel chair now, looking up from her lists and asking, “How are you today, lovely Skye?” Her mentorship, care, attentiveness, prayers and practical yet abundant provision of food reinforce the truth that I am made in God’s image. In addition, Rodney Sisco, Director of the OMD, always asks me if I am taking care of myself. He responds thoughtfully and in a way that always validates me. Though most of our conversations are brief, his gentle and genuine care is evident in each one. He affirms my beauty as well. God is good to provide these constant reminders!

For those who do not know, the Office of Multicultural Development is more than a business office; it is a community. As such, those in its space provide general affirmation of my body and increase my appreciation of other people’s bodies, all made in God’s image. This carries into the broader Wheaton community when my OMD friends and I see each other.

God made us in all shapes and sizes, curvy and petite, musically talented  and physically strong, and I love seeing the diverse beauty in these men and women’s bodies. The extensive range of skin colors is a given in OMD. I also love the refreshing laughter and familiar voices, both physical gifts God bestowed on us. Finally, it is fun to view the different colors of hair: blue weaves, bleached blonde tresses, naturally raven locks — we’ve got it all.

We are beautiful humans. We suffer pain, but we are also full of life. We exemplify God’s image on earth.

2. I am loved by the Church.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. -1 John 5:1-5, NIV

The institutional church gets a lot of flack from Christians at my school (and those elsewhere in the United States), and a lot of that is for good reason: the evangelical church in this country is not known for its inclusivity of sexual minorities, is often racially segregated and may demean women through its rhetoric and practice. Not every local church will sin in these ways, however, and even those that do so may glorify God in other ways such as passionately spreading the good news of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross or reaching out to refugees the State may be neglecting.

Moreover, what Wheaton students often fail to realize is that they are the Church themselves, as the Body of Christ. And you know what? They’re actually doing a pretty decent job of loving each other well! Yes, Wheaton College has many institutional sins, and the individuals who attend the college also fall short of God’s glory, but most love their specific Wheaton communities well. Yesu redeemed and empowered us, so let’s recognize his victory more loudly! 🙂

Wheaton, OMD, friends: thank you for loving me. Thank you for sharing Christ’s love with me. In case you are curious or doubt this truth, I shall tell you how you in OMD love me well, though I cannot fully accomplish this feat in one paragraph.

The OMD is a safe space to weep or be in pain as well as to laugh and share stories. Hee-Jung welcomes me with her smile, nodding head and perceptive comments. Eva provides snacks daily for all of us. Alisha is sweet, kind, genuine and hospitable. When my back pain became unbearable last week, Tramaine and Juma took care of me. The next afternoon in OMD again, Karis massaged my neck and held my hand as I began to nap to escape the agony. She and I have multiple memories of laughing and literally chasing each other around to take back some object stolen in jest. Last year when I went through a heartbreak, Bria loved on me by spending hours with me in the back corner of OMD and buying me snacks upon food upon chocolate. Iliana and Samuel and I have shared many a story time there as well. It is clear that the members of the Church, as demonstrated in OMD, love me, their sister.

3. I am loved by God.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. -1 John 3:16-18, NIV

This point is short and sweet. Because the Church loves me, I can understand God’s love better. I can tangibly feel it, and occasionally my Christian brothers and sisters will remind me of his love in words. Whether they wrap me in a hug, speak encouraging words or pray for me, they share God’s love yet again. I am privileged to show God’s faithful love in return.

 

Ideally, you will be reminded of these three truths in any good Christian community. I am especially grateful for the Office of Multicultural Development, however, as it impacts my life on a daily basis, reminding me of who I am in God and allowing me to see his image in other students and staff.

Wheaton students, you are always welcome in OMD. ❤

When God Said No to Shalom

Last spring break, I was grieving. My college was under spiritual attack, a man had just broken my heart and I found out that I was not accepted into the Shalom Community.

The Shalom Community, which began in fall 2013, is comprised of two houses, one male and one female, as part of Housing and the Office of Multicultural Development. It exists to further racial reconciliation on campus. The houses are intentionally multicultural, and the students living there are required to take a sociology course titled “Race and Ethnic Relations.” They live together much like a normal on-campus house, but the educational aspect differentiates the Community from other houses. The Shalom Houses also meet once a week, sometimes for discussions on race related topics, sometimes to share stories and sometimes simply to have fun. Occasionally they host a campus-wide event as well.

Everyone expected I would be accepted into Shalom. I’m all about racial reconciliation, after all. Since my freshman year, the first year the houses existed, I had planned on living there. In fact, I had planned my college life around being in the Shalom Community.

Then, just before spring break, my friends and I heard the news. Iliana was in. Jen was in. Christy was in. I was not. We were all shocked.

When I ran to the bathroom to weep, I bumped into two of my friends who had just heard the exciting news that they were accepted. They graciously mourned with me even as they rejoiced for themselves.

Over spring break and in the following weeks, one housing option after another failed me. Most of my friends were in Shalom, and the rest already had plans. I asked about eleven different groups of people about joining them, but they always ended up finding a “better fit” instead. With few weeks left in the school year and no housing options for the summer or fall, I was desperate and broken. I felt unwanted and rejected.

I understood why I had not been accepted into Shalom House: They told me they had many good options and hated saying no to anyone, but they had to choose, and they knew I’d continue to pursue racial reconciliation on my own. I was encouraged despite my grief. But I still didn’t have a place to live.

I had been searching for housing both on and off campus, although off campus housing is limited to a quota and is not often granted to rising juniors. Miraculously, Housing approved the option. I continued to search, walking through nearby neighborhoods, asking church friends, even knocking on a door of what I’d mistakenly been told was an off campus house of college girls.

One evening I visited another church friend to ask if her family would have room for me. As I sat in her kitchen, crying in my fear of being homeless, she and her husband fed me fruit and shared their stories of not knowing where they would go for the summer up to the day before and how God provided. With their daughter and grandson moving in, they didn’t think it would be wise for me to live there, but they prayed over me and sent me home with money and—a luxury at the time—a couple bananas.

A few days later, that friend called to notify me about a house one of her other children had described to her. She urged, “Here’s the lady’s number. Call her now!!” While on the line with her, that number called me. I returned the call as soon as I hung up with my friend, and within fifteen minutes I was being picked up by a stranger to visit the house.

Felicity K Day 1

PC: Rebekah Haworth

We drove four blocks through the dark, and I was greeted by a five year old girl with curly blond hair, who I learned was the youngest of six. They showed me the basement—the kitchenette with a washing machine and dryer, the bathroom, the rooms for rent. Utilities were included in the low monthly price. The house was near campus. The little girl was smiley and ticklish. I returned to my dorm excited.

A few days later, we finalized the housing deal. Two weeks later, I moved in for the summer and beheld my new home for the first time in daylight: a brick house with a row of bushes on the left side, a maple tree out front and a kindergarten sign by the door.

I have lived there for ten months now, and I have become part of the family, the Haworths. Over the summer, the oldest girls “officially fake adopted me,” and just this past week, the youngest told me I am “basically like a big sister.” My relationships differ depending on the person, but I have grown close to the family and enjoy going home each evening to hang out with them. I love having a home to which I can return on break without having the temporary feel of a dorm from which I would be expelled.

Yet I am often included by this year’s Shalom Community as well. My friends in Shalom honor me by counting me as part of the houses. When other students assume I am in Shalom, I correct them, but my friends butt in and affirm that I am basically a part of Shalom. Last semester I spent time there daily. Although we have all been busy and I have been hiding out my house a lot more this semester, they still count me as part of them. For example, the other day one of my Shalom friends asked if I was going home, and when I replied that I was indeed going to my house to make dinner, she said, “No, I meant home with me.” Moments like this cause me feel loved, although I praise God that I am part of the Haworth household as well.

For many months I did not realize why I had not been accepted into Shalom House. As new friends wait to see if they are accepted into next year’s Shalom Community, my emotions are flavored like salted, bittersweet chocolate chips. I am sad that I will graduate from Wheaton College without having lived at Shalom — or at least that I will never be able to say I lived there. But I know now that I could not afford to live on campus. I know I need the space to get away and be alone off campus. I also know I love living with the family. At last I can see how God’s plans are infinitely better than mine.

To the new Shalomers, congratulations! God is going to work awesome things in and through you via the Shalom Community. And to those who are not accepted this year, I understand and am sorry. If you are sad, take time to grieve. Continue to pursue racial reconciliation via education and life style, e.g. social circles and future decisions. Trust in God’s faithfulness and provision even as you grieve. For all of you, God is at work, and he is with you.

 

 

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-g_ZyGPDIEvU/Tx94hpZODdI/AAAAAAAABLI/818wiiN90I0/s1600/2+whites+only.tif

Why salvation is not exclusive

Two years ago this weekend, God changed my heart and set me on the course toward racial reconciliation.

At a summer ministries retreat, in a room full of students lamenting over the ways they had been hurt, God’s Spirit convicted me to confess my racial prejudice in public and to repent. Although God rescued me from slavery to sin and brought me into his Kingdom when I was a young girl, and although he led me through various seasons of focused growth (e.g. prayer in third grade, evangelism in my senior year of high school), that weekend in 2014 marked a significant turning point in my life.

On the same weekend in 2015, God called me to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I hope to work with refugees. This connects to my work while I’m in the States because the refugees may move here, and I want them to be safe.

While in the States, I fight for #blacklivesmatter because God’s work is holistic—he cares about both body and soul. White evangelical sermons often focus on the soul, and since eternity is unfathomably long, I’m glad these pastors are thinking ultimate. We want people to know Jesus. Yet these same pastors and churches may also be afraid to talk directly about race. About bodies. They leave out half of how Jesus interacted with people and spoke to them.

You see, Jesus raised the dead, healed the blind, and hung out with women and men from the underprivileged ethnic groups, the Gentiles and mixed-race Samaritans. The Jews of his time weren’t too fond of these folk, to put it lightly. In fact, the Jewish leaders’ speech dripped with prejudice toward them. But Jesus wanted his ethnic group, the Jews, to come alive and see that God’s Kingdom welcomes women and men of all ethnicities.

(As a crucial aside, Jesus didn’t call everyone to be the same—the Gentiles did not have to conform to Jewish practices such as circumcision, for example. But he created all people in his image and desires for them to be reconciled to each other just as they can be reconciled to God through his sacrifice on the cross.)

The apostle Paul proclaims, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16, NIV). God does not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, social class or gender. Everyone who “believe(s) in the Lord Jesus … will be saved” (Acts 16:31, NIV). God doesn’t qualify “everyone.” He says everyone, black and white, Native American and Indian immigrant, Puerto Rican and Vietnamese.

Although many black Americans are restricted to zip codes with poor housing and poor education today, if they trust Jesus, they will dance on the golden streets of Heaven. (And since black churches in the United States tend to incorporate more movement than white ones, the Lord knows these brothers and sisters will make a prettier sight than most people from my white church! 😉 )

Part of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples—which applies to all Christians today—begs for God’s Kingdom to come and will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. So why aren’t more white evangelicals engaging in social issues regarding race and public policy? Why do they hesitate to believe the real life testimonies of black brothers and sisters?

It would be horrible for a newly arrived black refugee walking out of a convenience store and down the streets of his own neighborhood to be shot by a police officer who has been socialized to fear black men. It would be atrocious for a Congolese woman, scarred from warfare in her home country, to see her young son killed in this new land of “opportunity and freedom” or to be beaten herself on the roadside. (If you weren’t following the news last year, I’m referencing Mike Brown, Tamir Rice and Marlene Pinnock.) I pray these borrowed examples will never happen to new black refugees.

In my experience, the Church has compassion for refugees. It follows that it should also act justly and lovingly toward black Americans who have lived in this country for centuries, building it from the ground up. I pray the borrowed stories will never again happen to black Americans.

Toward that end I strive.

I encourage my Christian readers to seek the Lord as you also strive for his Kingdom. All human beings have dignity, being made in God’s image. Why then do we remain complacent about the structures that keep many of our black brothers and sisters in both visible and invisible chains? I especially call Christians to open their eyes and hearts to the reality of racial injustice and inequality in this country.

Let us not grow weary in doing good.

Never forget that #blacklivesmatter.