Lawson field, PC: KSB

Confessions of a formerly racist woman

A busload of college students preparing for summer ministries filed into the open room that evening, abandoning the Midwestern winter air. We were entering a space of lament that MLK weekend. Mostly we sat, stood, or bowed in silence, allowing God to heal us from ways we had been sinned against throughout our lives. We let ourselves grieve.

But as we did this, the Holy Spirit showed me something ugly within myself, a way I had sinned against others. It was disgusting and shameful.

I knew God could and had forgiven me, but that didn’t stop my heart from pounding and burning with a pressure that only comes when the Holy Spirit is compelling me to do something. That night as I kneeled on the carpet, God was telling me to publically confess my sin.

I stood up in the silence, shaking.

The roomful of students preparing to share the Gospel in cities across the US, hostels throughout Europe, and countries in the Global South listened as I confessed my sin aloud. I had failed to understand the Gospel I proclaimed, though I did not realize that yet.

I told them I was harboring racial prejudice.

Though not intentional and not directed towards people I knew personally, because I was able see my friends as full humans, I was prejudiced towards black people. I had internalized the belief that they were less intelligent than me, a white person. I was racist.

Four years ago last night, in the dim room at that retreat center, God turned my life around again. I’d been “born again” at age five, when God rescued me from a life stuck in sin and welcomed me into his Kingdom; baptized at ten, which was a marker in my life though not particularly life-changing; and now God was saving me again from a life of racism.

Instead of rejecting me, my peers listened with respect. Some thanked me. And when I returned to campus a few days later, I jumped into a life pursuing racial conciliation.

Through sociological education, relationships with gracious people of color, the love and conversations of the Office of Multicultural Development, events put on by Solidarity, I began to fight my ignorance and racism in order to love others better.

Where I had once been afraid of protests, I joined campus demonstrations combatting racial injustice. I began to use my writing and social influence to teach other white folks about racism, however subtle, unintentional, “innocent,” systemic, or blatant it may have been.

The focus of my life had shifted completely, all thanks to God. He helped me to love my black brothers and sisters. He saved me from the miry bog of ignorance, prejudice, racism and gave me a new song.

As a white person, I still benefit from the systems of racism in the United States. That means I am still racist in a sense. Moreover, I am still ignorant: I have years of racial understanding and conversation to catch up on, and there are things I may never fully understand because I do not experience them.

But that doesn’t stop me from striving to see things from other people’s perspectives, listen to and believe their experiences, research racial justice in order to share knowledge and support communities of color, and generally live my life in a way that esteems my friends and fellow Americans who are a different race or ethnicity than me – and not out of guilt but out of love and a sense of what is right or just.

I say none of this to glorify myself but to celebrate the way God transformed my life, saving me anew, in the hopes that he might open your eyes as well, if they are closed in the way mine were. I am forever grateful to God for this.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend.

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Blackman Bausi in concert, photo from his Facebook and used with permission

The world changers

I scroll through the staff page of another American missions agency and notice, not surprisingly, that the leadership is almost entirely composed of white men. From talking to some of these people and organizations, I know their intentions to share Jesus’ love are good, but the undervaluing of Christians of color in American missions disappoints me.

The commonly held idea that only white Westerners know the “true Gospel” is also heartbreaking, especially since Christianity was birthed in a region of brown people and is exploding in the Global South today. In fact, let me tell you about a few Congolese men I know.

Baraka. PC: KSB

Baraka, PC: KSB

A former English student of mine, my friend Baraka, told me about his passion for missions the very first time we conversed in the yellow painted room after a class. Quiet and earnest, he shared his heart to see Muslims know Christ Jesus. “I love them. I want to show them God’s Word,” he shared.

Baraka is studying theology in his country. Like many Congolese people, he knows over a handful of languages, including a bit of Arabic that he has learned in order to share the Gospel more effectively. He’s looking for missions agencies even as you read this.

Dieum, photo used with permission.

Dieum, photo used with permission.

Then there’s my best friend Dieum, whom I met through our church choir in Goma, eastern Congo. His dream is to be a doctor, pastor, and singer who uses his skills around the world and before the throne in Heaven. He is dedicated to seeing the sick healed and is particularly interested in the nervous system. His devotion to his studies is paired with a knack for making others laugh, and the atmosphere transforms when his fingers meet a keyboard.

My mentor-friend Dedi, who began Love of God Ministries under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and with encouragement his family, is perhaps the strongest example I have to give of a Congolese Christian with global impact. He is known in several countries for his faith and ministry, all through the Holy Spirit’s miraculous connections. Although his situation is humble, he has selflessly poured into me, teaching me about prophecy, the Holy Spirit, and faith. His life is wrapped around his ministry, the call God has placed on him.

Feed.bennett.Christ.18.01.15 Blackman1

Blackman Bausi, photo used with permission.

Of course, people do not have to leave their home country to have an impact in God’s kingdom. Blackman Bausi is another man of God working within his country of Congo. He has not gone out to do missions but is using his rap music to transform the lives of local, underprivileged youth through his foundation. He himself was born of rape, but Jesus redeemed his life and gave him a voice to speak for those without one, particularly women and the youth “heroes” he is now reaching. I am privileged to have collaborated with him and to join him in this work now as an international volunteer.

The meeting point of our five lives is Un Jour Nouveau, or Africa New Day, a Congolese organization that strives “to equip, educate, and empower each man, woman, and child in Congo to bring about cultural change, both individually and as part of a community, to enrich and provide opportunities for growth for future generations.” The goal is for change to come from within Congo, and the organization teaches Biblically-based principles of peace and leadership.

UJN also includes a Gospel-loving church. God’s work through UJN is showing incredible fruit, as the school and church have multiplied in recent years. As evidenced above, my friends from there are passionate about sharing the Gospel in their city, country, and around the globe.

And fun-fact: Although this blog post focuses on men of color, UJN was co-founded by a married couple, so one of the leaders is a woman. The principal of their primary school is a female friend of mine, and I know other incredible women in leadership there as well as men. Most of the Congolese people that I know who are interested in or able to pursue missions outside their country are these men, however.

UJN at night, PC: either Dieum or Daniel

UJN at night, summer 2016. It has expanded since I was last there. PC: either Dieum or Daniel

Some Christians go out, some stay put, and all have the opportunity to contribute to the work of God. Black men like these four gentlemen – Congolese men in their early to mid-twenties, dedicated to peace and Jesus’ Gospel though from a country that is torn apart by endless violence – are some of the leading examples of faith, ministry, and missions in my life. God is using them powerfully to impact other Africans, Asians, and North Americans.

God is using people of color, including those from the Global South, to renew the missions field.

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.

Why Today Is the Greatest Day of My Life: Celebrating Faith

Today is the anniversary of the most life-changing day I’ve lived, and I hope you’ll allow me to tell you about it. Gather around, dear friends. Make yourselves comfortable, and brace yourselves for my testimony.

Fourteen years ago I was preparing to enter Kindergarten. I was a short, curly haired thing much like I am today, but I was a beaming child back, so I was a little shorter. I already loved words, and I was excited to go to school.

Fourteen years ago it was summer—July 2, 2001, to be precise. The sky by my house was its clear, summery self, and I stood underneath it, toeing the edge of our paved driveway. The glory of God was about to be manifest.

Fourteen years ago and 20 minutes away, my grandpa was in a coma in his house in Southington. It was the eve of his entrance into eternity.

Fourteen years ago my mom told me about eternity.

Fourteen years ago, having heard about Heaven and Hell and knowing I needed Jesus to save me from my sin, I gave my life to him. To put it succinctly, I became a Christian. The angels rejoiced in Heaven, and I ran to tell my parents about my newfound hope and joy—a continuing joy.

Why I’m Still A Christian

Fourteen years later, my faith hasn’t changed. I’ve been a Christian for 14 of my 19 years, nearly 75% of my life. That’s crazy! And it’s awesome! Let me tell you why:

  • I’ve seen God’s faithfulness at work as He continually provides the basic necessities in life for my family and me—practically literal daily bread. For example, just yesterday my financial aid package came though, and I was awarded an extra grant that will help enable me to keep attending college. Praise the Lord!
  • He has brought healing to my relationships and to my scarred heart, and I’ve seen him work forgiveness in fellow believers as well. I could write books about these stories if I could find the emotional energy, time, and proper words to capture them.
  • God has revealed his love, glory and power through people I know and people I’ve only just met. He’s given me peace through the prayers of my faith-full friends such as Magda this Tuesday, and He’s shown me his glory through people who don’t know him such as the man I met at the library last week. I want everyone to know God!
  • He has let me glimpse his justice, holiness, joy and Kingdom through my friends. I call to mind the Asian/Asian-American group at my college.
  • He has continually drawn me to him through his Word in the Bible and to me in person. He’s also directed my future in this manner. Y’all know I’m going to DRC soon. That’s all because God has prepared good works for me to do there for His glory. 🙂

God has used music and nature, people and stillness, to reveal himself to me. God is here, and I can’t even begin to explain how awesome He is. I’m eternally grateful to be the LORD’s—and I can say that completely honestly because I will dwell in his house forever. I have been reborn and adopted into his family! I will rejoice in Him always and keep pressing towards him.

Doesn’t he sound amazing?! Don’t stop reading, please. Let me share just a little more about my God!

Gains and Losses

We need God. To understate our situation, we’re a hot mess without him. We’re actually damned. We’re so broken that all the money, sex, music, social media, TV, friends, volunteering, time spent at work, success, awards, good grades, food, caffeine, sleeping pills, alcohol and weed can’t fix us. We’re not good enough for God. The only thing we are good for is Hell, which, by the way, is not the same as this earth. Hell is worse. There isn’t even any water to refresh the parched mouths there. Yet we deserve to die. We’re not good enough for God, so without him to save us, we have to be separated from him forever and placed in Hell.

Thankfully, God is merciful and loving, and he calls all of us broken, sinful, wicked and mediocre people to him. (Every one of us is all of those things without Christ, even the best of us.) We’re the tax collector that extorted money from the people. We’re the woman who couldn’t stay married or the one who slept around. We’re also the average-Joe destined to work a blue-collar job our whole lives. We’re all those people and more—the nobodies, really—but God looked at us and said, “Hey, I want you. I want you, Jared. I want you, Hala. I want you, Jessica and Donna and Ron. I’ll make a way for you to be with me, because you are my priceless treasure.”

Thus he sent Jesus Christ, prophesied as the Messiah called Immanuel, “God with us.” Jesus is God in flesh. He’s everything we’re not but can aim to imitate. He’s the ultimate example of humility and love, and we don’t deserve to know him, but he pursues us so hard that we can’t run away. His Spirit will work on those God has called until we’re so wrapped in God’s love that we can’t escape it. He’ll renew our spirits and change our hearts. He’ll give us hope and purpose both now and forever. If we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will have eternal life, and we’ll lose ourselves and find God as we sing his praises with the angels someday: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

I’m so glad to be able to worship God now, and I’m elated to be with all my brothers and sisters in Christ someday. What a choir that will be! What a God I serve! He’s the most forgiving being I could ever know, and I’m so humbled by him.

I want you to know him too. I want you to rest in his love, to be sucked into his justice and mercy, to be awed by his righteousness, to be his. If you don’t know him yet, I pray that this day will mark an anniversary for you, too—the day God redeemed you from the pit and sealed you with his Spirit.

Feel free to contact me here if you want to chat about this or share your story.

Jesus is coming back soon, and while I’m thrilled for that day, my heart is breaking for those of you who aren’t. I want to go to Heaven with you; I don’t want you to live apart from him. I want to praise God with you; God deserves it. He’s worthy of all the praise he can get. Will you surrender your praise to Jesus today?