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The Reason I Left You Behind

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To March or Not to March, That is Not the Question

I feel like I’m a day late and a dollar short on the #BlackLivesMatter conversation. It’s not that it has escaped my attention or my concern. I saw many of my [pastor] friends marching in demonstrations over the last week or so. I had several conversations about it with God. I felt guilty, like I was a bad pastor, for not participating. Yet, I didn’t sense God leading me to participate. I am not against it. But it seemed like God wanted me to be still and listen.

In 2005, I transferred to Spring Arbor University to finish my undergrad. They had a Dearborn City extension campus which was within reasonable driving distance from me. The extension campus used a cohort method for their program. There were 28 of us who finished our degree together. And for 18-20 months we did life together. We studied together, laughed, encouraged and coached one another, and shared life stories.

Out of 28 students, only two of us were white. I was one of them. The other 26 students were not related. They didn’t live in the same neighborhood or cities. They attended different churches. The only thing they had in common was that they were black. And for 20 months I listened to all 26 of my friends tell stories of experiencing prejudice on a daily basis. Every time they would share a story with me I would think silently this can’t be for real. It was 2005. How could this still be a reality?

The final night of class is burned in my memory. All 28 of us stood in a circle holding hands. We prayed for one another. We prayed for our families and our careers and our communities. And we wept happy tears for the beautiful 20 months we had shared together. But I left there a different person.

My time in that cohort group changed me. It gave me an awareness I had never had before. A deeper understanding that many of my [white] friends didn’t share. There are some things you cannot know just by reading a book. They only come when you do life together.

I did participate in a prayer gathering this week. Finally. However, in my prayer time, I felt like God was challenging me to help other people catch a glimpse of what I did during that cohort group. I felt like God was challenging me to help tell better stories about #BlackLivesMatter. So, I have invited some of my black pastor friends to help me.

Pastors Todd and Roshanda Womack are pastors in Flint, Michigan. They are coming to the podcast to talk about the Flint Water Crisis (yes, it’s still a thing), Convoy of Hope, and helping forge better race relations. Pastor Glenda Fields is a church planter in Detroit. She is coming to the podcast to talk about being a church planter during a pandemic and #blacklivesmatter marches. You can also listen to my friend, Pastor Sharon Norman, in a previous episode. We talk about diversity and liberation theology. And be on the look out for more POC episodes.

Look, I’m not even going to try to pretend that I know what it’s like to experience prejudice. Although, I am a female pastor. But I’m about as white as they come. We went on a mission trip to the Philippines and they kept taking pictures of me because they couldn’t believe I was “so white”. But I can make my platform available to tell better stories about POC. And that is what I am going to do. I am going to be still and listen.

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