On a Saturday morning in 1997 I experienced the sound of 20,000 kids screaming; singing to the top of their little lungs; and it proved to be the best music therapy I’ve ever had. Just know that it didn’t sound like anything from this world. In an area of Brooklyn called Bushwick I was a witness to something that forever changed my heart about inner city life and black communities. Here’s my story of healing and redemption.
In the early part of that same year I was living in Nashville and was church hopping like a grasshopper caught in a glass jar. I felt smothered, trapped, and frightened. During a Sunday morning visit at one church I heard an inner city pastor from New York speak. With brokenness, he spoke about how the church was too safe and how it needed to get out of its’ comfort zone. That confrontational message hit a nerve in my troubled spirit and the healing I needed had begun. There was a transformation going on inside of me and I needed to know what it was. Soon after the call to action by this tall fiery preacher I felt compelled to do something. So, I packed up my truck and took the fourteen hour drive to one of the most dangerous areas of New York. This Mississippi boy was about to get a dose of reality.
When I arrived I took part in a truly transformative inner city ministry that was whole heartedly devoted to children of every race, ethnicity, and background. I had never seen or heard anything like this before, and I spent a few years traveling the globe, but this was different. After spending my first week or so in the city a familiar pattern was emerging in the midst of the midnight hours. At night while lying in bed I could hear children playing stickball in the streets. The endless chorus of car alarms played an eerie jumbled up tune of tag-your-it. In the wee hours of the early morning, gunfire would sometimes whistle in the dark distance. The constant sounds of the city had me trying to drown it out with my pillow. What gave me rest was knowing that another Saturday morning was on the horizon and the rafters of Heaven would rattle again with the voices of God’s children singing. It was the healing sound of harmony.
During my transition into this dynamic street ministry I was able to take part in a Saturday morning program that involved four different boroughs. Imagine leading thousands of children in a chorus of, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” In those tiny faces I saw a rainbow of riches and all of Heaven’s glory would shine bright. They were in unity together and these young brothers and sisters sang in one accord, with one voice. If I wasn’t in Heaven, I was close. There was a spiritual buzz of brotherhood in this community and the families came together to celebrate. We had decorations, games, food and oh yeah, lots of laughs and smiles. This was a special feeling of togetherness and I was apart of it. Anytime the ministry team got together we would have a spirit of joy, belief, and cooperation. This community was about action. No matter what happened, this band of believers stuck together.
One Saturday in particular I stood in front of the church and little people from every direction walked up and lifted their hands to me. They wanted to be held. What happened next would forever transform my heart like never before. Every time I picked up one of these children I felt the healing and loving touch of the Father. For a moment I was able to see through His eyes when He said “suffer the little children to come unto me.” God showed me that compassion for all communities was missing from my life and that this experience would be the healing of my prejudice heart.
Being born and raised in Mississippi offered me a heritage of down home living and a close bond to family, friends, and God. Everyday life was simple and to this day it is the bedrock of every community you drive through. However, floating in the mighty Mississippi River there is still an undercurrent of bad blood that mingles with the muddy waters of the past and present. My hope is that a healing future will rise above the waves of racial injustice and inequality. There is a prejudice mindset that is vast, complex, and deeply ingrained in the lives of many people in the Magnolia state. Facing my own racial demons is a daily fight and it’s a reminder that that kind of healing requires around the clock treatment. I look to the Maker of all people to supernaturally blend a brotherhood of colors to form a more perfect and peaceful union
As a boy I didn’t always see all of God’s children as equal and neither did I desire to give a warm and accepting embrace to anyone of color. My summer of serving in the inner city of New York required a reckless abandonment of the views I held on race. It’s been Twenty-Three summers ago since I had my season of healing and I am still undergoing a change in perspective on how I see the world’s unique melting pot of people. We can all sing; “Red and Yellow, Black and White. They are Precious in His Sight”, but this song means nothing until we move beyond our safety zone. We all should take a mission trip for a healing journey to the noisy, busy, dirty battle zone and give comfort to the comfortless.
Brotherhood is more than a feel good phrase but must exist by way of the most powerful Christ led conviction. We should be committed, by love, to all people of every race and creed. During the days proceeding the death of George Perry Floyd it was clear that a real fellowship with our black brothers and sisters seemed strained. Many people didn’t seek to understand but instead chose dissension and division.
Where has true brotherhood gone and why has it been absent and silent for so long? Yes, maybe we aren’t blood brothers but we must relate to each other and go beyond the lines of bigotry. We can reach beyond our grasp with healing hands to those who are tired of being held down by the broken arm of an unequal justice system. But there is hope in knowing that the nailed scarred hands of the Great Physician are always on duty. His hands are steady and never grow weary as He gracefully reaches out to balance the scale of our present inequality.
With sincerity we need to ask God how the healing of our brotherhood can begin. How do I, as a white man, feel empathy for something like racism and inequality? It has to do with the summer of my healing. It begins with seeing hurt people through the eyes of the Father. We have to look at this sickness as a cancer of apathy that spreads through a divided society as it eats away any chance for lasting peace. During the unlawful arrest of George Perry Floyd there was a lack of compassion and respect for the human life of a man who should still be alive, breathing, and with his family.
George Perry Floyd was viciously executed when a murderous demon from Hell bowed down on His knee to worship the god of brutality and another member of our brotherhood was choked out. Too often we hear of a wayward white man traveling down the road of death as he uses his own hate-filled hands for the destruction of a life that God so carefully created. How does God feel each time He looks down and sees such disregard for the wasting of a precious life? What does God see as unruly sadistic men continue the barbaric shedding of man’s blood? If we’re bold enough to ask these difficult questions God will certainly pull back the curtain of this hidden mystery and reveal how He feels. It is only then that we can begin the healing of our brotherhood.