Saturday, January 31, 2009

Black History Month: Day One--We Report, You Decide

*Note: For The Journey, Day 13, see my earlier post today.


Black History Month: The History and Controversy

Day One: We Report, You Decide

As I speak around the country on Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care, as I speak on Heroes of Black Church History, and as I speak on A Christ-Centered TEAM Approach to Intercultural Ministry, I hear this question a lot.

“What do you think about Black History Month?”

The question comes from my African American friends, many of whom are split both ways: some thinking Black History Month is a net positive for African Americans and some thinking it is a net negative.

That question also comes from my non-African American friends, who are equally split, and for various reasons.

So . . . I’ll be blogging some on Black History Month: The History and Controversy.

But . . . for today . . .

What do you think? And why?

The Journey: Day Thirteen--It's Wonderful to Be Forgiven

The Journey: Forty Days of Promise
Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity

Day Thirteen: It’s Wonderful to Be Forgiven


Welcome to day thirteen of our forty-day intercultural journey. From Martin Luther King Day to the end of Black History Month we are focusing on The Journey: Forty Days of Promise—Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity.

Day Thirteen: It’s Wonderful to Be Forgiven
[1]

*Continued from Day Twelve . . .

Positioned in front of the firing squad, Chaplain White asks Private Mapps one last time, “Do you feel that Jesus will be with you?”

“Yes,” he replies.

“Do you put all your trust in him?”

“I do,” is his answer.

“Do you believe that you will be saved?”

“I do; for though they may destroy my body, they cannot hurt my soul.”

White then prays this benediction. “Eternal God, the Master of all the living and Judge of all the dead, we commit this our dying comrade into thy hands from whence he came. Now, O my Lord and my God, for thy Son’s sake, receive his soul unto thyself in glory. Forgive, him—forgive, O thou Blessed Jesus, for thou didst die for all mankind, and bid them to come unto thee, and partake of everlasting life. Save him, Lord—save him, for none can save but thee, and thee alone. Amen. Good-by, my brother, good-by.”

The order is now given: “Ready! Aim! Fire!” All earthly life extinguished. Eternal life commences.

White brilliantly, lovingly, and scripturally enlightened Mapps to see that it’s horrible to sin, but wonderful to be forgiven. Skillfully he wove together ancient Scripture and pressing need.

Turning of Heart

Private Mapps’ response to Chaplain White’s death-bed ministry offers one example of how God reconciled an African American to Himself. Through interviews, slave narratives, autobiographies, and letters, we are fortunate to have a multitude of first-hand accounts of personal conversion experiences.

These vivid descriptions help us to understand the literal turning of heart (metanoia—repentance, change of mind), transformation of identity, and reorientation of personhood that occurred at the salvation of African Americans. We have much to learn from them about how to witness to any oppressed, marginalized people, how to explain the need for a Savior, how to encourage repentance, how to offer the grace of forgiveness, and how to explain the changes that occur in one’s nurture and nature at salvation.

Learning Together From Our Great Cloud of Witnesses

1. Like Chaplain White, how can you weave together ancient Scripture and pressing modern needs?

2. What change of mind and heart took place in your life at your point of salvation?

[1]Excerpted, modified from, and quoted from Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Purchase your copy at 40% off for only $10.00 at www.rpmministries.org.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Journey: Day Twelve--Sitting on the Casket

The Journey: Forty Days of Promise
Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity

Day Twelve: Sitting on the Casket


Welcome to day twelve of our forty-day intercultural journey. From Martin Luther King Day to the end of Black History Month we are focusing on The Journey: Forty Days of Promise—Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity.

Day Twelve: Sitting on the Casket
[1]

On a quiet battlefield night at 10:00 p.m., the Orderly from Brigadier General Charles S. Russell came to Garland H. White’s tent, woke him up, and handed him an order. The bleary-eyed African American chaplain squinted as he read the handwritten missive.

“Rev. Garland H. White, Chaplain of the 28th U.S. Colored Troops: Sir:—You are requested to call upon Samuel Mapps, private in Co. D, 10th U.S.C.T, now under sentence of death, and now confined in the Bull-pen, to prepare him to meet his Savior. By official orders, Gen. C. S. Russell.”

Reverend White was an escaped slave now serving as chaplain of a black regiment from Indiana. He was one of only fourteen African American chaplains commissioned in the Union Army. Later he became a Methodist minister—his battlefield ministry providing hands-on training better than any seminary ever could.

Like white soldiers, some of the black troops ran afoul of military law. Private Mapps was convicted of trying to murder his captain. It was Chaplain White’s responsibility to tell Mapps of his fate and to prepare him for death—and life after death.

Knowing this, White immediately puts pen to paper. “Gen. C. S. Russell, Commanding this Post: Sir:—I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your order respecting my visiting Private Samuel Mapps, Co. D., 10th U.S.C.T. In reply, I would say I will comply promptly, and do all in my power to point him to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world. Yours, G. H. White, Chaplain.”

Loading the Conscience with Guilt: It’s Horrible to Sin

Meeting Mapps at the prison, White inquires, “Well, my friend, how stands your case?” Mapps begins to plead his innocence and enters into a lengthy discussion of his trial. White promptly shifts the focus. “I came to see you, not to discuss a point of law as to the nature of your trial and decision, for that is all useless, my friend, and I must tell you that today, at 12 o’clock you will be executed—yes, you will be shot. Now, let you and myself kneel down and address a throne of grace where you may obtain mercy and help in time of need.”

No beating around the bush. No chit-chat. All business. All salvation business.

Mapps complies and prays fervently, after which White reads several passages of Scripture, and sings a hymn Jesus, Lover of My Soul. Some historians falsely conclude that African Americans generally converted to a generic God. Nothing could be further from the truth in Mapps’ case and in the vast majority of conversion narratives. Mapps and millions of others specifically converted to Christ based upon a biblical understanding of who he is—Savior, and who they were—sinners.

White was not naïve. Realizing that Scripture reading, prayer, and singing were only preparatory to personal response, he then “spent some time in reasoning upon what he thought about religion.” To which Mapps candidly replies, “It is very good, and I wish I had it.” White next cites in plain terms the case of the dying thief who surrendered his life to Christ while hanging next to him on a cross. This gives Mapps hope. They then pray again and Mapps seems relieved.

Sitting on the Casket

At this moment the wagon with a squad of guards appears before the door. Mapps does not see them; White does. While Mapps continues to pray fervently, an officer enters announcing that the time has come “to repair to the place of execution.”

White writes that “I told him to stand up and walk with me. I took his arm, and went out to the gate where thousands of persons had assembled to see him. He entered the wagon, and sat on his coffin. I then got in with him, took a seat by his side, and commenced talking and praying all the way . . .”

What a picture! We talk about climbing in the casket to enter another’s agony. Chaplain White sits on the casket to share Mapps’ dying experience.

Learning Together From Our Great Cloud of Witnesses

1. What can you apply to your ministry from Chaplain White’s reconciling ministry to Private Mapps?

2. Like Chaplain White, how can we be “all salvation business”?


[1]Excerpted, modified from, and quoted from Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Purchase your copy at 40% off for only $10.00 at www.rpmministries.org.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Journey: Day Eleven--Biblical Sufferology

The Journey: Forty Days of Promise
Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity

Day Eleven: Biblical Sufferology


*Note: If you are enjoying the journey, then invite others, and purchase copies of Beyond the Suffering. Take your church small group or your youth or adult Sunday School class on the full version of The Journey with the built-in discussion guide in Beyond the Suffering. Order now at: www.rpmministries.org for 40% off at just $10.00.

Welcome to day eleven of our forty-day intercultural journey. From Martin Luther King Day to the end of Black History Month we are focusing on The Journey: Forty Days of Promise—Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity.

Day Eleven: Biblical Sufferology (Practical Theology of Suffering)
[1]

On a daily basis, enslaved African American suffered vicious victimization. Yet they fought their way to personal and interpersonal victory. How? They found victory in Jesus over daily abuse through their daily, even moment-by-moment practice of Christianity.

Charlotte Brooks explains it this way to Octavia Albert.

“I tell you, child, religion is good anywhere—at the plow-handle, at the hoe-handle, anywhere. If you are filled with the love of my Jesus you are happy.”

For Brooks, her religion was no “pie-in-the-sky, sweet-by-and-by” pabulum. Listen to the next sentence out of her mouth.

“Why, the best times I ever had was when I first got religion, and when old master would put me in that old jail-house on his plantation all day Sunday.” Jailed physically on the Sabbath, spiritually every day was a free Sabbath, a day of jubilee for Brooks.

Trials Make Us God-Dependent

What mindset enabled such inner freedom? Brooks and others understood that trials make us God-dependent. Speaking to her interviewer Albert, and to us, she says,

“You see, my child, God will take care of his people. He will hear us when we cry. True, we can’t get any thing to eat sometimes, but trials make us pray more.”
In fact, the lack of trials can lead to a slackening of faith. “I sometimes think my people don’t pray like they used to in slavery. You know when any child of God gets trouble that’s the time to try their faith. Since freedom it seems my people don’t trust the Lord as they used to. ‘Sin is growing bold, and religion is growing cold.’”

Trials Make Us Other-Sensitive

While Brooks provides an African American slave sufferology explaining the source of personal victory, James Smith offers an African American slave sufferology explaining the source of interpersonal victory. He understands that lack of toil leaves us insensitive, while trials make us other-sensitive.

“The life that is buoyant with hope, living perpetually in God’s sunshine, realizing every thing that is sweet in existence, has little in it that touches the chord of sympathy . . . Yet there are those in toils and trials that reap an experience that, when made known, unfold a lesson of admonition and comfort to others. . . . Yet, flowing out of this, we see the Guiding Hand preparing us for better things, moulding us for a better life.”

God’s guiding hand leads us down the trail of trials where we not only see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we become a light unto the world. As Smith summarizes:

“No mystery was ever deeper than that which shrouds the path by which men were led into bondage, and no system was ever more cruel and intolerant than that which inflicted stripes and burdens upon men, without cause, and deprived them of liberty and the right to life. Yet when we look back upon God’s dealings with his early people, and see how they wrought in bondage and suffered in their wanderings form it, it reveals His power of bringing good out of evil, light out of darkness, and becomes a school of wisdom to the world.”

We follow the North Star guidance of the enslaved African Americans’ response to their daily affliction by adhering to their slave sufferology. We walk their trail of trials trusting Jesus day by day, clinging to the truth that trials make us God-dependent and other-sensitive.

Learning Together From Our Great Cloud of Witnesses

1. Nothing happens to us that must define us. What loss or trauma could you redefine to reclaim your God-given victory and authority over evil?

2. As you walk the trail of trials in your life and as you journey with others, how can you apply two core themes in African American sufferology: Trials make us God-dependent? Trials make us other-sensitive?


[1]Excerpted, modified from, and quoted from Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Purchase your copy at 40% off for only $10.00 at www.rpmministries.org.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Journey: Day Ten--Longing for Someone to Confide In

The Journey: Forty Days of Promise
Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity


Day Ten: Longing for Someone to Confide In

Welcome to day ten of our forty-day intercultural journey. From Martin Luther King Day to the end of Black History Month we are focusing on The Journey: Forty Days of Promise—Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity.

Day Ten: Longing for Someone to Confide In
[1]

The most horrific aspect of slave family life was the rape of black women by their masters and others. Harriet Jacobs, the victim of constant lewd advances from her master, expresses her despondency because of the birth of a daughter.

“When they told me my new-born babe was a girl, my heart was heavier than it had ever been before. Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women” who inevitably must endure licentious assaults on their virtue.

Jacobs describes the onset of such onslaught in her own life.

“But I now entered on my fifteenth year—a sad epoch in the life of a slave girl. My master began to whisper foul words in my ear. Young as I was, I could not remain ignorant of their import.” She felt that “every where the years bring to all enough of sin and sorrow; but in slavery the very dawn of life is darkened by these shadows.”

Her master, Dr. Flint, tried his utmost to corrupt the pure principles that her grandmother had instilled in her. He peopled her young mind with unclean images, such as only a vile monster could imagine. She turned from him with disgust and hatred, but he was her master. She was compelled to live under the same roof with him—where she saw a man forty years her senior daily violating the most sacred commandment. He told her that she was his property and that she must be subject to his will in all things.

“My soul revolted against the mean tyranny. But where could I turn for protection.”

Jacobs longed for someone to confide in and “would have given the world to have laid my head on my grandmother’s faithful bosom, and told her all my troubles.” However, Dr. Flint swore that he would kill her if she was not as silent as the grave. Being very young, Jacobs felt “shamefaced about telling her (grandmother) such impure things, especially as I knew her to be very strict on such subjects.”

A Skillful Spiritual Friend

What was she to do? And what are we to do when life kills the dreams we dream; what recourse do we have? We, like Jacobs, can turn to those who love us unconditionally.

“Still I was not stripped of all. I still had my good grandmother, and my affectionate brother.” Of him, she writes, “When he put his arms round my neck, and looked into my eyes, as if to read there the troubles I dared not tell, I felt that I still had something to love.”

Her affectionate brother was a skillful spiritual friend. Consider his relational competencies: the appropriate use of physical touch, the meaningful application of eye contact, accurately reading body language, sensing unspoken pain, and communicating unconditional love. And consider the result of his ministry: the rebirth of love.

A Skillful Spiritual Director

Her saintly grandmother was a skillful spiritual director. Upon finally learning of Dr. Flint’s advances, Jacobs’ grandmother confronts him, telling him plainly what she thought of his character. She then forcefully rebukes him:

“I tell you what, Dr. Flint, you ain’t got many more years to live, and you’d better be saying your prayers. It will take ’em all, and more too, to wash the dirt off your soul.”

When he responds by asking if she knows to whom she is speaking, she boldly replies, “Yes, I know very well who I am talking to.” Flint then backs down, leaving the house in a great rage.

The moment Flint leaves, Jacobs’ eyes meet those of her grandmother. The anger is gone, replaced with tenderness. Jacobs expresses amazement that her infidelity did not lessen her grandmother’s love for her. “She was always kind, always ready to sympathize with my troubles.”

Whereas Jacobs’ brother illustrates expert sustaining, her grandmother exhibits adroit reconciling. She literally takes her life in her hands to stand toe to toe with a white master. Even when she rebukes him, she retains concern for him—for his eternal destiny. She also demonstrates the vital ability to quickly shift from righteous anger to tender compassion, not to mention her expressions of unconditional love.

Learning Together From Our Great Cloud of Witnesses

1. What spiritual friendship principles can you learn from Harriet Jacobs’ brother?

2. What spiritual direction principles can you learn from Harriet Jacobs’ grandmother?

[1]Excerpted, modified from, and quoted from Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Purchase your copy at 40% off for only $10.00 at http://www.rpmministries.org/.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Journey: Day Nine--Leaving a Lasting Legacy

The Journey: Forty Days of Promise
Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity


Day Nine: Leaving a Lasting Legacy


*Note: If you are enjoying the journey, then invite others, and purchase copies of Beyond the Suffering. Take your church small group or your youth or adult Sunday School class on the full version of the journey with the built-in discussion guide in Beyond the Suffering. Order at: www.rpmministries.org for 40% off.

Welcome to day nine of our forty-day intercultural journey. From Martin Luther King Day to the end of Black History Month we are focusing on The Journey: Forty Days of Promise—Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity.

Day Nine: Leaving a Lasting Legacy
[1]

History has depicted the African American male and the African American father as beaten down by enslavement and racism, and therefore incapable of functioning as a positive role-model in society and the home. The slave narratives and interviews tell a very different story.

One ex-enslaved person recalls his enslaved father’s character.

“I loved my father. He was such a good man. He was a good carpenter and could do anything. My mother just rejoiced in him. . . . I sometimes think I learned more in my early childhood about how to live than I have learned since.”

All he ever needed to learn, he learned in his enslaved home.

Will Adam’s father, a foreman on a Texas plantation, always came home exhausted after a long day’s work. However, he never failed to take his son out of bed and play with him for hours.

Martin Jackson, enslaved in Texas, and interviewed there at age ninety in the 1930s, remembers his father always counseling him. Over half-a-century later, Jackson notes that his father’s reconciling advice and guiding prescriptions still ring in his ear. Among samples he includes:

“No use running from bad to worse, hunting better.” “Every man has to serve God under his own vine and fig tree.” “A clear conscience opens bowels, and when you have a guilty soul it ties you up and death will not for long desert you.”

Clearly, these sons honored and respected their godly, wise enslaved fathers.

Mother Wit

Mothers, too, left a lasting, positive impression on their children. Josiah Henson writes of the mother from whom he was separated by sale only to be reunited by repurchase after he had fallen ill.

“She was a good mother to us, a woman of deep piety, anxious above all things to touch our hearts with a sense of religion. . . . Now I was once more with my best friend on earth, and under her care.”

Premarital Counsel

Lucy Dunn was ninety years old when Mary Hicks interviewed her in Raleigh, North Carolina. She shares the standards and premarital counsel that her mother provided when Lucy fell in love with Jim Dunn.

Because purity was so central to her family, Lucy’s mother would not allow Jim to walk Lucy to the gate unless she was sitting there on the porch watching. After a year, without ever having kissed, Jim finally proposed—asking her mother for Lucy’s hand in marriage. Mother told him that she would have to talk to Lucy and let him know.

“Well all that week she talks to me, telling me how serious getting married is and that it last a powerful long time. I told her that I know it but that I am ready to try it and that I intend to make a go of it, anyhow.”

The next Sunday night, her mother informed Jim that he had her permission to marry her daughter. He was so excited that he picked Lucy right up out of her chair there in the moonlight on the porch and kissed her right before her mother who was crying with joy. The next Sunday they were married in the Baptist church at Neuse. Lucy had a new white dress, though times were hard.

Lucy offers a beautiful testimony concerning their marital relationship.

“We lived together fifty-five years and we always loved each other. . . . And though we had our fusses and our troubles we trusted in the Lord and we got through. I loved him during life and I love him now, though he’s been dead for twelve years.”

Her mother’s protection of Lucy’s purity, her pre-marital counsel, and her interaction with Lucy’s future son-in-law all strikingly display how enslaved African American families were victors, not victims. Lucy and Jim’s marriage, for richer for poorer, for better for worse, in good times and bad, provides a shining example of marital fidelity.

Learning Together From Our Great Cloud of Witnesses

1. What family life lessons can we learn from the African American mothers and fathers we have described?

2. What relationship commitment lessons can we learn Lucy’s mother, Lucy, and Jim?

[1]Excerpted, modified from, and quoted from Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Purchase your copy at 40% off for only $10.00 at www.rpmministries.org.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Journey: Day Eight--Pulling the Rope in Unison

The Journey: Forty Days of Promise
Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity


Day Eight: Pulling the Rope in Unison


Welcome to day eight of our forty-day intercultural journey. From Martin Luther King Day to the end of Black History Month we are focusing on The Journey: Forty Days of Promise—Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity.

Day Eight: Pulling the Rope in Unison
[1]

It has become something of a cliché to imagine that black families today find it difficult to experience stability because of a long history of instability caused by slavery and racism. While not at all minimizing the obstacles that enslaved African American families have faced, history paints a truer and more optimistic picture of their response. Though everything fought against them, enslaved African Americans battled gallantly to maintain family cohesion—a cohesion that provided a sturdy platform from which to handle life courageously.

Jennie Hill was born and enslaved in 1837 in Missouri. Florence Patton interviewed the ninety-six-year-old Hill in 1933. During her interview, Hill adamantly resisted the notion that enslaved families lacked closeness.

“Some people think that the slaves had no feeling—that they bore their children as animals bear their young and that there was no heartbreak when the children were torn from their parents or the mother taken from her brood to toil for a master in another state. But that isn’t so. The slaves loved their families even as the Negroes love their own today. . .”

Hardships Do Not Make It Too Hard to Love

Communicating the message of African American family love was so important to Reverend Jones that he bore witness to it on the very first page of his narrative. “I can testify, from my own painful experience, to the deep and fond affection which the slave cherishes in his heart for his home and its dear ones. We have no other tie to link us to the human family, but our fervent love for those who are with us and of us in relations of sympathy and devotedness, in wrongs and wretchedness.”

Satan longs to blind African Americans to their legacy of family love. He wants all of us to believe that hardships make it too hard to love. Hill’s family, Jones’ family, and millions like them, belie that lie.

Truth for Life

Enslaved African American couples sustained strong marital relationships. Venture Smith was born in Dukandarra, in Guinea, about 1729. Kidnapped at age eight, Robertson Mumford purchased him a year later. After living with Mumford for thirteen years, Venture married Meg at age twenty-two. They remained together for over forty-seven years, through many trials and tribulations, until parted by death.

Venture’s narrative contains an explanation for their marital faithfulness. On the occasion of their marriage, Venture threw a rope over his cabin and asked his wife to go to the opposite side and pull on the rope hanging there while he remained and pulled on his end. After they both had tugged at it awhile in vain, he called her to his side of the cabin and by their united effort they drew the rope to themselves with ease. He then explained the object lesson to his young bride.


“If we pull in life against each other we shall fail, but if we pull together we shall succeed.”

Premarital couples, newlyweds, and seasoned married spouses would all do well to heed Venture’s guiding wisdom.

Learning Together from Our Great Cloud of Witnesses

1. Whether married or single, how can you apply African American family cohesion to your family and personal relationships?

2. What hardships are you facing that seem to make it too hard to love? How can the witness of the African American slaves empower you to defeat that lie?


[1]Excerpted, modified from, and quoted from Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Purchase your copy at 40% off for only $10.00 at www.rpmministries.org.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Journey: Day Seven--Groaning to the Father of the Fatherless

The Journey: Forty Days of Promise
Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity

Day Seven: Groaning to the Father of the Fatherless


Welcome to day seven of our forty-day intercultural journey. From Martin Luther King Day to the end of Black History Month we are focusing on The Journey: Forty Days of Promise—Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity.

Day Seven: Groaning to the Father of the Fatherless: Perpetual Lament
[1]

In the gripping slave narratives, we find believers sharing their hurting hearts with their caring Savior. In their practice of the biblical art of lament, African American Christians clung to biblical imagery.

For example, Pastor Peter Randolph describes a mother named Jenny who grieves the loss of her children.

“So she (Jenny) commends them to the care of the God of the widow and the fatherless, by bathing her bosom in tears, and giving them the last affectionate embrace, with the advice to meet in heaven. Oh, the tears of the poor slave that are in bottles, to be poured out upon his blood-stained nation, as soon as the cup of wrath of the almighty Avenger is full, when he shall say, ‘I have heard the groanings of my people, and I will deliver them from the oppressor!’”

Painting Pictures of God onto the Palettes of Life Portraits

Enslaved African Americans survived by painting pictures of God onto the palettes of their life portraits. They viewed Him as the Father of the fatherless, as the God who collects their tears in his bottle of remembrance, and as God the just Judge avenging their suffering, hearing their cries, and delivering their souls.

While Solomon Northup lies in a slave pen with fifty fellow slaves, he prays a prayer of personal lament.

“My cup of sorrow was full to overflowing. Then I lifted my hands to God, and in the still watches of the night, surrounded by the sleeping forms of my companions, begged for mercy on the poor, forsaken captive. To the Almighty Father of us all—the freeman and the slave—I poured forth the supplications of a broken spirit, imploring strength from on high to bear up against the burden of my troubles, until the morning light aroused the slumberers, ushering in another day of bondage.”

His mouth vocalizing his pain and his eyes watching God, Northup draws a line in the sand of retreat. When everything inside screams, “Surrender hope!” he cries out to God lamenting the evils he is suffering while pleading for strength to endure. He teaches us that the will to survive is soaked in continual lament.

Fixing Your Eyes on the Hope of the Future: Heavenly Reunion

Randolph explains that given such earthly sorrow, enslaved African Americans ministered to one another by emphasizing heavenly reunion. “In parting with their friends at the auction-block, the poor blacks have the anticipation of meeting them again in the heavenly Canaan, and sing:

‘O, fare you well, O, fare you well! God bless you until we meet again; Hope to meet you in heaven, to part no more. Sisters, fare you well; sisters, fare you well; God Almighty bless you, until we meet again.’”

Enslaved Virginian, William Grimes, summarizes it best. “If it were not for our hopes, our hearts would break.” Knowing that they would never see one another again in this world, they set their sights on another world.

Learning Together from Our Great Cloud of Witnesses

1. The will to survive is soaked in continual lament. What does that mean to you? How could you practice its meaning in your life?

2. How could you apply the truth of biblical lament in your ministry to others who are grieving?

3. In what situations do you say, ‘If it were not for my hopes, my heart would break? How does God sustain you through future hope?

4. What image of God do you cling to when life attempts to batter and break you?


[1]Excerpted, modified from, and quoted from Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Purchase your copy at 40% off for only $10.00 at www.rpmministries.org.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Journey: Day Six--Watered with Our Tears

The Journey: Forty Days of Promise
Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity


Day Six: Watered with Our Tears

Welcome to day six of our forty-day intercultural journey. From Martin Luther King Day to the end of Black History Month we are focusing on The Journey: Forty Days of Promise—Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity.

Day Six: Watered with Our Tears
[1]

They arrived on two ships, one year apart. The second ship, the Mayflower, landed in 1620 with 102 Pilgrims seeking religious liberty. The first ship, a Dutch man-of-war, came ashore in 1619 in Jamestown, Virginia, with twenty enslaved African men and women. Captain Jobe of the Dutch man-of-war bartered the seventeen men and three women for food to Sir John Rolfe’s Jamestown settlement. For the leaders of the Jamestown colony, Africans were mere commodities for European trade and servitude. In the land of the free, American slavery had begun.

Solomon Northup’s Narrative: The Hope of Years Blasted in a Moment

Solomon Northup lived free for thirty-three years in Rhode Island until he was kidnapped and enslaved for a dozen years in Louisiana. When he was first stolen, he spent two weeks in a slave pen where he met an enslaved woman named Eliza, her daughter Emmy, and her son Randall. His account of her separation from her children offers insight into the agony of deprivation, the need for hearing one another’s story, how not to empathize, and how to feel another’s pain.

Northup tells the story of Eliza’s life, as she related it to him, in great detail. After years of enslavement, she was promised her freedom and told that she was traveling to Washington, D.C. to receive her free papers. Instead, she was delivered to a trader named Burch.

“The hope of years was blasted in a moment. From the height of most exulting happiness to the utmost depths of wretchedness, she had that day descended. No wonder that she wept, and filled the pen with wailings and expressions of heart-rending woe.”

Spiritual Friendship 101

Of their enslavement together, Northup writes, “We were thus learning the history of each other’s wretchedness.” They participated in Spiritual Friendship 101 by practicing the arts of story sharing and story learning.

Northup and Eliza were eventually conducted to a slave pen in New Orleans owned by a Mr. Theophilus Freeman. A planter from Baton Rouge purchased Randall. All the time the trade was occurring, Eliza was crying aloud, wringing her hands, and begging that Freeman not buy Randall unless he also bought herself and Emmy.

When he answered that he could not afford them all, Eliza burst into paroxysm of grief, weeping plaintively. The bargain agreed upon; Randall had to go alone. “Then Eliza ran to him; embraced him passionately; kissed him again and again; told him to remember her—all the while her tears falling in the boy’s face like rain.”

In response, “Freeman damned her, calling her a blubbering, bawling wench, and ordered her to go to her place, and behave herself, and be somebody. He swore he wouldn’t stand such stuff but a little longer. He would soon give her something to cry about, if she was not mighty careful, and that she might depend upon.” His callousness models exactly what not to do when responding to another’s grief.

Northup, on the other hand, entered Eliza’s agony. “It was a mournful scene indeed. I would have cried myself if I had dared.”

Learning Together from Our Great Cloud of Witnesses

1. Who has treated you like Freeman treated Eliza? Who has told you to “quit your blubbering,” and “I’ll give you something to cry about!” What impact did such insensitivity have on you?

2. Who has cared for your soul like Solomon Northrup cared for Eliza? Who has listened attentively to your earthly story of suffering? Who has mourned and wept with you and for you?


[1]Excerpted, modified from, and quoted from Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Purchase your copy at 40% off for only $10.00 at www.rpmministries.org.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pro Civil Rights and Pro Unborn Rights

Pro Civil Rights and Pro Unborn Rights

*Note: I "interrupt my 41 consecutive posts on "The Journey" to add a second post today--one that is timely, as I hope you will see when you read the following . . .

I find it fascinating that the same week we celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, we also observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

I find it sad that it seems that few people are in favor of both events. That is, it seems that all too few people are pro Civil Rights and pro Unborn Rights.

Why? Why are so many either/or on these two issues?

Why aren’t we all both/and on these two issues.

Pro Civil Rights

I am pro Civil Rights. I am so very thankful that in 1963 and 1964 our nation passed the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Acts. Yes, I understand that legislation alone does not change hearts. However, as a nation, we have a moral responsibility to enact laws that protect all people. It is the bedrock of our national beliefs:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men . . .

So, although I recognize that passing the Civil Rights Act did not change a single heart, and though I recognize that ultimately it is through Christ and His Church that true reconciliation will occur, I still believe it was the right, moral, political, national thing to do to enact the Civil Rights Act. Therefore, I celebrate Martin Luther King Day as a reminder to me of his leadership in the crusade for Civil Rights.

Pro Unborn Rights

Likewise, I am pro Unborn Rights. I am horrified that in 1973 our Supreme Court legalized abortion. My prayer is that just as the Dred Scott ruling was overturned by a later Supreme Court, so Roe V. Wade will also be overturned.

The same arguments that were used first to enslave blacks and then to victimize blacks are now being used to kill unborn children. For slavery it was states’ rights and the rights of white land owners to do as they pleased with their “property.” How wicked.

And it is just as wicked that anyone’s “rights” could be put above the right to life of any unborn human being.

Some argue that Pro Life legislation will not change hearts, therefore, forget legislation and focus on Christ and His Church. Again, why not both/and? Just as the Civil Rights Act was the right, moral, political, and national thing to do, regardless of whether it changed one heart, so an Unborn Rights Act would be the right thing to do morally, politically, and nationally regardless of whether or not it changed one heart.

Pro Civil Rights and Pro Life

Based upon biblical principles, every human being is entitled to equal civil rights. Based upon biblical principles, every human being is entitled to the right to life (unborn rights).

Based upon the Declaration of Independence, every human being is entitled to civil rights (the right to liberty). Based upon the Declaration of Independence, every human being is entitled to unborn rights (the right to life).

I don’t expect to make many people “happy” with this post. Frankly, I don’t care. Likely, many will be “unhappy” with me on each side of these two issues. Fine.

Happiness, at least how we define it today, is unimportant. Interestingly, when the writers of the Declaration of Independence spoke of the right to the “pursuit of happiness,” they had in mind the Greco-Roman idea of happiness. To them it meant the right to freely pursue a purposeful life of meaningful contribution to society.

If we supported Civil Rights and Unborn Rights, then every human being would have the right and the opportunity to freely pursue a purposeful life of meaningful contribution to society.

Because of my interpretation of the Bible and because of my interpretation of the Declaration of Independence, I am pro Civil Rights and pro Unborn Rights.

Because of my interpretation of the Bible and because of my interpretation of the Declaration of Independence, I believe Civil Rights and Unborn Rights are both legislative matters and church matters. That is, we need national legislation that declares it is politically right to protect every human being’s Civil Rights and every human being’s Unborn Rights. And, we need the Church of Christ to fulfill her calling to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth so that law or not, by grace we choose to grant every person their civil rights (right to liberty) and their unborn rights (right to life), so every person can enjoy the pursuit of happiness (the right to freely pursue a purposeful life of meaningful contribution to society).

The Journey: Day Five--Beauty from Ashes

The Journey: Forty Days of Promise
Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity


Day Five: Beauty from Ashes—The Intention of Jehovah


Welcome to day five of our forty-day intercultural journey. From Martin Luther King Day to the end of Black History Month we are focusing on The Journey: Forty Days of Promise—Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity.

Day Five: Beauty from Ashes—The Intention of Jehovah
[1]

Captured and ruptured Africans needed Divine consolation teaching that it’s possible to hope because God is good. So they reminded each other that God weaves good for them even from human evil against them.

Such faith, as Quobna Cugoano believed, requires spiritual eyes like those of Joseph (Genesis 50:20).

“I may say with Joseph, as he did with respect to the evil intention of his brethren, when they sold him into Egypt, that whatever evil intentions and bad motives those insidious robbers had in carrying me away from my native country and friends, I trust, was what the Lord intended for my good.”

Cugoano makes the sweeping affirmation that, even in the face of human evil, God is friendly and benevolent, able and willing to turn into good ends whatever may occur. It is the belief that God squeezes from evil itself a literal blessing.

We can journey with our spiritual friends to the God of Joseph and Cugoano who Master-crafts every event of their lives to reveal his glory and bring them good. We can interact with them about the God who fashions for them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair (Isaiah 61:3).

Looking at Life with God’s Light

Olaudah Equiano taught his readers a similar lesson when he ended his narrative with these closing words of counsel.
“I early accustomed my self to look at the hand of God in the minutest occurrence, and to learn from it a lesson of morality and religion; and in this light every circumstance I have related was to me of importance. After all, what makes any event important, unless by it’s observation we become better and wiser, and learn ‘to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God!’”

Like Equiano, we practice spiritual friendship by reminding one another that God uses unjust suffering to make us more just, unloving treatment to make us more loving, and arrogant abusers to make us more humble. Like Equiano, we exercise spiritual discipline by orienting ourselves to detect God’s hand in every circumstance—no matter how seemingly minute.

Following the North Star

We follow the North Star guidance of the enslaved Africans’ responses to capture and rupture by reminding ourselves and our spiritual friends that we are never alone. Most of us would consider ourselves condemned prisoners in solitary confinement if we were stowed in the suffocating hold of a slave ship with little air, no portals, and no access to the outside world. Our African forebears teach us that there are always three open portals providing a way of internal release from captivity.

Portal One: God

Portal one is God—the God of all portals, the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our tribulations. Kidnapped from their homes and hijacked across the world, enslaved Africans encountered a wilderness experience that raised ultimate questions and brought them to a breaking point. On the brink between sanity and insanity, many encountered God—their good God who hears, sees, and cares. Theirs was a dual journey—away from their human home to their heavenly Home. As they journeyed, the chains still clanked, yet their hearts still hummed, or at least moaned.

Portal Two: God’s People

Portal two is people—when the God of all comfort comforts us, he does so in order that we can comfort one another with the comfort that we receive from him. Individually and corporately they tapped into the Holy Spirit at every turn. In bound community, they shared with one another the Spirit of God within them, their hope of glory. The collective gathering of the power of his presence in their inner being provided life-sustaining strength in the midst of death-bidding despair. The all-surpassing power of God (2 Corinthians 4:7-9) shared among these captured souls transformed them into “Jesus with skin on.”

Portal Three: Self—Trusting God

Portal three is self—not the self of self-sufficiency, but the self created in the image of God and infused with the Spirit of God. Ramming into the breakers of life, these enslaved men and women could break or conclude that there is no need to break. At their breaking point, those slaves who entrusted themselves to God discovered a bottomless resourcefulness that enabled them to transform physical bondage into spiritual freedom. Through God, they absorbed the ache of life without abandoning the ship of hope. Even while stowed like animals below deck, they saw the shining North Star of God with upturned eyes of faith looking out spiritual portals.

Learning Together from Our Great Cloud of Witnesses

1. How could the truth that “God is good even when life is bad” impact your life and ministry today?

2. Ponder an area of external suffering—something that you have endured that feels suffocating, like a prison sentence, like something out of a horror movie. Which of the three portals (God, others, self) could you open in order to stop letting your circumstances define you, in order to find the resiliency not to break when you hit the breakers of life?


[1]Excerpted, modified from, and quoted from Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Purchase your copy at 40% off for only $10.00 at http://www.rpmministries.org/.



Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Journey: Day Four--The Ear of Jehovah

The Journey: Forty Days of Promise
Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity


Day Four: The Ear of Jehovah


Welcome to day four of our forty-day intercultural journey. From Martin Luther King Day to the end of Black History Month we are focusing on The Journey: Forty Days of Promise—Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity.

Day Four: The Ear of Jehovah
[1]

Olaudah Equiano was not alone in perceiving with faith eyes the hidden work of God. The oft invisible hand of God softly, yet firmly, left His compassionate fingerprints on the trusting hearts of millions of enslaved Africans including Quobna Cugoano.

Cugoano was born on the coast of present-day Ghana, in the Fante village of Agimaque. In 1770, at the age of 13, he was playing with other children, enjoying peace and tranquility and the amusement of catching wild birds, “when several great ruffians came upon us suddenly.”

Led away at gunpoint, they eventually came to a town where Cugoano saw several white people, “which made me afraid that they would eat me, according to our notion as children in the inland parts of the country.” He was conducted away to the ship after a three-day imprisonment in the baracoon—a euphemistic term for concentration camps where the kidnapped Africans were held without respect to gender, family, or tribal affiliation, until slavers came to buy their cargo.

“It was a most horrible scene; there was nothing to be heard but the rattling of chains, smacking of whips, and the groans and cries of our fellowmen.” Cugoano’s experience was anything but rare. Torment saturated the months-long experience from capture to importation. The process was physically and psychologically bewildering.

After briefly describing the external debasement of his situation, Cugoano highlights his internal anguish. “I was thus lost to my dear indulgent parents and relations, and they to me. All my help was cries and tears, and these could not avail; nor suffered long, till one succeeding woe, and dread, swelled up another.”

Jehovah Sabaoth

He was not isolated in his agony. “The cries of some, and the sight of their misery, may be seen and heard afar; but the deep sounding groans of thousands, and the great sadness of their misery and woe, under the heavy load of oppressions and calamities inflicted upon them, are such as can only be distinctly known to the ear of Jehovah Sabaoth.”

How did he, how did they, how do we maintain our souls when treated soullessly? Like Cugoano, we entrust ourselves to Jehovah Sabaoth: the Lord Almighty, the Lord of Hosts who rules over His universe with affectionate sovereignty. Like Hagar, the slave forced to bear her master’s child (Genesis 16:1-4), we commune with the God who hears our misery (Genesis 16:11). We pray to “the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13).

We minister healing soul care to our spiritual friends suffering under unspiritual treatment by encouraging them to groan to God. We encourage such groaning by helping them to cling to biblical images of God: the Warrior God who spoke the universe into existence and still speaks powerfully today, the God with ears cupped to hear their cries, the God with eyes like the Hubble telescope to see their misery.

Learning Together from Our Great Cloud of Witnesses

1. Concerning groaning to God, in your times of suffering, what images of God fill your mind?

2. How could you help your spiritual friends to see God as the Warrior God speaking powerfully today, the God with ears cupped to hear their cries, and the God with eyes like the Hubble telescope to see their misery?

3. What would our churches be like if they were “moaning communities”—if we suffered together rather than alone?


[1]Excerpted, modified from, and quoted from Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Purchase your copy at 40% off for only $10.00 at www.rpmministries.org.

The Journey: Day Three--Encountering Every Misery for You

The Journey: Forty Days of Promise
Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity


Day Three: Encountering Every Misery for You

Welcome to day three of our forty-day intercultural journey. From Martin Luther King Day to the end of Black History Month we are focusing on The Journey: Forty Days of Promise—Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity.

Day Three: Encountering Every Misery for You
[1]

Olaudah Equiano’s empathy for his sister was Herculean.

“Yes, thou dear partner of all my childish sports! thou sharer of my joys and sorrows! happy should I have ever esteemed myself to encounter every misery for you, and to procure your freedom by the sacrifice of my own!”

What a model of incarnational suffering. In his letter of spiritual consolation to his long-lost sister, he does more than say, “I understand your feelings.” He does more than say, “I feel what you feel.” He says, “I am willing to take on your pain—to encounter your every misery for you.

Equiano is reminiscent of the Apostle Paul who, in Romans 9:2-3, shares his great empathy and unceasing anguish for his Jewish brethren—feeling their feelings. In this passage, Paul wishes himself accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of his brothers—encountering their misery for them.

Like Paul and Equiano, we are to be “Jesus with skin on.” As Jesus pitched his tent among us, took on flesh, assumed the very nature of a servant, was made in human likeness, and became sin for us, so we must intimately engage our spiritual friends. Aloof, detached, arms-length ministry is neither biblical nor historical.

Hope Deferred Makes the Heart Sick: Candor

Eventually Equiano was sold to a wealthy widow with a son his age. After two months, he began to settle in, hoping that he had found a form of stability with his new family. However, his hope vanquished when he was stolen again. He rehearses his immeasurable despondency grasping for words to communicate what exceeds human language.

“Thus, at the very moment I dreamed of the greatest happiness, I found myself most miserable: and seemed as if fortune wished to give me this taste of joy only to render the reverse more poignant. The change I now experienced was as painful as it was sudden and unexpected. It was a change indeed from a state of bliss to a scene which is inexpressible by me . . . and wherein such instances of hardship and fatigue continually occurred as I can never reflect on but with horror.”

Have you been there? At the moment of your greatest happiness, life intrudes. Misery waltzes in. The poison of misfortune spoils your banquet of joy. If so, then what? Pretend? Ignore? Seek a diversion?

Equiano chooses candor. He chooses journaling. Both wise choices. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. Heart sickness requires the biblical medicine of candor both with God and with self. Very often, such candor is most effective when pen hits paper and we write with honesty about the instances of hardship and fatigue that we experience.

It was during these evil circumstances, and many more to come, that Equiano acknowledged his heavenly Father’s good heart and Christ’s merciful providence in every occurrence of his life.

Learning Together from Our Great Cloud of Witnesses

1. Who is “Jesus with skin on” for you? How does this person minister to you?

2. For whom are you “Jesus with skin on”? How do you minister to this person by encountering every misery for them?

3. In your life and in your ministry to others, how vital is candor—honesty with self and with God about the agonies of life lived in a fallen world?

4. In your life, where do you need spiritual eyes to trust God’s good heart in every occurrence of your life?


[1]Excerpted, modified from, and quoted from Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Purchase your copy at 40% off for only $10.00 at www.rpmministries.org.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Journey: Day Two--The Power of Personal Presence

The Journey: Forty Days of Promise
Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity


Day Two: The Power of Personal Presence


Welcome to day two of our forty-day intercultural journey of promise. From Martin Luther King Day to the end of Black History Month we are focusing on The Journey: Forty Days of Promise—Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity.

Day Two: The Power of Personal Presence
[1]

Olaudah Equiano and his sister were soon deprived of even the comfort of weeping together.

“The next day proved a day of greater sorrow than I had yet experienced; for my sister and I were then separated, while we lay clasped in each other’s arms; it was in vain that we besought them not to part us: she was torn from me, and immediately carried away, while I was left in a state of distraction not to be described. I cried and grieved continually; and for several days did not eat any thing but what they forced into my mouth.”

Over the ensuing months, Equiano frequently changed masters. Weighed down by grief and a ravenous desire to return to his family, he decided to seize the first opportunity to escape. However, during a failed attempt he realized that the expanse that separated him from his home was too great and too dangerous. “I . . . laid myself down in the ashes, with an anxious wish for death to relieve me from all my pains.”

Left of the Rising Sun

Death refused to visit. Instead, Equiano was sold repeatedly, each time “carried to the left of the sun’s rising, through many dreary wastes and dismal woods, amidst the hideous roarings of wild beasts.” Being “left of the sun’s rising” paints a poetic picture of hopelessness—reflecting an absence of the hope that people have when they are “right of the rising sun” and thus anticipating that the sun will soon approach to dispel their darkness.

Equiano had been traveling in this manner for a considerable time when one evening, to his great surprise, traders brought his dear sister to the house where he was staying. “As soon as she saw me she gave a loud shriek, and ran into my arms. I was quite overpowered; neither of us could speak, but, for a considerable time, clung to each other in mutual embraces, unable to do any thing but weep.”

Ministry Even in Agony

For a time, the joy of their reunion distracted them from their misfortunes. But this, too, passed. “For scarcely had the fatal morning appeared, when she was again torn from me for ever! I was now more miserable, if possible, than before. The small relief which her presence gave me from pain was gone, and the wretchedness of my situation redoubled my anxiety after her fate, and my apprehensions lest her sufferings should be greater than mine, when I could not be with her to alleviate them.”

Even in his agony, Equiano offers words of insight into ministry. Note that it was “her presence” that gave him relief from his pain, and that he longed to “be with her to alleviate” her suffering. Before all else fails, implement what never fails—personal presence.

Learning Together from Our Great Cloud of Witnesses

1. How could your people-ministry grow if you focused on the power of presence?

2. Have you ever experienced the hopelessness of feeling like you were to the left of the rising sun—that your dark night would never end? If so, how did God comfort you during the dark night of your soul?


[1]Excerpted, modified from, and quoted from Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Purchase your copy at 40% off for only $10.00 at www.rpmministries.org.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Journey: Forty Days of Promise, Day One

The Journey: Forty Days of Promise
Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity


Day One: The Journey Begins—From Victims to Victors

Join me on a forty-day intercultural journey of promise. I will be blogging, Lord willing, during the forty days from Martin Luther King Day on January 19, 2009, to the end of Black History Month on February 28, 2009. Our focus will be: The Journey: Forty Days of Promise—Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity.

I know, technically, that is forty-one days. February 28 will be a day of reflection on the previous forty-day journey. Each day I will highlight a stirring narrative from Black Church history. Then I will ponder application of this legacy to all of our lives today—regardless of our ethnicity, nationality, race, or cultural background. I will also include discussion questions so that you can individually, in your family, or corporately in your church ponder the implications for your life and ministry.

Day One: The Journey Begins—From Victims to Victors
[1]

Free born Africans were ripped away from spouses, parents, children, village, and culture by capture. Stripped of everything, overnight they were transformed from farmers, merchants, scholars, artisans, or warriors into possessions. Without family, without status, they were treated as merchandise, as things—a mere extension of their captors’ will.

James Bradley portrays the dehumanization of capture in all its horror in a letter that he wrote in 1834 while a student at Lane Seminary in Cincinnati. “I think I was between two and three years old when the soul-destroyers tore me from my mother’s arms, somewhere in Africa, far back from the sea. They carried me a long distance to a ship; all the way I looked back and cried.”

Without a doubt, free-born Africans were victims of an inhumane institution. Yet, they were also victors wrestling to maintain their humanity and personhood. But how? In the midst of soul-destroyers, where did they find soul-deliverance? Their “Capture Narratives” tell their tale and provide our answer.

Born Free

“I . . . acknowledge the mercies of Providence in every occurrence of my life.” These words from the pen of the Christian Olaudah Equiano might seem trite until we realize that they introduce the narrative of his harrowing kidnapping and enslavement.

Equiano was born free in 1745 in the kingdom of Benin on the coast of Africa, then known as Guinea. The youngest of seven children, his loving parents gave him the name Olaudah, signifying favored one. Indeed, he lived a favored life in his idyllic upbringing in a simple and quiet village where his father served as the “chief man” who decided disputes and punished crimes, and where his mother adored him dearly.

Bathed in Tears: Weeping with Those Who Weep

At age ten, it all came crashing down. “One day, when all our people were gone out to their works as usual, and only I and my dear sister were left to mind the house, two men and a woman got over our walls, and in a moment seized us both; and, without giving us time to cry out, or make resistance, they stopped our mouths, tied our hands, and ran off with us into the nearest wood: and continued to carry us as far as they could, till night came on, when we reached a small house, where the robbers halted for refreshment, and spent the night.”

His kidnappers then unbound Equiano and his sister. Overpowered by fatigue and grief, they had just one source of relief. “The only comfort we had was in being in one another’s arms all that night, and bathing each other with our tears.”

Equiano and his sister model a foundational principle of sustaining empathy: weeping with those who weep. Far too often we rush in with words, and far too often those words are words of rescue. Our hurting friends need our silence, not our speeches. The shed tear and the silent voice provide great enrichment for our spiritual friends.

Learning Together from Our Great Cloud of Witnesses


1. How could your people ministry grow if you empathetically bathed others in your tears?

2. How could your people ministry grow if you applied the truth that your hurting friends need your silence, not your speeches?



[1]Excerpted, modified from, and quoted from Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Purchase your copy at 40% off for only $10.00 at www.rpmministries.org.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Is Targeted Evangelism Biblical?

Is Targeted Evangelism Biblical?

I received a great comment post on my blog about intercultural ministry. Please read Demetrius' excellent question. Please read my brief response. Then please share your thoughts/

Is Targeted Evangelism Biblical?

Doc K: How would you apply inter culturalism on the mission field? The reason I ask is that I am a short term missionary in Cambodia for 7 months. In Cambodia there are various people groups such as the Vietmese, Khmer, Chinese, Korean, Nigerians, and Ex-pats to name a few. However, many the missionaries are only targeting specific groups to start their churches due to immense barriers between the races and the classes. The irony is I am African-American ministering primarily to Cambodian American Deportees who have an inner city disopositon and attitude toward life and I minister to the poor Khmer in the slums of Phonm Penh. Demetrius Walton.

Targeted Evangelism and Intercultural Discipleship

Demetrius, That's a great question. While the ultimate goal of heaven and thus our ultimate goal on earth is intercultural worship, it seems that wisdom could still dictate an approach like you describe in your ministry under certain situations. Since you are working to evangelize the unsaved, we cannot expect the unregenerate to act regenerate until they are regenerated! That being said, a major part of the discipleship process then should include intercultural reconciliation. What a testimony and witness it would be for the entire region if/when Vietmese, Khmer, Chinese, Korean, Nigerians, and Ex-pats began forgiving one another, reconciling with one another.


Your Thoughts?

And what do others think?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Are We in a Post-Racial Society?

Are We in a Post-Racial Society?

As I always do, I appreciated and enjoyed the interview yesterday with Steve Hiller and Michelle Strombeck of Moody Radio's Prime Time Chicago. We discussed Beyond the Suffering and the state of race relationships in America.

Steve asked me the perceptive question, "Bob, with the election of President Obama, are we now a post-racial soceity?"

My answer?

Well...I'm interested in your answer also. So...please join the conversation.

Okay...my answer...

We have made progress. Obviously, the election of an African American President, an election where millions of whites voted for an African American, is light years ahead of where we were just a generation ago.

However, we still have issues to deal with. Even since the election, I could share half-a-dozen examples that friends of mine have shared with me of racial tensions, misunderstandings, prejudice...

Just since the interview yesterday, I have received several "Thank You" emails from "new friends" (people I "met" only through the radio program and their response). They were thankful for the "balance" I brought to the issue: progress, but work to do. They shared examples in their lives of current struggles against intolerance.

Those who know me and read my blog know I am not a person interested in stirring up controversy. You know I strive to be a bridge-builder and that I strive to explore biblical solutions to relationship problems. That's why I am inviting you to join me on The Reconciliation Journey from January 19 to February 28 on this blog. That's why I am teaching around the country on A Christ-Centered TEAM Approach to Intercultural Relationships.

That said, sometimes we have to get the truth out there. So...what is your experience? What is your opinion? Are we a post-racial society? Are we there yet? If so, what examples do you see? If not, what examples do you see and what can we do to get there?






Friday, January 16, 2009

Local Caucasian Author to Speak on African American Church History

The following article appeared in several newspapers. If you are in the area, please join us Sunday night at 6:00 PM at Bethel Church in Crown Point.

Local Caucasian Author to Speak on African American Church History

When Crown Point resident Bob Kellemen speaks the night before Martin Luther King Day at Bethel Church in Crown Point on “Heroes of Black Church History,” he’ll start by addressing the proverbial “elephant in the room.” Why is a white guy speaking at a predominantly white church about the legacy of African American Christianity?

In his own words, “I grew up on 11th and Hovey in downtown Gary in the 60s and 70s when Gary was one of the most integrated cities in the country. I attended Calumet High School and always maintained great friendships with Hispanic and African American classmates and teammates. I now teach at Capital Bible Seminary where we have no majority culture. I’ve spent my whole life in a multi-cultural environment. I believe God has called me to a life-long, cross-cultural ministry.”

When Senior Pastor Steve DeWitt and Counseling Pastor Gary Butler learned that Dr. Kellemen was attending Bethel, and that he had written a book on African American Church history, they quickly began exploring ways that they could minister together to equip the church and community for multi-cultural ministry.

Pastor Butler explained how the seminar matches the vision of Bethel Church for authentic, life-changing fellowship “which happens as believers in the church gather to focus on Christ and minister to one another. By loving, serving, encouraging, exhorting, and praying for one another, Bethel strives to be a community hallmarked by Spirit-driven acceptance, concern, friendship, unity, and growth.”

Dr. Kellemen will base his presentation at Bethel Church on his book Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. According to Kellemen, even the writing of the book was a multi-cultural experience. “I didn’t write the book alone; I co-authored it with Karole Edwards who is a wonderful African American friend and a graduate of the seminary where I teach. Karole and I like to say that we didn’t co-author Beyond the Suffering as much as we co-edited it. We wove together first-hand accounts of the amazing narratives concerning how African American Christians found courage and comfort in God and each other to move beyond the suffering of slavery to a place of healing hope.”

Edwards further described the books purpose. “Through Beyond the Suffering, we desire to inspire today’s generation as they hear the voices of past African American believers speaking through its pages. By listening to their personal narratives, readers of all races learn that no matter how difficult our external circumstances, we can move from victims to victors.”

During the presentation, which takes place Sunday, January 18, 2009, from 6:00-7:30 PM, Dr. Kellemen will focus on celebrating this great legacy of African American Christianity. Through an engaging PowerPoint presentation, stirring historical narratives, moving personal applications, and cross-cultural ministry implications, Kellemen plans to demonstrate how the African American heritage can empower people of all races to live more effective lives.

“This event,” Dr. Kellemen elaborated, “is a gift to African Americans and a gift from African Americans. It is a gift to African Americans because it validates their tremendous treasure of healing wisdom that has been buried for far too long. I want to be a voice for the voiceless African American believers of the past and finally tell their empowering story. As a gift from African Americans, the presentation is for all Americans. It equips everyone who attends, regardless of race, ethnicity, or culture, to minister to one another more effectively, especially during times of hurt, loss, and suffering.”

One of the real-life stories that Kellemen will share is called “pulling the rope in unison. “It illustrates the practical nature of the entire seminar,” Kellemen commented. “Venture Smith was born in Guinea about 1729. Kidnapped at age eight, Robertson Mumford purchased him a year later. After living with Mumford for thirteen years, Venture married Meg at age twenty-two. They remained together for over forty-seven years, through many trials and tribulations, until parted by death.”

“Venture’s narrative contains an explanation for their marital faithfulness. On the occasion of their marriage, Venture threw a rope over his cabin and asked his wife to go to the opposite side and pull on the rope hanging there while he remained and pulled on his end. After they both had tugged at it awhile in vain, he called her to his side of the cabin and by their united effort they drew the rope to themselves with ease. He then explained the object lesson to his young bride. ‘If we pull in life against each other we shall fail, but if we pull together we shall succeed.’” According to Kellemen, “we would all do well to heed Venture’s advice, whether as married couples, friends, co-workers, church members, community members, or neighbors.”

The seminar is free and open to the public. For more information, people can contact Pastor Gary Butler of Bethel Church at 219-663-9200. The church is located at 10202 Broadway, Crown Point, Indiana. Those wishing to learn more about Beyond the Suffering can do so at Dr. Kellemen’s website: http://www.rpmministries.org/.



Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cultivating Christlike Intercultural Relational Competency

Cultivating Christlike Intercultural Relational Competency:
A Christ-Centered TEAM Approach
Revelation 7:9-10


Many of you have asked to hear more about my presentation on intercultural (multicultural) ministry. Here's an outline.

Presentation Objectives

The primary goal of Cultivating Christlike Intercultural Relational Competency: A Christ-Centered TEAM Approach is to equip participants to develop four championship TEAM skills that empower them to function effectively in our culturally diverse society. Participants will learn how to relate harmoniously by building bridges of understanding across diverse cultures. This seminar is based upon the biblical conviction that God in Christ is moving all of history toward an eternity where “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language” will stand before the Lamb in united worship (Revelation 7:9-10). Thus the eternal goal is to equip participants to relate interculturally now in light of their eternal future so that God is glorified and others are attracted to Christ by their love.

Student Learning Outcomes

After successful participation in Cultivating Christlike Intercultural Relational Competency: A Christ-Centered TEAM Approach, participants will be able to implement the TEAM intercultural relational competencies of:

T: Taking another person's earthly perspctive through empathy and culturally-informed listening.

E: Engaging in bridge-building spiritual conversations through focusing on God's eternal perspective.

A: Abolishing barriers through forgiveness and reconciliation.

M: Mentoring interculturally competent disciples through envisioning, empowering, and equipping.

Resources

I have a five-page outline plus a 60-slide PowerPoint presentation. If you are interested in having me speak to your group, feel free to contact me.



Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Join the Journey!

Join the Journey!

I invite you to join me on a forty-day intercultural journey of promise. I will be blogging during the forty days from Martin Luther King Day on January 19, 2009, to the end of Black History Month on February 28, 2009. Our focus will be: The Journey: Forty Days of Promise—Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity.

I know, technically, that is forty-one days. February 28 will be a day of reflection on the previous forty-day journey. Each day we will highlight a stirring narrative from Black Church history. Then we will ponder application of this legacy to all of our lives today—regardless of our ethnicity, nationality, race, or cultural background. We will also include discussion questions so that you can individually, in your family, corporately in your church ponder the implications for your life and ministry.

Go to:
http://rpmministries.blogspot.com/

If you have a blog or a church web site, feel free to post a link and encourage those you know to Join the Journey.