By Neddie Winters
Communities come together
The purpose of Mission Mississippi is to encourage and demonstrate grace in the Body of Christ across racial lines so that communities throughout Mississippi can see practical evidence of the gospel message.
Our vision is to be the leading resource and catalyst for Christian reconciliation and racial healing in Mississippi and beyond. Imagine the vision of seeing Christians living out the grace of the gospel unhindered by racism, racial strife, racial pride, racial prejudice, racial hatred, racial anger and racial division throughout Mississippi and the world.
A Mission Mississippi Moment is where people are connected in an intentional way where life-changing experiences happened and the experiences resulted in a relationship being cultivated that otherwise would not have happened.
In 2018, Mission Mississippi celebrated 25 years of “Connecting People, Changing Lives and Cultivating Relationships.” What an amazing year it was.
One of the many strategies to celebrate Mission Mississippi’s 25th anniversary was to do a 25 city “Grace is Greater than Race Journey” throughout our state sharing the message of “Living Reconciled.” We journeyed to over 25 cities and over 52 locations within those cities, in addition to South Carolina and Maine. Now, that gave a new definition to “Where’s Neddie?”
On this journey, I witnessed communities coming together to worship, to pray, develop strategies, cultivate relationships and establish Mission Mississippi groups.
There are so many Mission Mississippi Moments for me personally that I am having a great challenge to isolate one to share, so let me share some personal moments from several experiences.
A moment for me in South Carolina was the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with a councilman in his home as he prepared dinner for us. I met his wife and family and we were able to get to know each other in a more transparent way. This was a white family, and needless to say, a rewarding experience for us all.
In Maine, I was able to preach to over 750 people from all 50 states and provinces of Canada, as well as spending time in small groups and one-on-one experiences listening and learning together. I had the opportunity to pray with a couple from Canada and see a repenting side of their journey relating to living reconciled. This is just a moment or two of a 3-day weekend in South Carolina and a 4-day weekend in Maine. We have ongoing relationships and connections in these locations, including evenings together by phone with different groups both here and there.
Back to Mississippi — from the Mississippi Gulf Coast to Southaven to Tupelo to Gautier to Pass Christian to Natchez and back to Jackson and many more locations in between. Several moments stand out for me as I recall all of these locations.
For example, in Tupelo on a Sunday evening in a community-wide service, there were over 700 people gathered to worship together, pray with and for one another and listen to a message of living reconciled. I witnessed folks on their knees, sobbing and repenting together, exchanging contact information and promising to go deeper in their relationships with each other. I listened to so many people afterward saying, “Neddie, this makes sense for us to live this reconciliation that God has given us…I just never thought of it this way. Thank you for the message.”
Juanita Floyd wrote a follow-up article about the service to the newspaper. The following is a quote from her article. “Reverend Winters really preached a powerful message. His message included, ‘we have to love people regardless of color or status…it is the church’s place to bridge the gaps… find a person in church tonight who doesn’t look like you and pray together.’ I held hands and prayed with Laura Abavae, Jessica Roy and Pastor Terry Garrett, people who didn’t look like me.” Now that’s a Mission Mississippi Moment!
As a result of this community-wide service, there was a follow-up meeting with pastors, city officials, school officials and community leaders to build deeper relationships, develop strategies and talk about how to work together for community transformation. This was duplicated in many communities across Mississippi.
Our goal in future Mission Mississippi Moments is to tell those stories through the lives of those that are being touched by the movement of Mission Mississippi.
Mission Mississippi is CALLING CHRISTIANS to live out the Grace of the Gospel through “Gracism” — the act of extending grace that we have experienced from Jesus Christ to promote living reconciled. We are CHALLENGING CHRISTIANS to build trustful, respectful and truthful relationships (TRTR).
Neddie Winters is the executive director of Mission Mississippi.