By Jacqueline Mack
From rejection (at church!) to healing
It seems at certain seasons in our lives, God challenges us to take up the banner of faith and join Him in activating His plans through us. For me, one such charge occurred many years ago when I learned about a new Christian movement called Mission Mississippi.
For over 25 years now, Christians of Mississippi have been called to come together across denominational and racial lines in order to live out the biblical mandate of reconciliation.
I responded to that call in the mid-1990s by attending some of Mission Mississippi’s large crowd events. As a Christian, I was glad to experience what this audacious ministry offered. I felt a need was being addressed. The challenge to move toward racial healing within the body of Christ scratched an old scab in my heart that I thought had long been put away and forgotten.
Over 47 years ago while I was still in school, my hometown pastor had befriended a young Caucasian pastor of a neighboring town — an unlikely bond, in view of the times. This pastor encouraged my pastor to send some of his youth to attend a special Sunday worship service in which the predominantly Caucasian church was featuring a popular gospel-singing group of the early ’70s.
I heard about this group and was delighted to go. Our small team arrived while Sunday school was still in session. I was glad to see that the singing group had also arrived. Together we marched into the sanctuary to find our places. We sat near the back of the church and the group set up its equipment. They then left the sanctuary to what I assumed was a ready-room for them.
That waiting took such a long time. It was now half past the worship hour. Eventually, the young pastor entered the sanctuary from a side door. To my amazement, he was crying. With apologies and streaming tears, he told us that the church had just held a meeting in the fellowship hall and given him an ultimatum. “The leadership told me that either you must leave or I must go.” His words still echo in my memory.
Even as a teen, I knew exactly what he was telling us. It came down to race. I expected and experienced this behavior in school and in places of my hometown. However, it overwhelmed me that I was asked to leave a church because of the color of my skin.
So we, though confused, hurt and feeling dejected, left. I look back now and see that God’s grace planted in me a seed of hope and acceptance in spite of what went on in the sanctuary. That seed would not blossom for many years. The singing group came out immediately behind us, hugged and cried with us, packed up their gear and left with us.
Years later at a Mission Mississippi event, demonstrating Christian brotherly love across racial lines, the peeling away of that old scabbed wound occurred. The soothing, refreshing balm of Christian fellowship healed my rejection of long ago. Wow, isn’t God amazing! He would not allow my wound, which occurred among His people, to have its effect on me unreconciled.
I am committed to the work of Mission Mississippi, waving and supporting the banner of reconciliation within the body of Christ across racial and ethnic lines. My commitment and partnership primarily manifest within the governance of this great ministry. I have had the awesome privilege of serving on the board of directors for many years. In 2019, I now serve in the chair position.
Challenged to move beyond the level of acquaintance and apparent how-do-you-do’s, board members and staff are prayerfully engaged to press us deeper into the charge of Christ to live reconciled. Intentionally, let us move beyond.
Cultivate a friendship groomed with compassion and resolve to experience the struggles and strengths of race relations. After all, we have the common denominator of the Savior who died so that we may live reconciled… so that we may demonstrate gracism(the act of extending grace that we have experienced from Jesus Christ in order to promote racial reconciliation) throughout Mississippi and the world.
“(God) has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-20). In His providence, Mission Mississippi exists and serves in a seemingly unlikely state. May Christian Mississippians live as beacons of hope and healing from a history of division.
Jacqueline Mack is chair of the Mission Mississippi Board of Directors and the director of Christian Education Ministry at New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson.