By LIBBO CROSSWHITE
God qualifies the called
“The pain of remaining the same must be more unbearable than the pain of change.”
Or at least that’s how I remember it. I might not remember the words verbatim, but I will never forget hearing Mission Mississippi President Neddie Winters speak in November 2018 and realizing that this quote was my life. Although I had a desire to live reconciled to those around me, what in the world was I doing about it? I left that Mission Mississippi banquet fired up and ready to have conversations about race relations in Mississippi. But as our sinful nature so often does, my insecurities and fears silenced me.
“You don’t really know anything about living racially reconciled!”
“What if you say the wrong thing and mess it up?”
Those were the thoughts that continued to guide my narrative until September 2019. As Neddie Winters so eloquently does, he spoke to our high-school students at Madison-Ridgeland Academy about “gracism,” the idea that the grace of Jesus Christ is bigger than our worldly racism.
Remembering his powerful words from the year before, I was eager to shake his hand and introduce myself. We had a pleasant conversation that led me to say, “Please let me know if I can ever do anything for such a great organization.” That conversation led to one of the more thrilling, and scary, moments of my life.
Through a series of events that only God could ordain, I got a call from Neddie shortly after his time at MRA to take me up on my offer. He needed me to step in and help facilitate the student forum at Mission Mississippi’s Living Reconciled event. As all of the reasons I wasn’t qualified flooded my mind, Neddie softly and confidently reminded me that the Qualifier had already made His decision. My experience, knowledge and communication skills did not qualify me to talk about living reconciled — my salvation experience did.
God used Neddie to open my eyes to the truth: My reconciliation in Christ is what qualifies me to have a conversation about racial reconciliation.
The Living Reconciled student event was truly life-changing for me in so many ways. I saw some of my own students have meaningful conversations, but also met so many students and community members who share a passion for reconciliation in the state of Mississippi.
Because of my relationship with Neddie and Mission Mississippi, I have been challenged to ask hard questions, both of myself and others. I have been challenged to teach my children the ways of reconciliation in Christ, but also reconciliation in our relationships with other believers — those who look like us and those who don’t.
I’ve seen my students who attended the Living Reconciled conference changed by what they learned, and I have had the privilege of watching some of my students get to know Neddie Winters and Mission Mississippi on a deeper level, even interviewing him for their senior project and now volunteering at the organization.
I am forever grateful for Neddie Winters’ continued impact on my life, and even more grateful to know that as he is reading this, he is shaking his head, thinking, “It’s not me — it’s God’s work within me.” It is my hope and prayer that we will live as a body of believers who believe in the truth of reconciliation and carry that message of hope in how we live, how we love and how we strive to see Mississippi become racially reconciled, one conversation at a time.
Libbo Haskins Crosswhite and her husband, Clay, live in Madison and attend Pinelake. They have one daughter, Mary Thomas, who is 6 years old, and a son, Russell, who is 4 years old. She is the high school guidance counselor at Madison-Ridgeland Academy and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.