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Our Latest Blog Posts
- #Giving Tuesday November 28, 2016
- Am I part of the KKK? November 13, 2016
- Making Sweet Homes for Alabama with The Westervelt Company October 28, 2016
- Last Day in the Shack October 25, 2016
- Day 4-Night 4-Game Day Reflection October 23, 2016
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Author Archives: arm
Twilight had already fallen and I was driving down College Street, a four lane street, to take care of an errand. Saturday night traffic in Auburn was mild due to the out of town game. At a traffic stop I needed to check for receipt of a possible email. It had indeed come and had some needed details. I drove a few more blocks and knowing I needed to review this email more thoroughly, I made a quick decision to pull into a fairly empty parking lot on my right. I believe it was the Urgent Care next to Jim and Nick’s BBQ. As I pulled in, I looped around in order to park. A silver SUV was also in the parking lot and also wheeling around. I was reading through the received email, my light on in my car. Out of the corner of my eye, I realized the silver SUV had parked a space down from me. Sensing someone was looking at me, I peered up. There was a lady staring at me with a flat expression on her face. Rolling down my window, I politely asked, “Can I help you?”
With anger and fear in her voice, she began yelling at me and asking me why I was following her. She said she had been driving and it was obvious I was following her and why did I feel the need to harass her. “I cannot understand what is wrong with you people and why you are acting senseless and racist” Stunned, I desperately tried to apologize and let her know I was not following her. She cut me off saying how out of control we are and that I was part of the Ku Klux Klan. I was shaking my head no and trying to explain that I really was not following her. I felt terrible. The last thing she said to me was that “I needed Jesus to save me” In polite frustration, I replied, “Ma’m, I am a minister” and “I am really sorry”. At that, still shaking her head in disgust, she drove away.
My mind was swimming, flooded with emotion. Now, before you jump to conclusions and start speaking out against this African American woman let me reveal to you how I felt.
It saddened me this is where we are. Her actions confirmed the fear and anxiety that so many, especially our minorities feel right now. Many that are dear friends and are sharing stories from the other side of how they are being mistreated and accused. I did not blame her nor fault her for her actions. Hurt? Absolutely—probably one of the worst things someone could say to me is that I am racist or would intentionally hurt someone. Fear and intimidation was real for her and in my heart I wanted to validate her fear. But it does not minimize my own fear and pain I experienced.
What do we do with this? How can a white person of faith work this through? Here are a few starting points-and books are written about this so I am just scratching the tip of the tip of the surface.
1) Take the blinders off- we don’t have slavery and Jim Crow but the effects of systems of racism and discrimination very much exist. They are so subtle, we may not see them but they are there. And events such as Ferguson and all the way through this election cycle have busted it wide open.
What do I mean?
- Have you ever been followed through a store or establishment by the management because you were being watched in case you might steal something-just because of your color?
- Ever worry about driving to your home and if you will be followed by police because you don’t look like you should be there?
- Ever noticed how some of our schools are still segregated because of our tax structures?
- Ever asked why housing projects are located where they are? Do there seem to be any nice, white neighborhoods located nearby?
- Ever noticed what color Band Aids were for years?
- What color is “Flesh” in the crayon box?
- Asked why, there is still gross inadequacies of wage structures for minorities (and women for that matter)
* Only the military and sports systems have been able to balance the access to promotion and opportunity.
Some of these seem petty…but it reveals we have normed our culture on being white. And the systems of norming have done so at the expense of groups of people’s access to opportunity. Because we are in it, we cannot see it. By not recognizing them and helping dismantle these systems, we are actually perpetuating them.
To my black friends, I do not assume this is how every black person feels or is responding. But I do want to validate your experience, your feelings, and the frustrations you may be feeling. Especially during this campaign system, bigotry and racism seemed to be a justifiable platform. I am sorry if we have been too silent when we should have been standing with you to say “enough”. Many of us were absolutely appalled and disgusted. Not every white person voted for Trump. And, not every person that voted for Trump is a biggot. But, we still need to stand up and say enough when the rhetoric is obvious.
To my white friends, I ask you to join with me to validate that person’s fear. What she said was false and inappropriate. She did not allow me to explain the situation and made it look like I was just making up a story. She was not able to hear me either. But I also am seeing story’s of my black friends being called ugly, racist names and being treated rudely by white people. So, it is real.
And just remember, as you wonder why people are rioting and burning…that we did it first. Yes, when the blacks received their civil rights and the right to vote and “separate but equal” policies were outlawed, we, the whites took to the streets and bombed and burned black businesses. We burned homes and bombed churches. We were the initiators of these intimidation factors. I am not saying I agree with the this display of frustration, just that I understand it.
And as the church…the evangelical, white church has remained predominantly silent in the most ungodly of ways. Focusing only on morality and our individual positions with God, we have neglected the weightier matters that Jesus discussed; mercy, justice, and righteousness. We have expected individuals to rise above these broken systems on their own; to achieve their way out of debilitating policies; and to just suck it up. Somehow we forgot that white people, many of which who went to church every Sunday, created these very systems. So, it is time to take a hard look at what the Gospel…good news…says…and do it.
Yes, lets end the violence. I don’t want another black person to fear she or he is being followed and intimidated by a white person. I don’t want my black friends called ugly and hateful names. I don’t want to be accused of being racist because I am white. And I desire that the body of Christ lead the charge on prayerfully and boldly dismantling the systems of injustice, racial practices, and anything that exists to undermine the potential growth of any person. I really do believe in our aim for life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for all people who call themselves citizens of this country (and beyond).
So, let’s listen. Listen hard, listen actively, and be quiet when our friends who have dealt with centuries of discrimination share their stories. Let’s be extremely careful to not make false assumptions. Let’s give people the benefit of the doubt when we do not have all of the facts. On an individual level, let’s smile first, wave first, and be polite first. And then lets speak and stand up for our friends in the right places. We don’t fight against flesh and blood but against principalities and authorities that perpetuate darkness. The systems were created in political and governmental structures. There were created in business practices. And we have to ask the hard questions and undo these systems. We will never be completely whole until all can achieve wholeness together. In God’s mercy!
Two books that I have read that have influenced me and given me insight are listed below. I highly recommend you read them.
Lifting the White Veil: An Exploration of White American Culture in a Multiracial Context Jan 2003by Jeff Hitchcock
Grace and peace,
Day 5 and 6-the last days
Fire crackles in the pit and a soft chill lingers as the sun begins to push away the last pieces of the dawn. It is a new day and to say that I am excited is an understatement. More like overwhelmed, broken, humbled, and honored. First, the outpouring of financial gifts is unprecedented for us. We are in position to exceed our goal of $77,000.
I think of Ms. Gore living in the Valley of Alabama who is anxious about her finances. Recently her debit card was compromised and her account emptied. Surviving on Social Security, she only receives a monthly allotment and it is gone. For whatever reason, the bank would not replace it even after filing a police report. Many times people like Ms. Gore are one flat tire from near financial collapse. Hers is greater than this. After helping someone “jump” their car battery off, it fried her car’s electrical system and she cannot exceed over 20mph making travel difficult. Living far out in the country, it takes a significant amount of time to get to the grocery store. The estimate on the car…$1000.00. So, when the body of Christ and loving people can come around her and repair her leaking roof, it gives her hope and one less thing to worry about. Where the roof had leaked, the ceiling had collapsed leaving a gaping hole in the ceiling where her granddaughter slept. Imagine having to look up into a hole in your attic each night as you slept…I would be unnerved. As the colder air comes through, it would gush through the hole into her room. There was extreme joy for this little girl when then hole was patched and her ceiling fully intact. When we see something broken fixed, it does something inside of us.
And that is why we will live in shacks, set crazy goals, and be uncomfortable. It is why we have to keep telling this story! There are thousands of Ms. Gore’s and her grandchildren across our state. And there are thousands of you willing to give up your time and money to help. That is special.
Thank you! Thank you for the meals, coffee, cookies, smores, did I say coffee :)), and all you have done for the Kingdom! Thank you for bringing your kids to paint, your groups to pray and learn, and for your warm emails and encouragement. It means so much to me and the ARM team. We love you all.
I am looking forward to sitting with my good friend, Chris Kelsey from Auburn UMC this morning and Rev. Jeremy Pridgeon from FUMC Montgomery coming at lunch. We love you all and reminded we are “Made for More” and Jesus calls us into deep, sacrificial relationships with all people!
Come see me at the shack!!!!
Day 4-Night 4- Saturday
Game Day! Wow-what a fun time in Auburn yesterday! Lots of people, lots of energy, and people were fairly generous! My secret weapon was unleashed yesterday. A secret because I did not even know I was going to have him! Jacobi-an 8 year old that goes to school in Tuskegee was none too shy about asking people to “put your money in the barrow” (meaning our wheelbarrow of change). And they did! Much better than I was doing. With his help, we had over $150 in cash given-a record for game day!
I was joined by the Aulner’s for dinner and some artistic painters in Charlie Man! We watched the Auburn game on line and simply enjoyed the electric evening.
Some asked me how the night went. As I said, it was happy drunks. And I was ok with that!!!! At 10:00pm the bar kicked off with GhostBusters followed by Thriller and I felt like I had been transported back to Junior HIgh but without all the junior high issues and insecurities. Besides the student running up onto my trailer and shaking my shack, it was pretty quiet.
I am so grateful to all those who are giving and what that means.
We will see how our $5000 match challenge from today turns out and looking forward to how that will go!!!
Day 3- Night 3 update- Box City
Why would you sleep in a box or on the ground knowing that the temps would be in the low 40’s and lots of potentially intoxicated people would be coming by? Why try to sleep in your car with just a thin blanket when you could have a soft mattress? Why choose to be intentionally uncomfortable? Why?
That’s what several students did last night in Auburn. It was a way to connect with families and individuals who live in substandard housing. On this chilly morning , as we uncurled from our fetal positions, cold, damp, and cramped…we knew that thousands of people would do the same thing. The difference is that our situation is temporary. And through the work of ARM we hope we can make it temporary for others.
As we sat around the camp fire roasting smores and talking about our experiences with serving, there was a connection with these ambitious and idealistic students who connect belief, obedience, and service. “Loving your neighbor” is not about “should” but what they do.
I have enjoyed serving alongside these young Christians who see the bigger picture, willing to make some sacrifices and want to spread Kingdom love in the way they serve.
Enjoyed having some wonderful people come by yesterday-shout out to Jason and Meredith Martin who brought Harper and Hendrix by to paint, to the Greene’s for dinner, the Aulner’s for extra blankets and for Betsy and Joseph setting up Box City.
Our total is $42,221 and looking forward to what more you all will do!
Why it Matters
Below is a story from Joe Davis about one of our families we have served with who means so much to him and us. It is why we do what we do. It is what makes your gift of love so significant. It’s what makes me get up every morning!
Why does it matter to make sweet homes for Alabama? I think of my friend Ms. Betty. She and I had the pleasure of meeting soon after I joined ARM’s ministry team back in 2014. Since I was so new, Ms. Betty was one of the first homeowners I had met through ARM’s home repair ministry, and she quickly made a lasting impression! Ms. Betty is full of joy and strength. She LOVES hosting mission teams who serve alongside her to make her dream home a reality. By the end of each service day, Ms. Betty is a new mom to everyone who serves with her. She looks forward to the day when she can have everyone who has ever served with her – her “babies” – over for a big cookout to celebrate all that God has done.
Ms. Betty got connected with ARM at a very difficult time in her life. She had hired a “contractor” to make much needed repairs, but he never completed the work he had agreed to and took a full payment – all Ms. Betty had saved up. Being a resourceful woman and hard worker, Ms. Betty did as much of the repairs she could on her own. Her courageous efforts weren’t enough, and she eventually had to pawn off her tools to pay bills. Ms. Betty is also a woman of deep faith – she even serves as a minister for a church – and when she felt like she had nothing left she did what many of us would do: she prayed. Thankfully, she soon found out about ARM and we were able to send volunteers to partner with her to make her home a little sweeter. As we extended Christ’s love, Ms. Betty extended love right back to us. We’re all better people, better disciples, for having known and loved each other in very tangible ways.
There are so many families throughout rural Alabama whose homes are not warm, safe, and dry. I thank God for my friendship with Ms. Betty, and that her home is now warmer, safer, and drier because of God’s work through ARM. I’m thankful for all the people who pray for us, serve with us, and support us financially. We believe that God desires a sweet home for every family and that means ending substandard housing in rural Alabama. Won’t you join us as we restore hope, build dreams, and make sweet homes for Alabama?