Therefore, the Lord longs to be gracious to you, the Lord sits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of Justice; blessed are all who wait for him.
— Isaiah 30:18
Apartheid was a system of institutionalized racism in South Africa from 1948 until 1994. For 46 years, many of my South African white minority friends “had no idea” of the brutal police and military oppression that was destroying black families. My wife and I were called as missionaries and raised our 5 children in post-Apartheid South Africa from 1998 until 2012. We hosted hundreds of short-term mission teams to serve with the University Ministry in the city of Cape Town that hosted a population of about 5 million people.
The city of Cape Town is one of the most beautifully broken cities in the world. Cape Town also had the greatest gap between the rich and the poor in the world. The Waterfront of Cape Town is a popular tourist destination that each of our short-term teams would visit. Nobel Square told the story of a stolen identity of a previous generation that fought for Justice against an Apartheid system that was void of Gospel community. Here is a story of waiting on The God of Justice:
In Nobel Square at the Waterfront, there are 4 statues of Nelson Mandela, F.W. de Klerk, Desmond Tutu, and Albert Lutuli. This family picture was taken in July 2011. Most people see the statues and miss the message. At the foot of the Statues on the ground are engraved in the stone bricks the African phrase, “Umntu Ngumnuntu Ngabantu” in 11 national languages of South Africa. The Xhosa language phrase means “A person is a person because of people”. Our family learned this Identity of community before the individual identity in South Africa. Gospel Transformation is learned in community and shapes our new identity as one family in Christ (Eph. 2:11-22). The God of Justice blesses all people who wait on him with the grace of sonship (Romans 8:16) or understanding the mystery of united in Christ (John 17:20-23).
South Africa wrestled and waited for 46 years for freedom. Now in South Africa, the next generation is having their own struggle. After living and ministering in almost 40 countries I have observed that every generation and every country will struggle with racism as a wound in our hearts. We the Church must model repentance and reconciliation. Many people are going to seek justice without this biblical framework of waiting on the God of justice and cause more harm. The heart of our God is indeed grieved with so many solutions people seek apart from the Gospel transformation of Jesus Christ. Waiting is active by seeking The God of Justice in prayer.
The God of Justice has given us His gift of diversity to learn his heart of sonship. The Gospel powers us as fellow citizens of heaven to live by faith and not a life of fear. How will you please the Lord and live by faith in this cultural moment in our country? Maybe it begins by your simple conversations around the family dinner table. When I was 7 years old living in Minneapolis, I remember at the dinner table asking for a black friend like Gale Sayers after watching the movie “Brian’s Song”. The greatest gift my wife and I gave our 5 children was to learn to live by grace as one family on mission in community in South Africa.
Let me introduce you to my African American friend Andre Turner. Andre has written an open letter of invitation to begin our multi-cultural conversations in this long walk to freedom and justice for All People in our Central District.
To all my Central District EFCA brothers and sisters in Christ:
We are all quite disturbed by the captured events of the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota which has caused much unrest. This has angered many worldwide and caused many in our own nation to rethink its policies on policing and racial issues. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves as we value All people equally. The African American community is like the man that has been battered on the Jericho road. This can be a great opportunity for the gospel to be re-presented. In 2 Corinthians 5:18, Paul states that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. The Anglo-American Christian community has a wonderful opportunity to become an agent of healing to a people that has been hemorrhaging for over 400 years.
How can we gain healthy relationships among our African American brothers?
Let me address this matter with three questions.
- Who are we as believers? (Sonship)
- Believers should be transformed by the renewal of our mind (Romans 12:3)
- Resist ungodly counsel of others, including media. (Psalms 1:1)
- Gain an understanding of minority groups by listening to them. Proverbs 4:7, states, in all thy getting, get understanding.
- What is our purpose? (Gospel Obedience)
To glorify Christ in obedience by loving our neighbor as ourselves. It starts with Compassion and Respecting others by hearing the cry of the heart is key to winning others. The word Respect in Latin is defined as, to look again. It is always beneficial to resist any presuppositions about people. See, 1 Corinthians 13:4
- Where do we go from here? (All People)
We as a body of Christ in the EFCA have a great opportunity to lead this command of Christ to love All people because we are salt and light. Our words are seasoned with salt healing those that do not look like us. Always Remember…We also are light leading the way!
Please know I am available as your brother in Christ to visit in person or via zoom to meet with your elder board for practical ways for the Church to model Gospel transformation in our communities. We the Church must take the lead in modeling John 17 together.
Your Brother in Christ,
Pastor Andre Turner, Truth & Grace EFCA St Louis
African American Ministry Director for the EFCA Central District
Since August 2019, Andre has served as our Central District African American Ministry Director for our All People Team. What legacy will you leave for the next generation? Will you partner with us in the Central District EFCA to begin to engage in multi-cultural conversations? We are here to help. Maybe you would like to help and partner with Andre to support our Central District African American initiative by making a donation on our Central District Website. You can do so by clicking here.
Today an Evangelical Statement was released by DA Carson and others called The Gospel and Racism. This statement summarizes what Andre and I have communicated in this letter. We want to encourage you to join us by clicking here to join the team on this Multi-Cultural Mission to Listen, Lament, and Love All People in our Churches, Communities, and Cities for the Glory of the Gospel of Christ.