Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Story to Be Told, A Life to Be Honored

Today was the first time during this trip that my eyes started to open and it's not because we got to sleep in a bed as opposed to the bus. We woke up to gray skies and a little drizzle. Nothing though was going to bring down my excitement to praise the Lord at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. The Ebenezer Baptist Church of Atlanta, GA was as beautiful outside as its congregation inside. The people of the church were so welcoming and so happy to share their music and love for Jesus with us. Ebenezer has been there for over 121 years and is where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached the good news.

Next we crossed the street and came upon a beautiful reflection pool with the tomb of Coretta and Dr King. It was so beautiful. I started thinking about the story of Dr King. About how his life is a story told around the world and continues to be told till this day. It is a life, a story, worth honoring with a beautiful tomb and various monuments. Not to mention books with his speeches which continue to inspire and bring hope and adoration of his passion and vision. We then had the honor of venturing into Dr Kings birth home up the street from the church. It was great to hear about stories of his family. My favorite was about when they were younger, Martin, along with his brother and sister, would have to recite a scripture before they ate dinner. Martins sister would memorize these long complicated verses. After stumbling over what she dedicated to learning for that evening Martin would stand up and recite the shortest verse in the bible, "Jesus wept." and then sit back down.

The bus then took us to a completely different state to a city with a similar, but different story when it came to the Civil Rights movement. The fist thing Birmingham had to offer us was the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Never had I realized the magnitude of struggle African Americans went through during this time in history, especially the African Americans in Birmingham. The city was a burning place for so much hate with beauty slowly rising from the ashes as Blacks continued to fight for something more. Their fights consisted of sit-ins, Freedom Rides, and the grieving for the loss of four small girls. One use of nonviolent protest that really intrigued me were the sit-ins. College students, just like me, were standing up for something they believed and did something so simple that made such a huge statement.

In the institute we learned of the a place where Martin Luther King Jr and Fred Shuttlesworthth
held many organized boycotts and protests with the largest one taking place in 1963. This place was called Kelly Ingram Park and just so happened to be right across the street! The four-acre park was beautiful considering the winter months had just recently brought a light frost to the area. Standing kiddie corner to the 16th St Baptist Church, I tried to imagine what it would be like to be there the day of the big protest of 1963. The protest which ended with the local police force using fire hoses and attacking people of all ages with vicious dogs. With so much at risk what kept those people there fighting? I know what they wanted, but I wanted to know what that passion and drive felt like. To believe in something so much you would risk anything, even your own life.

We ended our day at the University of Alabama-Birmingham with Dr. Pamela King. Dr King offered up a large foundation of knowledge and great stories from her past. She grew up during the Civil Rights era with two Civil Rights activist parents, White parents. It was so interesting to hear about how different her life was because she had a family that supported the complete freedom for Blacks that lived in her community and around the United States. She mentioned also how her students over the years will come up to her and admit they just found out that their grandfather was a member of the KKK with complete astonishment. If that was me, discovering someone I was related to, someone whose blood was coursing through my body, was at one time filled with so much hate for their fellow brothers and sisters, I would be left speechless. I'm sure not long after a lack of words would follow a sense of shame.

The senior pastor of Ebenezer Church posed an interesting thought this morning. We are to ask ourselves not only why we are, but why we are WHEN we are. I end my day wondering why God chose to put me in this time as opposed to the time of the Civil Rights. Why am I here in 2010 and not 1960? Dr. Kings story is one that we will continue to unravel and discover over the course of this trip, but his story isn't the only one I will be working on. This moment has opened up a new chapter for me. A chance to ask myself, what makes a good story, a life others would want to share with each other years after I have passed? Donald Miller once said, a character must be forced to make a change, they must come up against something that drives them past their own strengths and fills them with a hunger for change. I have become too comfortable where I am and continue to seek that comfort. It's not comfort and acceptance of settling for something less beautiful that is the catalyst for change. It is when we are faced with a chance to make true sacrifices that good stories are written, now I need to ask myself, what will my story look like?

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