This morning I took part in a remarkable roundtable discussion lead by a representative of a major political party. At the table were 3 white evangelical pastors, 4 black evangelical pastors, and representatives of a couple other organizations. The discussion was dominated by the black pastors, who wanted the party leader and the rest of us to understand the challenges facing the black community. Their primary message was that they lack the financial resources they need. We discussed the causes of this problem, which has persisted for decades, and possible ways to solve it. It was a real education for me, and I appreciated so much their willingness to speak honesty and frankly about the issue. A couple of key thoughts: "White churches will spend thousands of dollars to travel to Africa on missions trips, but they do nothing for the struggling African American families and children and churches just a few miles from them. Why?" And, "Our kids are already behind before they even enter school, and then their teachers don't know how to teach/lead them, so they get our kids on medication. So our kids are undereducated, overmedicated, and trapped in the cycle of poverty." And, most interestingly, "The black church is the most important institution in America for African Americans. If you are going to help the black community, you will have to go through the black church." [NOTE: These are only paraphrases, but they capture the concepts discussed]
Battleground Actions Sports is an indoor skate park in the Lakeview Square Mall in Battle Creek. On Tuesdays they offer free admission to anyone who participates in their Bible study from 6-6:30. This past Tuesday, I was invited by the organizers to come and share my testimony with the teens and tell them a bit about my church's youth ministry. About 25 BMX enthusiasts were present. Afterwards, they broke into small groups based on age and gender. I joined one of the groups and participated in a Bible study on the Beatitudes. Here are some of my reflections from the event:
1. The leaders of this skate park are amazing. They are Christians who are using their skate park as a platform for ministry. What a novel idea! I wish we had a thousand more just like them.
2. The needs in our community are great. During the prayer request time, half the kids in my group asked for prayer for protection from bullies at school. One asked for prayer that she wouldn't instigate any fights. So many of the kids coming to this skate park are growing up in difficult circumstances. They, and so many others, need the love and support of the Body of Christ. If you have time to volunteer, I'm sure the organizers would accept your help.
3. I want to go back there again. The opportunity to address unchurched kids on their own turf is a great privilege. I hope I get the opportunity to go back soon!
To my fellow lovers of church history: thought you would be interested to know that Christian History Magazine, published four times per year, offers annual subscriptions for FREE with no strings attached. If you would like to sign up, just click HERE.
I was born in 1983. So it was with great interest that I picked up the newly released book, 1983: Reagan, Andropov, and a World on the Brink by Taylor Downing. The book argues that the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was not the most dangerous point in the Cold War. It was November 1983, when the Western powers were conducting their "Able Archer" military exercise. The Soviet leadership was convinced that the exercise was a pretext for a surprise nuclear attack. In response, the Soviet Union placed its entire nuclear arsenal on the highest level of alert--locking each missile on a specific target, moving nuclear submarines into position, placing bombers onto the ends of runways with engines running and cargo bays fully loaded. Looking back, it's a wonder that Andropov did not push the button.
If you want to know why the Soviets believed this was "it," and how the tensions were finally defused, you need to get the book. It is a well-researched work of history but it advances like a thriller. You will enjoy the read. As I worked through it, I couldn't help but picture myself as an infant in Detroit, Michigan, completely oblivious to the fact that the whole world was resting on a "hair-trigger" (to use one Soviet's analogy). In fact, most of the world didn't know how close we were, as the story didn't become public until a bit later.
The Cold War is over now, but the world remains a dangerous place. In fact, the present world is in some ways even more dangerous. More nations that ever possess these hideous weapons, and some of them could easily fall into the hands of non-state actors. How close are we to another World War? What don't we know right now? The world is a scary place, and it will remain so until the Prince of Peace has taken his throne.