I Have a Dream…(with apologies to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

by Commissioner David Edwards – 

I recently watched a television documentary in which a news photographer spoke about an incident in which she was involved six years ago in South Central Los Angeles during the Los Angeles civil riots. Apparently, she was assigned to cover the story and was taking some shots of various incidents when a carload of young black men passed her. Among them was a 6-year-old boy.

The photographer, who was white, took a picture of the 6-year-old leaning through the window of the car and giving her a sign that indicated his dislike for her and her race. She expressed shock and outrage at the incident.

Outrage turns to understanding

She shared that image with the nation via television and the newspapers. The boy’s mother, seeing the picture of her son, invited the photographer to visit her and her boy. Six years ago, the photographer took up the invitation. Outrage turned to understanding and a six-year friendship resulted between photographer, the lad and his mother.

The documentary was about what has since happened between this young white woman and this black family from South Central Los Angeles. It showed the youngster, now 12, greeting the photographer with open arms, enveloping her in warm friendly hug. It showed him and his mother, a single parent, handling two jobs to care for her two children. It showed them entertaining the photographer in their one-bedroom apartment. It showed this mother making a valiant effort to help her son avoid the negative influences of his environment that could cause him to grow up hating without knowing exactly what was fueling his hatred.The documentary ended with this 12-year-old black kid making a very profound statement.

Respect is important

When the story was aired six years ago, there was a tremendous response from around the nation. In an apparent attempt to convince this lad he was loved, people from all over showered him with gifts. Asked how he felt about these gifts the youngster, by his answer, showed much more maturity than his years. “Not important. I don’t need all that” was his reaction. When asked what he would have liked better, all he said was three words of profound significance, “Speak to me.”

Crossing culture

Cultural diversity is a noted characteristic of the Western Territory. The recent survey conducted by David Schmidt and Associates confirms this. Tremen-dous development has taken place in this area of cross cultural ministries in this territory within the last eight years of MISSION2000. This is not surprising, given the multi-cultural nature of the population in the West. This is more evident in some divisions that in others. Cross cultural ministries are a fact of life. This is America.

I thank God for what has been accomplished so far in this territory in this particular area of ministry. There has been exciting growth among the Hispanic population as there has been among the peoples from Korea and China. But we could be too easily fooled into thinking that because evangelism takes place that this is all there is to ministering cross culturally.

Mere Evangelism – not enough!

It is quite possible to facilitate the evangelization of ethnic groups, yet have a church that simply mirrors the ghetto-like appearance of the environment.

It is quite possible for people of differing ethnicity to share the same facilities for worship and ministry, though at different times, and still not have one iota of tolerance for each other.

It is quite possible for people from different cultures to meet for times of celebrations, worship and prayer, yet go away still not knowing anything about each other–what makes us who we are, what makes us different, where we are yet to speak to each other. Evangelization is just not enough.

A vision of the Kingdom

I dream of a Salvation Army that leads the way for the rest of the society in this area of cross-cultural ministry, a ministry that goes beyond mere evangelization. “We are an Army for all people, everywhere. All peoples, all nations, all races, all cultures are of equal value in the Kingdom of God. We are called to build a world free of racism, tribalism and cultural imperialism. We must be a community in which such barriers no longer exist” (from the The Salvation Army ­ Who We Are)

I dream of Salvation Army corps which not only reflect the ethnicity of the neighborhood, but which lead the way in breaking down barriers and building bridges which facilitate understanding, appreciation, and acceptance. I believe that you share this dream with me. Join me in praying that such dreams shall become reality.

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