By Michelle Witherspoon, South Atlanta Community Facilitator
We belong to one another…
This picture was a gift to me on Valentine’s day this year from one of our youth group leaders. It hangs on my wall as a beautiful reminder that we belong to one another here.
Growing up in a rural part of Columbus, I rarely interacted with anyone outside of my own race. I had little to no experience at church or school with kids who didn’t look or sound like me. It really wasn’t until my college experience that I had any meaningful connection with someone outside my own race. This reality affected much of my adult life. I spent a lot of years being ignorant of how minority people experience life on a regular basis, mainly because I had no relationships with people of color.
The lens I had to look at the world came only from people who were like me. I appreciate so much of my upbringing but I am grieved that I did not understand how short sighted I was. God has been gracious to me in unveiling much of what I couldn’t “see”, helping me realize how we all belong to one another.
In this belonging to one another that Jesus insists on, the burdens of my neighbors and friends now become mine, and vice versa. There is no “us” and “them”. There is no “those people”. Jesus has reconciled the world to Himself. If this is true, and I believe it is, then the way in which we live must reflect that there is no divide.
Our youth community in South Atlanta is unique. There are a group of 25-30 young people and 8 adult leaders (ages 8-13, with a few student leaders ages 14-18) learning to overcome the dividing walls of race, socio-economic backgrounds, and school to name only a few. We are intentional with our dinner time at youth group, asking meaningful questions that push us to know one another and mixing up who we sit with each week. We do group team building activities.
We greet one another formally and informally to learn names and nicknames. We talk about “hot topics” and we give voice to what seems to stand between us. We learn from one another. We pray with and for one another. We serve one another. We struggle together.
I really believe that this youth community can change the world. I think about if I had this type of community at an early age with people different than me how might it have changed my life? If we can do this in the deep South where racial dividing lines feel ever so strong even in 2018, then I believe the other communities of the world can do this. We have to do this. Jesus has told us He has already done it, we have to live into it. Please pray for us to continue to have the wisdom to keep building a community of peace. We will pray for you as well.