I am sitting in a coffee shop just down Broad St from the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, where 50 years ago 600 African-Americans marched to defend their constitutional voting rights. They were beaten back and bloodied by the county sheriff and his deputies and a row of Alabama State Troopers. March 7, 1965 was known as Bloody Sunday and was celebrated last Sunday by 80,000 people and two presidents; one of whom is Black, and the other who signed the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act of 2006. I wonder if the original marchers were chased back as far as this coffee shop?
I am here on a mission project trip with 11 football players from Wheaton College. We have been working with a ministry called Blue Jean Selma (bluejeanselma.org), which is a parachurch community development ministry centered around worship and reconciliation within the Body Of Christ, as well as encouraging entrepreneurial start-up businesses in order to produce jobs and bring economic and spiritual renewal to Selma. We have a met so many people committed to the Lord, to each other, and to Selma.
We have been rehabbing an old church to make room for a new Teen Challenge discipleship center, grinding floors at a brand new cookie factory, landscaping and cleaning up around a new site given to the Blue Jean Church as a meeting place and coffee shop. We have been treated to southern hospitality (that means food) to such an extent that if we weren’t working so hard we would gain about 100 lbs. each. Every evening our team gathers for a debriefing time, and a time in the Word and in prayer. These young brothers are experiencing a lot and are great examples of what God has in store for his church. They are learning about the deadly sin of racism, but also how the power of the gospel can bring forgiveness and reconciliation.
We will be here until Sunday and will leave after we participate in the service at the Blue Jean Church. We will have a lot to share; certainly about our experience in Selma and its place in the civil rights movement of the 60’s and in the continuing saga of the racial divide in our country. More importantly, we will be able to share about solutions and the power of the gospel to change the human heart and replace racial hatred with the love of Jesus.
It has been a short week and in the scheme of things we have not accomplished much, but we have been witness to how God is relentlessly working out his love and mercy in the very context of a place once known for its bloody violence. And he is doing it through ordinary people who once were lost but now are found; who once were blind but now are able to see.