I left the Community Grounds Café – the South Atlanta neighborhood coffee shop – the same time as Mia.
Mia was headed to the Bethlehem Senior Center, while I wanted to drop my camera off at home. Our destinations being just a block away from each other I suggested we walk together. Mia wanted to first stop at J’s to purchase a single cigarette. I laughing told her she didn’t want one. Then Mia spotting my flip flops decided she wanted to stop at her place along the way to change into a pair of her own. I said I did not mind waiting, as it offered an ideal excuse for sitting on the wall and talking to passing neighbors. As we were walking away from her place, Mia remembered that we had passed the tree she had wanted me to photograph. As she was directing me back to the tree, a neighbor – Dana – sitting on her porch called out hello to me. I meandered down the street to the porch to talk, and Mia followed behind me providing me with an opportunity to introduce these young women who lived so close to one another.
We bid farewell to Dana and headed down the last stretch of our short trip. At some point during those last two blocks Mia asked me about when I had done Mission Year in South Atlanta. I laughed and told her that while I loved Mission Year, I had come to the neighborhood on my own right. The inner city just felt like home. As a third culture military brat I felt more at home here than in the suburban world where I looked like I should fit.
And for no real reason I found myself continuing on the conversation to share about how in Bible study we were reading Colossians and talking about how Christ is the great reconciler. Told her I had been mulling over this verse and its implications on living in a diverse community. We pondered this idea together, as we made our way down Lansing Street.
And somehow in the midst of this blabbering we arrived at the Bethlehem Senior Center where a wide eyed Mia turned to me with her mouth open but silent for a few seconds before she shared the purpose for her trip. A small group in the neighborhood nervous about neighborhood transformation had told her that she needed to choose sides – as in white or black sides – and/or (not sure which it is) make sure their list of needs – demands – whatever you might want to call them - were met.
She had tried to ditch me multiple times on the walk, as she had been afraid that one of them would see her walking down the street with me – a little white girl, but that the random conversation had been exactly what she needed to hear.
I do not remember walking the last block to my house. Awe of God’s sovereign grace overwhelmed my heart while tears of frustration over the fact that we still deal with wounds created by slavery and segregation threatened to spill. I just do not understand how anyone can look at another human being as lesser than – cannot see the unique beauty of each personality they encounter. My heart aches and desires to share the great reconciling power of Christ.
Please pray (1) that my ministry might serve as a testimony of Christ’s reconciling work and (2) for Christians to desire to live intentionally in South Atlanta – boldly proclaiming in word, deed and being the good news of the Kingdom of God.