Does 2015 really need more words about race? It’s easy for people with backgrounds like mine – the white, American men who haven’t gone hungry before, to impulsively question why so many issues in the world seem to concern ethnicity. It’s difficult for us to notice what doesn’t affect our everyday lives. I’ve stood in this position of privilege for a lot of my own life, but the Lord has gone to great lengths in order to show me that if these problems are popping up all over the nation and throughout the world with increasing frequency, then they demand our attention. I don’t feel guilty about what I was born into; rather I’ve been encouraged to use my advantages to stand in the gap for those with less of a voice. The events of the last few years ought to convince us that something’s broken, regardless of what or who is to blame. Thankfully, more and more people are recognizing this. In my world, I played drums with a band this past school year, and we were responsible for leading our student body in worship. One of the aspects of this gig we were most passionate about was bringing two thousand diverse students together and facilitating their worship across various genres. We weren’t satisfied with simply playing a gospel song every third chapel to appease a demographic or club. Instead, we did our best to integrate every prominent worship style into our feel as a band. If we didn’t have the capability to do justice to a genre, we would bring in kids who could pull it off, and they would sing or play with us for that time. This was an endeavor that demanded unwavering hearts, but it appeared to me that progress was made; that students’ worship was not so limited to what they were used to. God used this process to pry me open and saturate me with his heart on the matter.
During the course of the past month, I’ve had what might be a once in a lifetime opportunity to continue this journey by living in day-to-day community with people from all over the world. Of course, by “all over the world”, I mean Africa and the States, but it’s still been really cool. Life in this context hasn’t been the proverbial walk in the park; the fact of the matter is that we ‘whities’ are more comfortable gravitating toward each other, and the ‘blackies’ have the same tendency. (For all my politically correct friends who just cringed, those are the true terms used around these parts, and that’s okay!) Regardless of what’s easy, we at EXP have been praying unceasingly for unity and pursuing the practice of taking purposeful, tangible steps toward oneness. For example, the other week, some of our leaders went out and bought a big, fancy table and announced that our entire team would eat every lunch and dinner together, rather than dispersing into clusters across the base. It’s a small step, but we’re seeing positive change happen already.
This week and the following, our EXP family is having a reunion of sorts. We’re welcoming the participants of LXP, who drove thirty-two hours from South Africa, as well as a team from my home church in Hamburg, New York. What has become a small army of roughly fifty people from seven countries will be managing a program called Beat the Drum. I’ll talk about this at length next week when it actually happens, but Beat the Drum is essentially an AIDS awareness curriculum that’s carried out in local secondary schools. As far as I know, this will be the first one happening in Zambia, and it’s promising to be extraordinary. That to say, this week of on-base training and prep work has been a beautiful picture of what the Kingdom of God can look like, with such a diverse group united by intense love for Jesus and total surrender to his purposes. Our extended times of prayer and worship each morning and evening have been some of the most intimate and powerful times with the Lord I’ve ever been a part of. It’s overwhelming to watch these people build strong relationships with one another, despite having entirely different backgrounds. I have high hopes that following Beat the Drum, the second half of our time here will continue to yield an astounding harvest of unity and love, devastating long-standing containers of culture and ethnicity.
In case you haven’t noticed, a vast majority of my shared writing this summer has been personal testimony – real, hopefully relatable stories of how God has transformed lives and how Poetice International has been involved. For this piece, I had set out to feature my dear friend, Prince Sinyangwe. During our initial consultation, however, Prince adamantly insisted that this realm of race needed to be written abut more than any dramatic tale I could attempt to draw from him. This selflessness speaks more about his heart than I could say with a thousand words. I’ll honor his request, but first let you know that this man’s drive and passion for the communication of the Word of God, coupled with a gentle, soft-spoken nature, has truly touched my heart and inspired my outlook on life. Prince’s core message when it comes to race is that no matter what physical differences we see, no matter how our culture has influenced us, God loves us all the same, and his love is bigger than we can ever know. He reminds me on a regular basis that, “It doesn’t matter if we come from America, India, Japan or Africa; God created us in his own image, which means we are one.” Prince’s vision and prayer for our team is a driving force behind the relational progress we’ve been realizing with each passing day.
We find ourselves in a world full of prejudice, frustration and tragic miscommunication over our deepest hurts. We can no longer regulate the corpse of racial tension to the American Civil War or the movements of Martin Luther King, Jr. or Nelson Mandela, though we recognize these as motivating steps in the right direction. In this discouraging year that’s been riddled with riots and shootings, let us hope in the kingdom coming. It’s obviously not here yet in its fullness, but this wildly joyful, diverse community reminds me that, to use one of our favorite exclamations here at EXP, “It’s HAPPENING!”
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR
William McCauley • 2015 International Immersion Intern