Recounting a Civil Rights educational experience by Ron Sutherland
In the Fall of 2019, I learned about this incredible opportunity to go with a trusted friend, Rev. Greg Dyson, his wife, and others from Taylor University to encounter the difficult reality of our country and culture’s failure in loving and caring for our black fellow neighbors and citizens. What looked like a great opportunity seemed lost when the reality of life came crashing in. My mother was diagnosed with brain cancer and her journey was uncertain. I canceled going on the civil rights trip out of the need and desire to care for my mom as she journeyed to heaven. But mom’s journey through cancer was, blessedly, short. I called at the last minute and Greg was gracious to allow me to join the trip at the last minute. So, amid the recent loss of my mom, I journeyed with others to the south. I saw locations, museums, and historical sites that are now forever etched in my memory. But beyond what I saw, I learned that these tragic images and facts of history are necessary for me to process and ponder. They allow and require me to dig deeper into my own thoughts and challenges with my approach to relating to my fellow man who happens to be black by God’s design. And it broadens from there to allow me to stretch my thoughts to anyone who is different from me.
I have had the pleasure of traveling to many countries and worshipping with others that are different from me. Those cross-cultural experiences were a blessing. But this trip, this trip forced me to become more relationally, culturally, intellectually, even emotionally connected to those in my own country who have not been allowed to earn the same set of freedoms and experiences as I have been blessed to have.
I would recommend this trip to anyone seeking to move from head knowledge of the challenges of race in our homeland to a more deeply known, felt, and experienced level of interaction with the issues confronted by our brothers and sisters. And to do so with friends who will open the word of God, allow us to work through all that we experience with faith as our primary guide is an incredible blessing.
The trip is organizational and travel-wise well done. But it is not easy. However, in my opinion, what you experience on this trip is necessary in order to move closer to an understanding of the issues that continue to need my and our attention.
This trip is covered with prayer and God’s word. That allows us to have certainty that our savior, Jesus Christ, is our common hope. With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we are then allowed to confront and process the ways each of us and our country can change for our collective good.
All for God’s glory.