It probably will not take much imagination for any of you who have read through these devotionals and travelled along with us on the theme of this series to anticipate where I am going with this title “I Have a Dream Today.” Of course, this is from the repeated phrase used by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at his famous 1963 March on Washington speech. I was going to re-write it with my own applications for our own context, but many segments of it were too far afield for even my biggest literary shoehorn.
But I do have a dream today for Tri-State Fellowship. And it is a dream of us becoming like the increasingly expansive fabric of America, multi-culturally. The phrase from the speech that I especially recall – beyond the repeated title – is this one: “ … that one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
It is not like this never happens at TSF. We have seen the beginnings of this and been already enriched by it. Yet I think there is substantial ground for us to cover as we would embrace an intentional outreach beyond merely ourselves.
It does happen in other places in our community. I’ve referenced our nearest elementary school as an example. And one of my grandchildren attends a Montessori school in Hagerstown that is extraordinarily diverse. My son tells me that his children have had so many natural interactions with multi-ethnic children that racial difference is simply not even a category on their radar … they’re just other kids. (Yet another instance where much can be learned from children.)
Yet I have a dream today of a time when my grandchildren and all our TSF kids will hold hands with children of a dozen different ethnic backgrounds, much like the report last Sunday of our partner Kazakh church that has 25 different people groups worshipping together under one roof.
Am I crazy? Am I off on a side road of ministry? Not if I read and hear the national and district leadership of our own fellowship, the Evangelical Free Church of America. The purpose statement of the EFCA is that “We exist to glorify God by multiplying transformational churches among all people.” Among all people! Our national fellowship that was originally and historically an immigrant Scandinavian denomination now has over 20% of all churches that are either minority-majority or vastly multi-cultural. I have a dream today that we could be in that latter category, even in the foothills of Appalachia. That might be a God-sized vision, but so was escaping Egypt across the Red Sea – getting to “the other side of the tracks” so to speak!
There’s another MLK speech reference that has been hanging in my brain, and upon some research I find that it is actually from a much later speech near the end of this life. Alluding to the end of the life of Moses, who would not enter the land of promise with the people but would see it from a distance … “I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
So I have a dream today for TSF, and I might not get there with you. But I have seen and look forward to a day when all of God’s people at TSF from the varied shades and cultures of God’s creative hand will join together and sing the old gospel song, “We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love!”