Young adults filled the dim room, sitting, kneeling, bowing, praying, crying. We were attending the Wheaton College summer ministries retreat by the frozen Lake Geneva, and we were learning to lament sin.
That weekend Global Urban Perspectives (GUP), my summer ministry, learned about racial reconciliation through lectures, movies with personal interviews, and through conversation. That cold weekend away from campus in January was the crux of my year, spurring my passion for racial reconciliation.
When I returned to campus, two of my good friends told me about the Office of Multicultural Development, commonly called the OMD. I wanted to visit it with one of them, but I ended up popping in on my own in February. I discovered a safe place where Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, missionary kids, and third culture kids hung out all day long every day of the week. I discovered a home.
Although I am a white person from Connecticut and have no multicultural ties, I have always been interested in racial issues. That passion has been growing in me throughout the past several years.
Looking back on my freshman year, I can see that fall semester contained baby steps in being involved with and understanding racial issues, and I praise God that this passion has been growing exponentially over the past four months. In the OMD I met great friends who have been helping me grow on this journey.
One of these friends, Anjelica Johnson, was in World Geography with me during the first half of the semester. We didn’t talk much for the first several weeks because we did not sit next to each other, but one day I met her in the OMD. She introduced me to Falafel Friday at the Stupe, a fast food restaurant in the Beamer Center at Wheaton, and jumped right into a conversation about race. Since then, we have become good friends.
Anjelica Johnson and my future roommate MaLaysia have been instrumental in teaching me about what it means to be Black in America and Black at Wheaton, where racial awareness is heightened. Participating in the William Osborne Society (Willie-O), the Black group on campus, has contributed greatly to my awareness and understanding of these complex issues as well. I have heard stories from my Hispanic friend Mark Andersen that further exposed me to racial discrimination in this country.
Most recently and most importantly, I have been reminded by my friend Izzy that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is at the root of living.
I have become caught up in racial justice rather than racial reconciliation. I have forgotten my first love, Jesus Christ, and forgotten that we love and are reconciled because He loved us and reconciled us to God through His suffering and sacrifice. If being a racial or ethnic minority is a daily struggle in a predominantly white American world, Jesus is part of that story. The struggle is not life-consuming and central, although it surely affects daily life, for being a disciple of Jesus is the purpose of life. If reconciliation needs to occur, Jesus is the one who has allowed that to happen and whom reconciliation glorifies.
Jesus is the center of my life. Racial reconciliation, what I see when I reflect on my year, is made possible and beautiful because of His grace and power. I praise God for the friends He has given me and the events He has set in my life through GUP to grow me in this aspect, and I encourage every reader to become part of this same journey toward Christ!
“But when the Pharisees heard that (Jesus) had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets'” (Matthew 22: 34-40, ESV).
Read more posts by Katelyn Skye Bennett on racial reconciliation and other matters of her heart on katelynskyebennett.com.