How do you process a lynching?

Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Countless others. We are watching modern day lynchings on viral video at a rapid pace. How do you process this? As a white person, here are a few (not all-inclusive) ideas that have helped me to process:

1. Connect with real friends. 

Instagram will never take the place of actual friendship. When I was a new staff with InterVarsity at UCLA, I remember diving head first into activism when a racist video towards Asian Americans went viral. I posted all over Facebook and marched in the protests. But my mentor stopped me and asked, “Have you talked to your roommate (who is Chinese-American) about this yet?” I was preaching to the interwebs before I had even thought to ask my own roommate how she was doing. Post the helpful articles and call your community to action, but don’t forget to ask your closest friends how they are doing (and if talking is helpful to them).

  1. Follow the leadership of the Black community.

In my quiet time today, I couldn’t find words to pray. I read Drew Jackson’s poetic lament, “All we want to do is breathe.” I listened to Michael Kim-Eubanks’ song of lament: “I am just a few stories away from my demise” and wept for a while with Jesus. I listened to Keyanna Chase’s podcast about being a mom of Black boys and I let that draw me into intercession. Then I opened up Shaun King’s emails and began to follow his guided steps to calling the DA and writing letters to our local chief of police. The Black community is offering us a generous gift of leadership. May we receive their gift and follow their leadership with humility and responsiveness. 

  1. Listen for the questions. 

Henri Nouwen says, “Frequently, we are restlessly looking for answers…without having really listened carefully or attentively to the questions.” As you listen to your friends stories and read articles, what questions do you hear? Here are a few I have heard this week: 

  • How will we raise our children to be racially and historically aware?
  • How will we be a community that protects and looks out for each other?
  • How can we start locally and influence our own networks towards a more just society?

As you sit at the feet of Black leaders, what questions have you heard that stirred something in you? How might Jesus be inviting you to explore that question further? Who is a trusted friend that you can ask to process with more?

Photo by Sticker You on Unsplash

Prayer Changes Lives

In my last post I shared how my cousin Erica decided to give her life to Jesus after just four online Bible studies. But the Spirit of God was at work in Erica’s life for far longer than just that one summer. When we were kids, God put it on my mind to pray for Erica regularly to know Jesus. By the time we started online Bible studies, God had already given me twenty years of daily reminders that he wanted a relationship with Erica, leaving me little room to doubt that he would show up when she started searching.

Erica wasn’t the only person I prayed for as a kid. I have a diary entry from April, 1996, when I was ten years old, that reads, “I haven’t really liked Cassie. Maybe if she is a Christian I will like her better. I will be extra nice to her. I think it will work.” Who knows why my ten-year-old self didn’t like Cassie that day– she was actually one of my best friends. But ever since that moment, whenever I prayed for people by name, Cassie made top of the list. A few years ago we reconnected and turns out, she and her entire family are Christian! Another twenty years of prayer answered.

When I worked in a research lab I started leading lunch room Bible studies. People were curious and had great discussions but no one was really open to change. I prayed specifically that one person would become a Christian before I stopped working there. As I was on my way out the door on my last day of work, one of the postdocs, Kazu, ran to greet me saying, “Kelly, I am your brother now! I was just baptized!”

Prayer is more than a nice ritual. Our prayers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, actually change people’s lives. Do you believe that? Right now Jesus is yearning for relationship with people in your life. Will you join him in praying specifically right now for one of your friends?

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Why do evangelism in a time of crisis? (Part 2)

Evangelism is good for our souls. Taking risks is a major part of our own healing journey with Jesus. What happens when those risks are met with the miraculous transformational power of Jesus? 

In Mark 6:30-44, Jesus invites his disciples to feed thousands of hungry people. They are tired and want Jesus to send the crowds away. But he invites them to share the little they have. As they say yes to Jesus, albeit begrudgingly, they witness a great miracle. Jesus satisfies the empty stomachs of the masses, and the disciples get a front row seat to the power of God.

My cousin, Erica, decided she was an atheist in college and studied world religions to prove that God wasn’t real. Both of us had experiences of chronic physical pain which gave us a special bond. One day Erica experienced a miraculous healing and told me, “Kelly, do you think this could be God?” I took the risk to invite her into an online Bible study (since she lived in another state). 

I said “Let’s study the Bible for four weeks, with an assumption that Jesus could be real, and at the end of the four weeks I am going to ask you to make your own conclusion about Jesus.” By the end of our studies, Erica told me what I never imagined hearing, “I used to think I would regret having anything to do with Jesus. Now I know I would regret it if I didn’t give my life to him.” 

I am now a god-parent to Erica’s first child and I watched her dedicate her son to God. Erica and I have continued to share in our sufferings and she has become my biggest mentor in trusting Jesus with chronic pain. 

When I think about the greatest moments of joy in my life, this one is in my top five. There is nothing more joyous than seeing Jesus transform lives and the next generation. 

How do you need more joy during this pandemic? Have you considered that Jesus’ invitation to do evangelism may be one of the ways he wants to bring you joy? Who is one person you can invite to study the Bible with you this week? Who knows, maybe that person will one day become your biggest mentor.

In my next post, I will talk more about the role of prayer in Erica’s conversion story and in evangelism.

Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

Why do evangelism in a time of crisis?

My newsfeed, during COVID-19, is flooded with invitations to webinars about how to lead others to Jesus. And if I am being honest, every time I receive one of those invitations I think, Ug. Why would I care about evangelism in a time like this? Isn’t just getting myself out of bed each day enough?

We do evangelism in a time of crisis, not to fill some good-Christian quota, but because it is good for our souls. Evangelism is a part of our own healing and development, especially in a time of crisis. 

In John 9, a blind man is miraculously healed by Jesus and then finds himself in a crisis. His friends and leaders don’t believe him and his parents refuse to stand up for him. The thing that brings him through this crisis is the act of sharing his story… over and over again! The more he tells it, the more he knows Jesus, and the more he can confidently face his accusers. 

Doing evangelism is a lot like physical therapy. When our muscles are in knots, nothing in us wants to get up and stretch. We fear movement will make the pain worse. But moving is a crucial part of our healing. Though counterintuitive, stretching ourselves to take risks with Jesus when we are suffering is one of the ways we experience Jesus. 

In my freshman year of college, I was invited to lead an InterVarsity Bible study in my dorm. The week before my first leaders meeting, my dad passed away suddenly. My whole world fell apart. My staff told me that of course I could opt not to do leadership anymore. I was grateful for the grace. But I felt the invitation of Jesus to lead that Bible study because it would be the avenue for my own healing. As I look back to that season, I remember the grief, but I also remember the joy. The more I took risks with Jesus, the more I knew he was trustworthy with all my pain.

How is Jesus inviting you to risk in evangelism in the midst of this pandemic?

The act of telling others about Jesus, no matter how we are received, builds our faith. But when the people we are ministering to experience transformation for themselves, there is also great joy for us! I will discuss this more in my next post.