Relief for Houston (Hurricane Harvey)

As Christians, we believe there is a call for God’s people to support and uplift anyone in need. In recent events, there are many people who are facing life-threatening conditions in Southern Houston due to the devastating damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. Countless houses have been destroyed and tens of thousands have been left homeless without food and basic necessities.

Imago Dei invites you to join us in helping to provide relief for the residents of Houston affected by this disaster. The Acts 29 network has provided several different ways you can help. Please consider helping in whatever capacity you’re able:

How Can We Help

PRAY

Praise God that unity and collaboration amongst churches in Houston and others has been great. Pray for our Acts 29 churches as they have a unique missional opportunity to be the visible church, serving people in need.

GIVE

Acts 29 is giving $50,000 towards this appeal and we hope that you & your churches will consider contributing. Donations will be used to provide relief and recovery assistance to individuals, families, and churches impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
Finances will be the biggest need as Acts 29 Houston prepares for the recovery effort.
Here are three ways for churches and individuals to give:
US donors can text keyword HARVEYRELIEF to 51555 and follow prompts to give via credit card
Anyone can give online at www.clearcreek.org/harveyrelief
Anyone can mail a check to Clear Creek Community Church 999. N. Egret Bay Blvd. League City, TX
If you would like to wire funds please email trichardson@clearcreek.org for instructions.
For options 2 and 3, please indicate it’s from an Acts 29 source to help with tracking and accountability

SERVE

Houston Church Planting Network (containing many Acts 29 churches) is compiling a list of churches from outside of Houston that may be interested in bringing in a team to serve, donating supplies, etc., as the waters recede.
If you are interested you can visit http://www.hcpn.org/harveyhelp to give us your information. The recovery effort will be going on for months, so please be patient as they get coordinated for long-term efforts. This will be a marathon and not a sprint. Rescue & Relief are happening now but recovery will go on for months and they envision needing outside support if people are interested.

For the original Acts 29 article, click here

Thank you for your consideration! God bless.

The Great Tension of the Black American Christian

Let me state 2 facts you may not be consciously aware of:

1.) Almost everything in the United States is catered to White culture, conveniently named simply “American” or “Popular” culture. This is why there is no preface for things targeted towards White audiences. There is no White Entertainment Television (opposed to BET), or Historically White College/Universities (opposed to HBCUs) because in the United States everything can be assumed White unless otherwise specified. The United States is not as inclusive as you might have been led to believe. For the same reasons, every minority has the disclaimer of the hyphenated “American” except for White people. They are simply American. In America, even though I am many generations removed from Africa, I am and may always be referred to “African-”American.

2.) Every minority group must adopt White Culture, but not vice versa. What I mean is most White people do not have to interact with minorities if they do not wish. If they do, it’s almost always on their cultural terms. However, avoiding White culture is virtually impossible for minorities especially if there is desire to advance in a career or any other platform. And like snowcapped mountains, the higher you go, the whiter it gets.

So what does this mean for me as a Christian? Through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, those who believe in Him have been adopted by God (John 1:12). Thus, regardless of culture, we are family and there is an expectation of unity (Galatian 3:28). However, because of the nurtured white ethnocentrism of the United States, relationship unfortunately and unintentionally inherit this expectation as well. I often have the unspoken obligation to consciously consider what my white brothers and sisters will relate with to maintain conversation. The inverse is rare. There may be some attempt to try to relate to minority cultures, but if the cost is too high, there is quick disengagement.  On a small level, this is why if my small group has a movie night, it will almost never be a movie I identify with. Most of my jokes and allusion fall flat, unless specifically catered to the culture.

There’s also a short tolerance for cultural deviance. Metaphorically speaking, other cultures are great accessories, but never worthy to be the main outfit. This is how Black Lives Matters turns into All Lives Matters. Another people group holding the spotlight exclusively for an extended period of time violates White Supremacy and it is met with extreme aggression. I’m often pressured to abandon my culture because “Christianity” in the United States has become White ethnocentric and any challenge to the culture can be mistaken as challenges to the faith itself.

For similar reasons, Christianity has been handcuffed to political conservatism, U.S. patriotism, and Republicanism. It seems like disrespect to the United States is taken as blasphemy to Christ Himself. People are eager to burn Colin Kaepernick’s Jersey for not standing for the National Anthem, but Bruce Miller jerseys stay intact after being arrested for allegedly beating an elderly person.

Surprising fact: The United States has been catastrophically evil toward Black people since being brought here in chains. America, today, is the best this country has ever been for Black people, so understand why “Make America Great Again” terrifies me and why I have criticisms of those who identify with the phrase or the political stance behind the phrase. For this reason, I have a REALLY hard time trusting White Evangelical Conservatives. Some of the most historical evil things done toward Black people has identified with this group. Some of the most racist, hateful, uncompassionate things I have seen have identified with this group. I’m off Facebook because my heart can’t take the onslaught of hate that is ubiquitous on the internet toward Black people from people who identify with this group. I’m anxious passing churches in small towns and rural areas. I sometimes envision crosses burning on front lawns of black families right after Sunday service. I think, “What would happen if I walked through those door”. Sadly, I’m unsure if I would be greeted as a brother, or another one of “those” that makes this country not so great.

I face the tension of having to tip-toe around racial political issues with evangelical friends with strong conservative affiliations because I risk them becoming defensive of criticisms of the consistent racism and conservation of White Supremacy in the Republican party. Despite countless historical accounts, I am met with an enthusiasm to defend a political system and party that has perpetuated the mistreatment of Black people. Among other Black people, I don’t have to be coy when I say people who vote for Donald Trump have lost their mind! Among most Black people this is “preaching to the choir”, but my honesty is reserved among loyal Republicans, making Trump a viable consideration for them. Unity with me means dealing with Black problems. Black problems mean facing the ugly political historical and present practices of the Unites States, especially in “conservative” systems.

Political tension does not end with the struggle with conservatism. I’m also hated by extreme liberals because I’m unapologetically a Christian. Feel this tension with me for a second: I’m hated by extreme Republicans because I’m Black and hated by extreme Democrats because I’m a Christian with varying degrees of disdain toward me along the spectrum. I argue there is no specific political party for Christians, but this is especially true to the Black American Christian.

My pastor asked me the question “How do you think the Gospel should impact our understanding of race and how can the church engage in racial reconciliation?” If I am honest, my answer really depends on who I am talking to.

If it is to my fellow Black brothers and sisters, the Gospel acknowledges our backgrounds, and in the same sentence minimizes it in light of our new race made in Christ. So there is no need to become like our oppressors and deify arbitrary attributes such as skin color or heritage. Your skin color and heritage is rich, bountiful, and beautiful, but it does not give you your worth. We are all equally valuable being made in the Image of God. That said, without Christ’s atonement for our sin, we are all equally condemn in the eyes of a holy God that shows no partiality. Let the fight for social justice be a catalyst to preach ultimate freedom through the Gospel. We can practice forgiveness because our Savior suffered a similar corrupt system like our own, but He sacrificed so that we can be reconciled with Himself. Go and do likewise.

To my White brothers and sisters, as you attempt to do the same, PLEASE do not be willfully blind. Acknowledge how your skin color has been deified in the world. Many things you believe to be normal has been rooted in White Privilege. Tragically, scripture has been used in horrible ways to keep this status quo. Use your privilege to right these wrongs as they are MONUMENTAL stumbling block for Black people. Do not feel guilty for being White. Your culture, too, is something to be cherished. Use it to fight for political social justice of all people. Be willing to cross cultural bridges to be able to relate to minority brothers/sisters in meaningful ways, even at high costs. Have a loose grip on your political views, and be willing to challenge them.

I’ll be honest. Racial reconciliation may never happen on this side of Heaven, but we’re foolish not to still fight for it. You can’t love God without loving your neighbor (1 John 4:20-21). So as the Church, let us show the world the passion of a just God who loves us all with no reservation.

 

Grace & Peace family,

j. Harrison

Race & Faith: Kristy Ziolkowski

How does race affect your daily experience?

Until recently, I would have said, it doesn’t. But as I learn more about perspectives and experiences that are different than mine, I would say, that being a white woman seems to lend me the benefit of the doubt in most of my daily interactions, and therefore I tend to be pretty free to move throughout my day with little concern or hinderance, and usually even help from those around me, if I ask for it. I don’t have to worry excessively about whether or not I will be without resources, support, or being misunderstood, mistrusted, or mistreated. Of course the there are normal agitations in a typical day as I interact with the world around me, but as I am learning my normal everyday common agitations are minimal, and that minimum, is privilege.

 

How should the gospel should impact our understanding of race?

I think it should remind us of God’s intentional, beautiful, grace displayed in how he has made all of us, in his image, infinitely valuable, yet weak, broken, poor, vulnerable, and equally in need of a savior. A Savior who left heaven’s perfection to meet us in our broken messy struggles to save us, to care for us, to restore us, and now by his power and love, alive in us, we are called to give our lives to do the same.

 

How can the church engage in racial reconciliation?

#1 Growing in knowing and loving Jesus, which will then teach, equip, and compel us to lay down all that we think we are entitled to, for the sake of God’s name being made great, and our joy being more full as we hold on to him alone for comfort, peace, joy, hope…

#2 Pursuing friends that are different from us. Taking an interest in others, not just wanting to be known by others but wanting to know them. Hearing about their experiences, taking ownership of our sin and ignorance, repenting to one another and to God, for how we have chosen and loved ourselves over others. Humbling ourselves, admitting our own weakness, not taking on some kind of a God complex because we want to be involved in racial reconciliation and caring for the poor. Talking, laughing, crying, supporting, praying, eating, playing, celebrating, TOGETHER!!

#3 Letting go of and using resources, that God has given us, to provide resources for those around us to be equipped to thrive. Such as tutoring academically and discipling young people in God’s word and love, encouraging and affirming who they are created to be. Volunteering in organizations that train people in gaining employment and life skills, Teaching someone skills on your own. Helping to support young parents to care for their families, by loving their children with them and encouraging those parents to press on (Titus 2, teaching those younger, to love their spouse and children), supporting local businesses that need more capital to maintain their businesses and personal income (even if those stores aren’t as shiny, and don’t have 50 of anything you could possibly want)… I am so aware that I have very few answers, and that so much more than this needs to happen, but these are just some of the convictions God has put on my heart. And in Jesus’ active love and care for all of us, through his church, we will all grow in loving, trusting, and following him all for His glory, and our good!

Race & Faith: Tony Kusy

I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s on the near South Side of Milwaukee. Our city has since become known as possibly the most segregated city in America. Though my neighborhood is now home to Hispanic, Black, and Hmong families, when I lived there it was primarily Polish and German. I can’t say that I was raised with my “head in the sand” with regard to race, it’s just that it didn’t impact any aspect of my childhood years. I didn’t know or have experience of anyone who looked different from my family or neighbors until I entered high school.  In my home, race wasn’t discussed.  I didn’t hear any disparaging comments regarding people of color or any other ethnicities.  It was almost as if we were on an island separate from the rest of society because we lived a very homogenous existence.  I don’t even recall my family ever going north of the Menomonee Valley except maybe once to visit Wisconsin Avenue and downtown.

High school was the first time I had seen or talked to an African American in person.  During those years I had yet to appreciate how one’s race affected any of us differently, because we all seemed to be on equal footing, new to high school and influenced by the dynamics that every new student encounters.  (I expect some black students hadn’t yet known anyone white either).  So while we were all placed in this melting pot of an environment, it was still removed from where we actually lived day to day.  I didn’t see and therefore didn’t understand that there was actually any cultural difference in our homes or how people were treated differently in the larger society simply because of their ethnicity.  Call me naïve, but that was the environment in which I was raised!  After school it was always back home to 14th and Beecher not seeing anyone who wasn’t white until the next school day.

Not long after graduating high school, I got a job at Miller Brewing Company. This was at a time of workforce expansion in the plant and nearly half of the people who were hired were people of color.  Even then, while I encountered other races daily, when I moved from my parents home it was to predominantly white communities.  These included staying on the South Side, Greenfield, Pewaukee, the lower East Side and eventually Wauwatosa.  I had friends from work who were black, but we all had parallel experiences through work and were economically equals.  These relationships usually didn’t take place in our homes or in black or white communities, but on “neutral ground”, usually public settings such as restaurants, bars, or certain events.  I didn’t really see how the “other half” lived.

Since retiring from Miller, I’ve taken a part time job at Miller Park where again, it’s a very integrated workplace.  Individually I desire to get along with everyone I meet and not show partiality to anyone regardless of ethnicity, economic status or education.  Still, like most people, I realize that my perception of race has been flavored by the dual influence of media and my upbringing.  The result has been to be more comfortable and trusting of people of my own ethnicity and more suspicious, and guarded with people of color, (except my brothers and sisters in Christ of course).

As a Christian, I know that we are called to love one another as Christ has loved us, but only until relatively recently have I been made more personally aware of the cultural differences and disadvantages that people of color have, not only locally but internationally.  I’m more aware of my white privilege within the majority culture, but also as an American, the resources we have which are unavailable to most of the rest of the world.  I’ve had my eyes opened by a couple of significant events in my life which have revealed to me how privileged I am.  

First, was a short-term mission trip I was honored to take to several countries in Africa.  In South Africa, Mozambique and Malawi, I saw poverty such as I’d never experienced before.  I saw the effects of disease like AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, but also how unemployment, corruption, and the ravages of the civil war in Rwanda had affected people.  At this time I also became more aware of how our society has been blessed and cursed by affluence.  I saw parallels in systemic injustice both in South Africa and the U.S. I came to recognize that it wasn’t only a feature of some far away place.  Arriving back home three weeks before Christmas really opened my eyes to how materialistic our society is.  A visit to the mall to buy presents nearly sickened me physically.  In Africa I met Christians who had nothing materially, but because they had Christ they displayed more joy than anyone I knew in the States.

Second, another event that has helped me to recognize societal injustice was learning about the Imago Dei church plant and its vision to become a multicultural church that would seek to “serve the city” in the name of Christ.  

In Christ, we need to nurture the same attitude as God toward one another (Gen. 1:26, 27; John 3:16; Deut. 10:17; Acts 10:34; Ro. 2:11; Eph. 6:9 and James 2:1-5). We need to reflect God’s love, compassion, and desire to bless others through His church, and need to put aside all forms of prejudice and partiality.  God has gradually made me aware of the fact that I needed to repent of my “sin of omission”, which is knowing what I ought to do, and not doing it.  

 

The events of the last few weeks and months in our nation and city have slowly awakened the possibility for change by putting a light on the underlying causes of unrest and distrust by our minority brothers and sisters toward the police and civic authorities.  As we seek to understand the issues involved, I see a need for the white church to repent of turning a blind eye to the problems of minorities in our cities.  The Church, both white and black, needs to join hands in addressing the injustice in our community “together”.  It’s been said that Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week.  How sad!  Hearing about the events around the Sherman Park area of late, it’s exciting to see how the need to change is beginning to be at least discussed by all sides.  I just pray that the momentum isn’t lost with the next news cycle!

I don’t know how I personally can make a difference in the culture at large, but I know that as part of this community of faith that God has placed in this part of Milwaukee, we can start to listen and dialog with each other, start to build trust toward one another, work with one another and possibly, in time, learn to love one another.  In the process, we will Glorify God who created each one of us in His image.

 

Tony Kusy

Race & Faith: Cory Thompson

1. How does your race affect your daily experience?  

My race has affected my daily experience for as long as I can remember.  I am approaching 50 years of age and I remember when I was probably 12 or 13, my parents sitting me down and explaining that because we were Black, I would have to work twice as hard as my white counterparts; I would have to be aware of my surroundings at all times, especially when I navigated suburban areas; if I were to be pulled over when driving, they taught me “how to act”(or I should say respond).

 

Even though I have three university degrees, EVERY single time a police car pulls up behind me when I drive, my heart skips a beat.  I know it sounds crazy;  I guess I have been psychologically impacted by the images of Rodney King and others throughout the years to know that anything is possible.  To my knowledge, I have been stopped for DWB(driving while black) twice…once I was in the neighboring “white” community of the “white” community where I was living.  I had yet to change my license from our Madison address to our Menomonee Falls address….so the officer found it necessary to let me know I was driving in the wrong direction of going to Madison……

 

The other time I was stopped for dwb, I was in “white folks bay”…aka Whitefish Bay for those who have never heard the reference.  It was nighttime and the president of the National Honor Society had just completed a successful admissions interview into Duke University.  This interview had taken place in the WFB home of a Duke alum, who gave me amazing feedback on my interview and said she would highly recommend me for acceptance into Duke.  Five minutes later, the local police department gave me some feedback too:   that I was speeding in their neighborhood; Since I had been taught how to act in this situation (keep in mind this was WAY before cell phones), I handed the officer my license and I waited for his return to my vehicle.  When he did return, he told me I needed to wait for awhile while his department did further investigating into who I was because my name was coming up with an arrest warranty.  ?????  I am no choir boy, but I can in good faith say that I have never done anything to warrant an arrest.

 

  1. African-American. Male.  Sitting in a car, without a cell phone in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.  Waiting for the officer to return to my car, because there was an arrest warrant out of me.   I think I may have actually peed on myself that night.

 

I have also found myself traveling with my multi-racial family in the deep south and finding myself smack dab in the middle of a white supremacy rally.  My bi-racial children were asleep and never had to see the images that I saw that day.  I am also acutely aware of the concept of  “sun down towns” in America.  EVERY time I travel south to visit my relatives in the southern states, my site-seeing and my business is completed by sunset.  If this doesn’t make sense to the reader, look up the events of Jasper, Texas…in the mid 1990s! Not 1890…1990!

 

Perkins restaurant. Denny’s restaurant.  School Board meeting parking lots.  The list could go on that as shown me that my race has affected my daily experiences.

2. How do you think the gospel should impact our understanding of race?

You know, this is a damn good question!  The gospel should DIRECTLY impact our understanding of race.   Ironically, one of the first places I experienced prejudice was in the predominately African-American church I grew up in….a place where there were pictures of a White Jesus on the walls, but the words coming out of this one particular Sunday school teacher’s mouth were anything but Christian as it pertains to race.  Jesus lived his life amongst the least of us and no person was beneath his touch.  The gospel has a lot to say about how we should treat one another.  Why is 11:00 am on a Sunday morning still one of the most segregated places in America?  If we are all opening up the same Bible on Sunday mornings, then what is the problem????

3. How can the church engage in racial reconciliation?

It has got to be an INTENTIONAL effort on the part of pastors and parishioners.  We have to want to do this..we have to want to have courageous conversations..we have to want to know about those who are different than ourselves…we have to want to grow and be in the minority and be afraid and be vulnerable and ask questions and pray together and pray for one another and pick up together the baton of social justice and carry it until the end of the race.

 

We have to seek first to understand, then be understood.

 

We have to pick up our cross daily.

 

we simply have to become good listeners.

 

A few weeks ago, I was in Imago Dei church and a very simple yet powerful thing happened.  I was visiting that day by myself and I was talking to my brother and his African-American family at the end of the service.  A young Caucasian woman came over to where we were and simply said “Hi, my name is Amy and I don’t know you all and I want to….”  She extended her hand to shake ours, we exchanged names, talked for a bit, she repeated all of our names back to us correctly and then we all went about our day.

 

I am convinced that WHEN I return to Imago Dei, I will remember Amy and I will feel as if I can have any type of conversation with her, will be able to pray with her, pray for her and count her as my sister in racial reconciliation.    The journey of a thousand miles begins with taking that first step.  The church should take the first INTENTIONAL step towards engaging our world in racial reconciliation; but, make no mistake about it:  engaging people to work towards racial reconciliation should be done through prayer and people, not programs.