Tag Archives: Emanuel AME Church

Visiting Charleston, S.C. (Part 2)

The Plan

photo 1 (3)Even though it was already planned that we would visit our daughter in Charleston, as soon as I heard the tragic news of the shooting, I knew I needed to visit (Mother) Emanuel A.M.E. Church. The original plan was to go with friends on a cheap vacation to the beach, stroll through the downtown market, and visit family, but on June 17 the agenda changed.

In a text to Roy Cavender, a friend who was already planning to go with us on vacation, I said, “My plan while in Charleston is to visit Emanuel AME Church and pray. You down with that?

His reply was short and simple: “You know it!!!

So that is what we did.

The Memorials

photo 2 (3)It wasn’t that difficult to know when we had arrived at Emanuel A.M.E., for the flowers and memorials of all kinds were neatly stacked against the sturdy black iron fence separating the front of the church building from the sidewalk.

But it was more than just the flowers and trinkets that caused me to pause; it was the trees and the fire hydrant, all of them covered completely with condolences, names, and Scripture references written with colored Sharpie pens.

It took me a while to find a small, clear place on one of the trees, but when I did, I had to reach as high as I could without a stool. With a red Sharpie I simply wrote: John 17.

You see, unlike in the days after other tragedies, the people of Charleston, along with so many around the country, came together in a way that put evil to shame. This was especially evident by the support shown by the other churches all over the city. It was evident in the way people talked, put together fund raisers, and even in the way they welcomed the prayers from a total stranger.

The Prayer

Now, let me say up front that I did not originally pose for the accompanying photo of me praying. Let me explain what happened.

Like I said, I determined early on that I wanted to go pray on location at Emanuel A.M.E. What I did not go seeking, however, was a photo opportunity. However, it was only after I was given permission to kneel and pray on the front steps that a couple of ladies (members, I suppose), decided to take my picture – with several cameras.

As soon as I finished praying – praying that the name of Jesus Christ would be proclaimed through the deaths of His saints and the love of those who forgave – I started to stand. As I turned to me right, there was this lady with a camera phone saying, “Oh, I’m sorry…could you keep praying? I was trying to take a picture.” Once again I knelt down and prayed aloud.

photo 1 (4)As soon as I finished praying a second time, there was another woman with another cell phone: “I’m so sorry, sir, but could you pray some more? Please?” What was I supposed to do? So, of course I knelt once more and prayed…aloud…for real.

Believe it or not, just as soon as I said “amen” and started to stand, there the woman was again! This time, however, she had a 35mm camera in hand! I said, “OK, look, if I’m going to keep doing this, at least take MY phone and take a picture; I’d like a keepsake.”

“Of course!” she said. “This is something you should want to remember!”

The Big Picture

For many years to come people will be asking the same question: “Why?” Why did God allow a murderous young man full of hate to snuff out the lives of nine people during a Bible study? We may never know all the answers, for God’s ways are higher than our ways. However, a quick study of a small word in the New Testament could lend some understanding.

You see, the word translated “witnesses” in Acts 1:8 is the Greek word μάρτυς (pronounced mä’r-tüs). It is also the word from which we get the English word “martyr.”

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

When we look at what has happened since June 17, I cannot help but believe the deaths of those precious nine people were not in vain. Their “witnesses” in death, along with the “love that passeth all understanding” shown by their families, have been nothing less than a fulfillment of Jesus’ words as recorded in Acts 1:8!

What the Devil meant for harm, God has changed to good! Those who died in that church may have never had much of an impact outside of Charleston, but the ripple effects of their deaths have been felt to “the uttermost part of the earth!”

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Folks, as evil becomes more and more prevalent in this world, the love of Jesus can bring healing to our cities, unity to the Body of Christ, and dumbfound the world. May the families of Emanuel A.M.E. be a testimony to that fact. Keep them in your prayers. 

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Filed under Bible Study, Christian Unity, current events, Life/Death, Vacation

Charleston On My Mind

As I sit down to write this, I don’t really know what I am going to say, other than what is on my heart. If I can get it out into words that make sense and don’t confuse anyone, that’s all I can hope for.

First of all, one of my daughters and her husband live in Charleston, South Carolina. As a matter of fact, I was just there last week and plan to return not too long from now. It is a beautiful, historic city. It is certainly worth a long visit.

Secondly, I want to visit Emanuel AME Church when I return to Charleston in a week or so. I want to go to the place where so much attention is being directed and pray for peace.

What is truly disheartening is all the hate I continue to read on Facebook. The hate is coming from from all directions, but much is being aimed at white people, like Dylann Roof is supposed to be the spokesman (and gunman) for Caucasians everywhere. Where do people get all this nonsense? One common suggestion from angry blacks is that they should arm themselves and rise up against white America. Like THAT is the answer! It’s a wrong answer to a false perception that is perpetuated in the minds of those who are as racist as the killer being condemned!

The fact is that what Dylann Roof did was horrible, but it wasn’t the first time people were killed in a church – and it won’t be the last. It wasn’t the first time a white man killed black people – and it won’t be the last. It wasn’t the first time a deranged and evil-filled tool of Satan murdered innocent people – and it won’t be the last. But to suggest that an entire race hates another and that the evidence is the actions of one man? Well, that is nothing more than an excuse for perpetuating existing hatred and racism from a different direction.

The best and most disarming response I have heard, so far, came from Anthony Thompson, the son of slain Myra Thompson (59), as he spoke to the killer himself…

“I forgive you. But we would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent, confess, give your life to the one who matters most: Christ. So that he can change it, can change your ways no matter what happened to you and you’ll be OK. Do that and you’ll be better off than what you are right now.”

Some have jumped into the fray and asked, “Where was God in all this?” Those who ask that question evidently know little about the God Anthony Thompson worships. They know little about eternal things, and ways higher than their own. They assume that if God was real He must stop all acts of violence; all crimes; any and all sin. They forget that it is by God’s grace they live and breathe, even when they commit murder in their own hearts when they hate. They ignore the fact that love is never more on display than when back-dropped by hatred.

What we saw in Charleston was the result of hatred and ignorance, of evil, blinding the heart and mind of one who was deceived and used by the Enemy of righteousness, and he acted of his own free will. But what we are also seeing are those whose faith is more than words; those whose love is more than a feeling; and evidence of lives truly changed by a God who was there all the time, able to take what was meant for evil and turn it into good.

Now, while I am still putting my thoughts out here for the world to see, let me say something else. Had someone else in that church been armed, Dylann Roof may not have had the opportunity to do as much damage, at least not reload multiple times. I am all for having individuals in my church who are armed and ready for any such threat. We have to be, for things like this have happened before – in white churches, too – and they will continue to happen as long as men hate righteousness.

You may be asking, “But Pastor, how could you endorse carrying a weapon and possibly killing someone?” The answer is really very simple, I think. You see, I am a shepherd of sheep, and a shepherd is charged with the sheep’s protection. If a wolf were to walk into the fold and try to harm my sheep, I would dispatch it. Should a man walk into my church and try to kill my people, my flock, then that man forfeits his status as a human and becomes an animal – I will dispatch him as I would the wolf. Forgiveness comes after the fight.

So, those are my thoughts for the moment. May God’s grace be with those affected by this tragedy in Charleston.

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