It’s hard to watch and respond to the news. It just seems like so many horrible things are happening in our country and around the world. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself getting numb to the pain and tragedy. I certainly wasn’t numb to what happened in Charleston a couple of weeks ago.
Like many of you, when I heard the news of the shooting at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina I was heartbroken. Nine sweet souls perished in a Bible study at the hands of an evil and hateful human being. I was glued to my iPad and iPhone, constantly checking updates and seeing what pastors, politicians, and businessman were saying about the events.
It blew my mind that the sweet people welcomed and accepted this man and he returned that gift of hospitality and acceptance with violence and malice. This shooting affected me deeply as a Christ-follower and as an African-American. The shooter was methodical with his research and targeting. He hoped to start a race war from his actions, but God used this to break down barriers and start wholesome and constructive dialogue about race relations in America.
I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Charleston this weekend with three great guys from our Young Professionals ministry. We headed up there on Friday morning and spent several hours outside the church. I felt God calling me to go to Charleston a couple of days after the shooting to pray for the city and love on people in the community.
I was amazed at the peace, forgiveness, and love that was in the atmosphere. There were hundreds of people outside the church and I didn’t sense any malice or hate from anyone. The sense of resiliency in the people of Charleston was inspiring. I talked to several residents of the city and asked each of them the same set of questions.
One of the questions I asked was: what is your explanation for the peace and unity that the city is experiencing right now? Person after person said that the forgiveness that was shown by the victim’s families towards the shooter was one of the main reasons for the harmony that settled over the city.
I got the opportunity to go inside the church and sit down for half an hour. It was a bit surreal as I sat silently in a pew and prayed that God would wipe the tears from the people of Charleston’s eyes. I prayed that His great love would penetrate hardened hearts and unleash a powerful resolve throughout the city; a resolve to not be overcome by hate, but instead be full of love.
I’m Harold Dorrell Briscoe. Thanks for reading.