Thursday morning I left Atlanta and headed to Jackson MS. In Jackson MS is the Spencer Perkins Center which houses the ministries of John Perkins. For those who do not know who John Perkins is you should look up information on him and definitely pick up a book or two or seven from him. I got there later in the afternoon and checked into my room and got a quick tour and explanation of the center. I then ran into Dr. Perkins and he came up to me and said "Hey guy, who are you?" Dr. Perkins explains that he doesn't have much time left so he likes to get to the point. I quickly explained to him who I was, where I was coming from, and why I was there. He said that they were having a large gathering later and that he would sit down and talk with me then.I headed back to my room and took a nap and did some reading before the gathering.
5:30 rolled around and I went outside to see probably over a hundred kids running around and playing. I talked with some of the volunteers until at 6:00 they gathered the kids together to sing some songs and listen to a guest speaker. The speaker talked about staying true to yourself and being confident. After he was finish speaking Dr. Perkins stood up and thanked him for speaking and said that he had faith in the kids in front of him. He has faith that this generation has the ability to be a post-racist society. He said that the majority of his life he has faced oppression merely because of the color of his skin. There were many people and unfortunately are still people who stupidly hate people simply because they don't have a desire to get to know them. Some people go through they lives choosing hatred over love and in the process trap themselves in the hatred. He talked about getting beaten to the verge of death in a Brandon MS jail simply because the color of his skin and that he was fighting for freedom and rights for his fellow people.
He continued on to say that even though he has been through many trials, he has faith in the future. He has faith in humankind that we can turn around and better our lives and the lives of those around us. We can choose to love and not to hate. We can love indiscriminately in the face of those who hate indiscriminately. We need to continue to know where we're coming from and know where we're headed.
He then prayed a blessing over the children and over the meal and the kids ran off to get food. I walked up to Dr. Perkins to once again introduce myself. I told him a little more about the trip and about both the Epworth Project and the New Monastic House that I hope to start when I return to Columbia, SC in the summer of 2013. He asked me a question about Bonhoeffer and before I could finish my answer he started talking about the community there in MS. I started to finish my answer and he again started talking about his experiences. I started to get frustrated and then realized how ridiculous that was. It didn't matter what I had to say or what I had to share, one of the most influential men in Christian Community Development was sharing with me what he had learned over the last 80 years. Nothing I was going to say to him was going to be of much importance but everything he shared was loaded with wisdom. From that point on for the next 24hrs I was going to listen to whatever he had to say and only speak when necessary. That is something that I do not always practice but the next 24hrs would be a great lesson in humility.