Written by Ali Kirby
Christian Community Development Association. I had no idea what to expect in preparing to go to their conference that was this past October. All I knew was that I should be excited. And I was, but more for the time I would get to spend with my team members at Uncommon Grounds Café & Church Army. I severely underestimated what would happen.
I packed up my things and John, my husband, and I left to meet up with everyone before heading to Detroit. I was sleepy but comfortable and excited to be doing something out of the ordinary with people I love. The trip there wasn’t anything notable, just some good conversation, music and some naps.
When we arrived at the hotel, we got settled and then went over to where the registration chaos was for CCDA. We signed in and received our booklets for the Conference and then had the chance to look around where the venders were and find the location of the main sessions as well as eat.
Throughout the conference, we went to several main sessions and a handful of breakout sessions. The evenings were spent with the team either going to new places or just talking in the lobby of the hotel.
I am finding it difficult to put into words everything that I learned during this time. But here is my best try.
I grew up in Lakeland, Florida living in a fairly middle-class house but attending a school that you could say was in the “ghetto.” I loved my school, I loved the people I met there and I wish sometimes that I was still in that community so that I could help it grow.
The people who went there and taught at this school came in all shapes, sizes and colors. So, the way I viewed skin color was fairly neutral, it was part of everyday life and everyone saw everyone else as equals. I am an artist and have always been attracted to beauty, so when I met my first best friend and interacted with the other kids or teachers in my classes, all I saw were people who had different colored skin and all of us are cool and beautiful in our own ways. I was vaguely aware of Dr. Martin Luther King and that he was a great leader who even visited our school. I knew that the school that I began at in kindergarten was just getting restarted from being an all girl’s colored school. Being very small and not knowing any better, I just thought that was interesting, and wondered why.
I have been called “accidentally racist” which makes me really sad inside. I have heard that when people say “I don’t see color” that it isn’t fair or correct. I see color, I see shape, I see texture, I hear voices, I see talent, and I know that we were each made uniquely in God’s image. I love the shades of skin God made, I love the shape of people, I love how God made each individual face purposefully. I don’t know how to go around letting everyone know how much I appreciate them and how beautiful they are, and how cool their gifts and talents are. Because apparently when I try to do that, I am being racist.
Someone once said that there is one race: the human race. I think that’s true. I got the chance to talk to my team mates about some of the thoughts and questions I had about race and color during this conference. It blew me away. I am not unaware of the struggle those who have dark skin are facing, but I don’t think I fully understood the depth or how it is still so deeply rooted in cultures and systems that are still very active to this day within our country, states and towns. I began asking more about how to approach this. I began to feel sorrow for this country and its future generations.
Obviously, I alone cannot change much. But I know my God and Father can. I also know that beginning conversations about this topic in unaggressive ways will help. Being open and honest with one another will help. Challenging stigmas will help. Leaning not on our own understandings will help.
The CCDA conference was also the first time, I think ever, where I knew I was with like-minded people. I spoke earlier about how each person is made uniquely in God’s image. Everyone has been gifted with specific personalities, longings and things that get them fired up. I found a great sense of comradery within the groups of people who attended this conference. I felt like I found a place amongst these evangelists and teachers. These many people who had a fire in their bellies and a passion to fix or work on the wrong infecting the amazing world but broken world we live in. I felt vulnerable, exposed, and enlightened. I felt strong and sure in who I am and who God is molding me into.
I realized that if I am to be a great pastor’s wife, a better artist, a better evangelist, a better mentor, a better prophesier, or a redeemed daughter of Christ, I get to continue to die to myself, but I also get to stand confident on this rock that is my Lord and savior Jesus Christ. I love the time of life I am in right now. I love that I am getting challenged and sharpened in my walk with Christ. I would like to be more educated and the knowledge I hear stay longer in my memory. I would like to be more confident in who God made me to be. I would like to be able to challenge people’s thoughts and beliefs to be more open minded, forgiving, bigger, simpler, joyful, creative, and inclusive. I would like these things, and while I attended CCDA and spent time with those I work alongside, I began to believe that these things are possible. I have hope.