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Elder challenges people to see what God wants them to do

The Spokane celebrations of Martin Luther King Day—the service at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the rally and march in downtown Spokane on Jan. 18 and 19—invoked the connections between the dream of King and the inauguration of the first African-American President.

Discovery School children singing
Discovery School children singing

The Rev. Ezra Kinlow, pastor of Holy Temple Church of God in Christ, opened worship with the Lord’s Prayer for God’s “Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven,” asking God to “watch over us and care for us” and for Jesus to “reign in hearts, minds and souls as the dream of Dr. King unfolds.”

The Rev. Rodney McAuley, director of the Act Six leadership initiative, read from Haggai and Hebrews, reminding people to be strong because God is with them and not to fear as God shakes the nations.  He celebrates “advancing the dream that is shaking us all.”

The Rev. Lonnie Mitchell of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, said: “What a blessing it is to live in these days.”

Recalling that King knew he would “not get” to the promised land “with us,” Lonnie said, “I’m so glad as we swear in the 44th President to know that Dr. King foresaw Barack Obama.  We are here to witness the dream.  Welcome to the promised land.”

Freda Gandy, interim director at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Family Outreach Center, introduced Discovery School children, who sang the “Hymn to Freedom,” saying when everyone joins our song to sing in harmony “that’s when we’ll be free” and “live in dignity.”

Ben Luety, of the center’s board, was not born at the time of King, but learned of him through school, books and his father.  Ben gave highlights of King’s life from high school graduation at 15, study at Morehouse College and Crozer Theological Seminary to earning a PhD in 1955 at Boston University.

“At 35, he was the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize,” Ben said.  “At the center, we live his vision and legacy of respect, serving about 2,000 people with pre-school, after-school and summer programs, food vouchers, school supplies, and counseling.

“We do not start living until we rise above individualistic concern to broader concerns for the good of humanity and the good of the community,” Ben said.  “Genesis reminds us we are our brothers’ keepers.”

The Spokane Community Massed Gospel Choir with people of different faith, cultural, ethnic and racial backgrounds sang:  “It’s a new day and a new beginning”  and “I know who I am.  My name is victory.”

Jimmy Pierce
Elder Jimmy Pierce

Preaching, Elder Jimmy Pierce of Unspeakable Joy Christian Fellowship told of the biblical story of Esther asking her husband, King Ahasuerus, to protect the Jewish people and then told those attending the celebration “to know that each of you is born for such times as these.  While an assassin took the physical life of Dr. King, he did not take away the life of his words.”

He said the inauguration of an African-American President was a time to celebrate King’s words and rights won through the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

To remind people of the past as a way to embrace the future, he recounted highlights of King’s life—a Baptist minister at 19; the bus boycott; his arrest for sitting in at a restaurant; the Congress on Racial Equality’s freedom rides and protests ending segregation on interstate buses and in stores, houses and jobs, and the March on Washington where King shared his dream in 1963.

“Why would such a man take on such a dangerous undertaking?” Jimmy asked.  “God’s hand was on his life.  As in Luke 12:48, we know that ‘to whom much is given, much is required.’  He preached and stirred action.  King was born for such a time as that.

“Serving God is not governed by time.  We are in God’s timing.  It’s not about what I want to do. Our time has come.  God puts people in a place to help people: Esther was in place as queen to intercede, risking her life, so the king would not kill the Jews.

“Don’t forget who you are and from where you come,” Jimmy said.  ‘It could be your time in this place to act.”

He said King knew he could not be concerned about longevity if he were to do God’s will.

“I believe he knew his words would not be in vain,” Jimmy said.  “Sometimes the time picks you.  Barack Obama was born for such a time as this and elected the 44th President of the United States.  We are born for such a time as this.  God’s plan does not stop with the inauguration, but continues with each of us.”

Jimmy told everyone to take responsibility, to be concerned that despite the rhetoric of “no child left behind,” many children are left behind in Spokane, which has a 30 percent dropout rate.

“Each of us here has work to do for such a time as this,” he said.

The Rev. Happy Watkins, co-chair of the event and pastor at New Hope Baptist Church, reminded worshipers that King was not born great, but was helped by his home and family. 

He invited children forward to say that the greatest gift to pass on to children is hope.

Lonnie Mitchell and Willie Earthman
Lonnie Mitchell and Willie Earthman, 100 yrs

He invited Willie Earthman, 100, forward and quoted Obama’s Nov. 4 acceptance speech, telling of 106-year-old Alice Nixon Cooper, born a generation past slavery when there were no cars or planes and she couldn’t vote because of being a woman and because of the color of her skin. 

Both lived to see history include the election of the first African-American President, Happy said.

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Copyright © February 2009 - The Fig Tree