Ferguson: The Greatest Thing (by Beth Gibson)

Most of the time, I feel very removed from the situation in Ferguson. Teaching in a predominantly white elementary school in West County where roughly 11% of the student population is black, the terrible killing of Michael Brown sometimes seems as if it happened across the country, instead of a mere thirty minute drive northeast. The social injustice that is occurring today is an afterthought to many, and it seems as if some would like to sweep it under the rug rather than face the fact that there are people in our city who are denied rights and treated inferiorly every day because of the color of their skin. Comments such as, “When are they just going to stop already?” And, “Haven’t they gotten it out of their system already?” make my heart hurt because no they haven’t, and no they won’t, and no they don’t have to. 1 1st para
I think people should speak up about social injustice. A young black man was killed and nothing was done about it. The Bible tells us to weep with those who weep. People are weeping because of fear and anger. If you are removed from the situation, make an effort to understand what it is like to be a black person living in St. Louis today. That would be love in action.

In addition to working full time in a public school, I have the privilege of working at Freedom Arts. Our student population is predominantly black children from North City who suffer from poverty, neglect, and sometimes even trauma. I love them dearly and cherish the opportunities to spend time with them. After spending the afternoon recently with five of our little girls, my heart was full after we laughed together, talked about how much Jesus loves us, and how to treat their brothers with love and kindness. Though I met them three years ago, I feel like our journey together has just begun. Freedom Arts is committed to mentoring these little ones for many years to come and although I have answers and advice for them now, they are going to grow older and start asking questions about their culture and society that I want to be able to help them figure out answers to. As of right now, I still have a lot of questions myself. If one of these kids asked me, “Why did this happen to Michael Brown?” 2 2nd paraI would talk about sin and how it can consume us. I would lead them to the truth of God’s word, which is our peace. But…I’ve never been a little black girl from North City who suffered from poverty, neglect, and trauma. I’ve got a lot of learning to do. They are growing up, alright. I want to be there for them along the way because I love them.

As a Christian, I believe that we are called to do and serve more. We need to be a light for others, for those who don’t know the Lord. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. We know these things, so we should be sharing them. I refuse to forget it or sweep it under the rug. I come into contact with too many impressionable young people to forget how valuable they are. We need to be ambassadors of Christ by getting involved and sharing the love.

Be aware. Listen carefully. Be open. Stay humble

People can be fearful and angry and hateful. We should follow Christ’s example and love them. After all, that’s the greatest thing that there is…

3 very endHalloween

Beth Gibson (Academic Coordinator, Academic/Visual Arts Mentor)


Ferguson: Love Produces Hope (by Andrew Gibson)

On August 9, 2014, we had our third annual Freedom Arts Expo. We had over 50 kids show up and participate in music, dance, poetry, pottery, painting, drawing, jewelry making, and more. The rain stayed away, the sun shined, and our scholars learned, created, laughed, and smiled.

On August 9, 2014, young Michael Brown was dying after being shot by police officer Darren Wilson only 14 miles north of us in Ferguson. Whether you throw a tiny pebble or a huge rock into a pond, there will be ripples that will move across the water and hit the other sides. This tragic situation has created ripples. A young man is dead. His family will have to live without him. The city of Ferguson has been torn up. Issues of race have boiled over. Relationships between police officers and civilians are proving to be poor.

This matters to me. So I’ve prayed. I’ve cried. I’ve listened. I’ve vented. Prayed more. Cried more. Pondered. Stood with protestors. Prayed more. Pondered more. Went to meetings. Had conversations. Discussed solutions. Had arguments. Prayed more. Pondered more. Because this matters to me.
I think Michael Brown should still be alive. I think Darren Wilson screwed up big time. I think this tragedy is symptomatic of a much larger issue involving race and authority. I think all issues come down to being issues of the hearts of people. That’s what needs to be fixed first.

There were race and authority problems in Jesus’ time too. There was prejudice, corruption, crime, and hate. He was subjected to similar issues. He faced them. How? What did he do during his time?

He taught. He took a small group of people from all different walks of life and he taught them love and respect. He built them up. He healed people along the way. He walked away from the places and people that rejected him.

I discussed with my Freedom Arts staff what, if anything, we could or should do differently. My wise brother and Program Director Corey Williams reminded us that we are already doing something. We have been doing something. We’re teaching and building up the underserved and misunderstood. We’re teaching love and respect. We’re preaching faith, hope, and love. We’re preaching purpose, vision, and direction. We’re preaching God-given worth. We’re teaching that Jesus is the way, truth, and life.

So I challenged my team to do it more boldly, accurately, and often. I challenged them to consider their thoughts and feelings about this situation, and then share them with the community. I felt personally convicted to spread the message of Jesus that sometimes gets lost in church teachings: the message of true, sacrificial, unconditional love.

My friend, brother, and Freedom Arts Board member Kenny DeShields is an excellent songwriter who has several songs about love. One that comes to mind now says “when it’s tough, when it’s unfair, that’s when you love. When it’s uncomfortable, inconvenient, that’s when you love.” That’s the truth.

The Bible tells us to love each other and bear with each other (Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4, the list goes on). It also tells us to weep with those who are weeping (Romans 12). That’s the truth.

We want justice. We want reconciliation. We want truth. All of those are found in love. It starts right there. Nothing changes without it. Start by loving. Start by lamenting, listening, and lifting up.

The truth is that there is no earthly solution for a spiritual problem. Situations are unfair, but there is justice in Christ. Relationships are broken, but there is restoration in Christ. Stories are skewed and biased, but there is truth in Christ. This truth is that he loves us, and this love produces hope.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:3-5).

Follow Christ. Know the truth. Receive love. Get hope.

R Faith Hope Love

Andrew Gibson (Executive Director, Music Coordinator, Music/Academic Mentor)