Thursday, October 25, 2007

In the Presence of Goodness and Forgiveness

During a recent visit to San Diego from South Africa, Bishop Lazarus, Pastor Abel and I had the pleasure of meeting with one of San Diego's most respected pastors- Bishop George McKinney.

Pastor Abel(left), Bishop McKinney(center), and Bishop Lazarus(right)

Bishop McKinney is most known as the founder and pastor of St. Stephens Church as well as for his amazing work on racial reconciliation. He is also known world-wide as a speaker/preacher and author. The church that Gayla and I were a part of starting in our home in 1989, Community Christian Church of San Diego (now known as Fairmount Community Church) was blessed to have had one of Bishop McKinney's right hand pastors as well as his long time devoted friend, Pastor Charles Clark.

I felt it was important to tell you about this, especially as it relates to how our recent meeting began. If you recall in a previous blog that I wrote about Bishop Lazarus, I discovered only recently that I had seen him some ten years ago in South Africa. Bishop Lazarus was the first black pastor who ever shared the pulpit of a white pastor in South Africa after Apartheid was dismantled. This world class event occurred at the Global Conference on World Evangelism in 1997 in Pretoria, South Africa. Gayla and I were there with more that 5,000 delegates from all over the world.

Bishop Lazarus was present at the very opening of the conference- when the lights were turned off. We heard sounds of a distant drum. Then the song of a local African. Then a drum. Then the call of a native bird. Another drum. And then a huge lion roared. And the lights came back on. Before us on the long stage was a black African dressed in an elegant white robe. He proceeded to stretch out his arms and say, "Welcome to South Africa." Shortly thereafter a white African pastor and Bishop Lazarus shared words of reconciliation, forgiveness, then tears, and then a huge embrace. All to the standing applause of 5,000 delegates. It was a moment in our lives we will all never forget.

Bishop McKinney and Myself

I have shared all this to prepare you for what happened in our meeting in Bishop McKinney's library recently. Bishop McKinney came into the library to meet with us and when he sat down Bishop Lazarus proceeded to apologize to Bishop McKinney for what he said was, "The reason you are here and not in Africa." He said that it is widely known, that African families and neighbors had sold and abandoned their relatives during the slave trade that enabled the slavers to ship them to the United States. Bishop Lazarus said that he was there to say, " We are sorry for what has been done." There was barely a pause when Bishop McKinney leaned over close to Bishop Lazarus and said. "All is known, and all is forgiven."

This was another moment in time I will never forget. The power of God's grace and reconciliation is an amazing and humbling thing to see in action. It was not all that different the day Nelson Mandela was released from 27 years of prison during Apartheid and shared a message of forgiveness and reconciliation. As Nelson Mandela himself once said, "If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness. "

As we embark for South Africa in nearly a week, these meetings and experiences have been keen reminders that God's love and grace are essential ingredients of our vision for Africa.

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