What happened in Ferguson
Thank you to everyone who’s supported me on the journey to Ferguson.
I am eager to share my story of that time, however in my introverted/INFP fashion, I am still processing and digesting what I’ve learned and figuring out how best to share certain aspects of that journey. Please be patient with me as I navigate the intricacies of this invaluable experience.
I’m growing in my confidence in my ability to tell my own story intertwined with what I’ve gleaned from the stories I’ve heard. It’s often difficult to shift back to ordinary time and space and last week was a tough transitioning week.
But to those who have helped me along the way, I’ve wanted to make sure I made the most of it.
So blogs will be posted, letters will be written and conversations will happen in due time. I am looking forward to all of it.
For now, here’s a sampler reflection:
In Ferguson, we met with clergy and activists who were incarnated into the movement; they believed that beyond believing and teaching Jesus’s radical love and hospitality, it was necessary to show it. They were the hands and feet of love and peace. While some churches had a sanctuary, many churches took it upon themselves to be sanctuary, places where the systemic oppression, hate and evil of the world were left at the front steps of the church.
Some clergy we interacted with considered themselves to be privileged in many different ways…and when the problems of the streets made their way into the church, they thought it was important that their privileged bodies were present in the midst of the chaos. They stood on the side of love, which often meant the space between police and protesters.
Ferguson’s story to the rest of the world might be a place portrayed on the news as “dangerous,” but we walked the streets of Ferguson where children played, cars passed as people made their way from home to work, or work to home. After a week, it grew in it’s familiarity, not as a place to be visited, but a place where people lived. We met strangers who became our family…after you’ve listened to the stories we’ve heard, there’s no deeper relation.
We learned that some stories are not simply found in the headlines of news stories. Some stories have to be lived into, cried into, walked into…some stories trail off into silence…
But in this place, we were brought together by a story that laid on the ground for four hours, one with many plots, many characters with complexities, many themes and moods…
And we listened.
After all that listening, we prayed, recognizing that these stories fall into a more complicated plot. We invited the God who writes and rewrites stories to help us read between the lines. And I’ll be honest…some things still don’t make sense.
But we listened.
And when we returned home. I’m sure I’m not the only one walking around with a head full of spinning narratives. What ever happened to lullabies and stories with easy, happy endings? We’ve come a long way as college students into this complicated world and we know that no one book has the answer.
To conclude inconclusively: I want to live in a world where acceptance of a single story is questioned. Where we can let humanity be complicated and unsimple, because it just is. Where people can recognize that “Black Lives Matter” was born so people like Mike Brown could be seen beyond the simple headlines, but for the human being that he was. So that people could see that we only fear what we do not understand.
But to end on a more conclusive note: I may not always be the loudest person in the room. I’m also probably not the most fun, outgoing and easy to be around. I find myself drawn to the topics on the heavier side of life, the things we run away from and want to push to the back of our minds. People like me aren’t the ones people crowd around at parties. But I find myself drawn to despair in other people and people in despair always seem to be drawn to me. I find that the midst of pain and suffering, my impulse and desire is to be present and feel what others are feeling. So throughout this experience, I’ve never felt more like I belonged.
When I made the commitment to “follow the heartbeat of Jesus” this year, it was a commitment to learn to walk in empathy with others, to allow my heart to break in ways that break the heart of God…to pray authentically with others, to allow space for the ministry of presence. I got to experience all these things and more in that week.
So if I’ve gained anything personally from this trip — and I’ve gained a lot — it’s that God has a unique purpose for my almost always awkward person-hood. When I am running to someone else’s storm — to help them find peace or just to be still — I never feel more at home.
But yes, there’s a lot to say about what I’ve experienced. If you want to sit down and hear a complicated story with no conclusion and with more questions than answers…I only ask that you be all ears. If my week in Ferguson has led me to discover anything, it’s this embedded human secret: If we listen long enough to the stories of others, and quiet the loud judgmental voice inside our heads, we might be able to tap into the rhythm that helps us be human together.
Originally published on Medium.com on March 23, 2017.