This morning’s post is written by Leroy Barber the global executive director of Word Made Flesh. I am reposting this from his recent newsletter firstly because the sentiments in the letter so touched my heart. The question they raised in my mind is How can we support and be hospitable to people of colour wanting to work in missions? I am also posting this because I will be speaking at the Word Made Flesh staff conference in a couple of weeks and am excited about meeting people I have corresponded with but never met who are so dedicated to helping the world’s poor. It is fellowship with people like these that keeps me sensitive to those who are disadvantaged in our world. They encourage me to grapple with hard questions that keep me on the path that God intends me to follow.
I think I am a bit angry today. I know I should be used to the story, but it always hits me like a ton of bricks when I am faced with the reality. We have a great group of interns for the summer. They are committed young people who are beginning a journey and are looking to commit their lives to living out justice. They come to learn, offer their gifts, and explore the possibilities of doing ministry like this for the rest of their lives. I love the process. It’s not always easy or neat but incredible through all of it.
We have a diverse crew this summer, something we desire, and work hard for as an expression of our faith. We want everyone to be able to serve. The difficulty lies in the fact that we are locked into a system of support raising, and inevitably it rears it’s ugly head as it’s already doing this summer. The persons of color, though highly qualified people, don’t have the networks to support even a summer. This is a reminder of the legacy of injustice of the brokenness of our systems that favor privilege. Mind you, God continues calling young people from all backgrounds. This inherent injustice merely points out the brokenness of our system and how far removed it is from God’s heart. The God of Justice, keeps calling all people and our broken system keeps hurting them.
This summer reminds me of the hard places Donna and I have found ourselves while trying to raise support, raise a family, and answer the call in our lives. We chose to keep at it, but the tax we paid as people of color in missions was great. Extra jobs on the side, sleepless nights, and at times, months without pay. It is my desire to change this for young people of color starting out on this journey.
I want to believe that 25 years later we can do better. Diversity is, of course, important because many of the communities “served” are communities of color and people need to see people like them in roles of leadership and service. Not to mention that by excluding people of color, we are missing out on a greater understanding of who God is. Since we are all made in the image of God, the more diversity we have, the more of God we see.
This month marks one year for me at Word Made Flesh. Throughout this year, I have had the opportunity to visit people around the world and encounter some great local leaders. Leaders that are doing excellent work in their communities but for whom personal support raising is not an option. There are usually no middle class uncles, aunties, churches, or parents to send monthly gifts. Yet the work they do each day as social workers, teachers, and executive directors is vital to the life of the community.
This month I ask that you send a gift to support our interns of color. That you recognize the leadership they bring and the sacrifices they make. I challenge you to give generously. Your gifts will not only help our interns, but will also support local and leaders of color around the world.
Leroy Barber is an ordained Christian minister who has dedicated more than 25 years to eradicating poverty, confronting homelessness, restoring local neighborhoods, healing racism, and living what Dr. King called “the beloved community.” He is currently the Global Executive Director of Word Made Flesh, an international organization that works among the most vulnerable of the world’s poor. He serves on the boards of Mission Year, The Simple Way, The Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), and the Christian CommunityDevelopment Association (CCDA). He is the author of three books: New Neighbor: An Invitation to Join Beloved Community (Mission Year, 2008); Everyday Missions: How Ordinary People Can Change the World (Intervarsity Press, 2012); Red, Brown, Yellow, Black and White: Who’s More Precious In God’s Sight? with Velma Maia Thomas (FaithWords/Hachette Book Group, 2014). Leroy has been married to Donna for the past 29 years and together they have five children.