Jeanna Repass serves as the Kansas City Missions Program Director at Resurrection.
I am African American which means that I am a decendant of African slaves in America. But like most Americans, the roots on my ancestral tree grow in many directions. My father is bi-racial, African American and Hispanic. On my mother’s side – like many American families – we have relatives whom are Native American. My mother’s great-great-grandmother Ester was Cherokee. I love the variety in my heritage! I love that in many ways this is one of the great characteristics of being an American in general – we are a country of “melted pots”.
As much as we celebrate our diversity in America today, sadly, this was not always the case. There was a time when being an African in America meant that you were owned by some one else. As an African slave in American, you didn’t have a last name becaue you didn’t need one; you were not allowed to learn to read or write or own land or a home. You were not allowed to legally marry or to even claim your own children. You were used in large part as though you were cattle – for breeding, working the land and as property to your slave owner. In short – being an African in America meant that you weren’t completely human.
For almost 100 years after the emmancipation of African slaves in America there were segregation laws in our Country which promoted the necessity of maintaining the separation of African Americans from Whites. If an African American drank from a water source (a glass of water or a drinking fountain) it was then considered contaminated and unfit for Whites to drink from. African Americans were not allowed to try on clothing in a department store because White store owners could not/would not sell clothes that had touched the skin of an African American. African Americans and Whites could not share the same swimming pools, schools, or restaurants. African American sailors in WWII were not even allowed to share the Pacific Ocean with White sailors and had segregated days and times when they could swim in the ocean waters.
This segregation of people is not unique to our Country or even to our time in history. When Jesus walked among us, the Samaritans, the lepers, the tax collectors, prostitutes, and other “outcasts” forcibly lived segregated from others. They were defined by societal boundaries that told them they were “not good enough”. They were separated – and not equal – and our Lord sat and ate and ministered among them.
Matthew 5, 12 – 16: “While (Jesus) was in one of the cities there came a man full of leprocy; and when he saw Jesus he fell on his face and besought Him saying, ‘Lord if you will, you can make me clean. And He stretched our His hand and touched him saying, ‘I will, be clean.” Jesus wills for us to be clean – to be WHOLE. He wills humanity to be clean of the sores of oppressions against one another. He wills for us to see our Father in one another. He wills for us to look with awed admiration at the wonderful parts of ourselves that are different as we see the awesome diversity of God’s creation. Jesus says to us today as He did to the leper 2,000 years ago – It is My will – be clean, be whole, love one another as I love you. Amen.