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October 16, 2020 45 min

Pastor Michael Walker has been follower of Christ for 47 years and served in ministry since 1986. He is a black American male, married to his college sweetheart, they're a biracial couple happily married for over 30 years. He has served as a youth pastor, missionary in Africa for 11 years, the Director of Love Botswana Bible School, and as Director of Word to Africa Mission school in Botswana, Outreach Director for Love Botswana Outreach Mission and a Church planter. He has been an Associate Pastor in multiple churches and Senior Pastor in two churches, one of which was an all-white Southern Baptist Church. He congruently served as a Chaplain for a Sheriff’s department for five years. Currently he is serving as the Corporate Chaplain for CRISTA Ministries and is Board Certified Pastor Counselor. He and his wife Heather have five children: Three are grown and two still at home. He considers his most significant achievement to that all of our children are following Christ.

Maggie has known Mike since 2001 when he baptized her in the Puget Sound, and in matching wet suits!

Checking in with how life has shifted since COVID in his family life and with work – Mike doesn’t miss the commute and he enjoys more time with this family. He hates not being able to see people’s faces or give hugs. 

Maggie asks Mike, having lived in several countries in Africa (Uganda, Botswana and South Africa), how has he seen race engaged differently or the same as in the States?

Mike recalls the renaming of streets in South Africa from Afrikaner names to Zulu names. He named this as showing progress and change in the atmosphere, and it was done so much faster than in America.

He noticed that when people found that he was from America, he was treated with more respect and honor. Mike saw that even missionaries there held bias and it made him realize that some Christ-followers also walk in bias and bigotry like anyone else, and it invited him to turn inward and ask what biases he is holding?

Regarding his experiences here in America he says, “You really don’t understand what my life ha been about because you haven’t had to walk in my skin.”

Mike was 7 years old when he first experienced racism. Living in a neighborhood with mostly white families and only one other black family, he remembers them coming over and their families agreeing to “Watch each other’s backs” in the neighborhood after their little girl was beaten with a hose by a white-bodied neighbor. 

As an adult both he and his wife have faced racism together. Mike recalls driving in Virginia with his wife when another car started honking at him and telling him to pull over. When he did he was cussed out and called derogatory names just because he was married to a white-bodied woman. The man tried to run him off the road. 

Some of Heather’s family said they would disown her if she married Mike. So from the very beginning she has had to experience these things with him. And even though her skin is white she is treated as if it is black because she is married to a black man. 

Danielle named the continual collective trauma we are in and even bearing witness to Mike’s story now, it doesn’t feel like things have gotten better.

Mike recalls how back in 2016 he mentioned Colin Kapernick’s name in the church he was pasturing at the time, which was all white, and his congregation was enraged he even mentioned him from the pulpit. 

For him, George Floyd epitomized what has been going on in our country for years. People were literally crying out for the police to stop, pleading for mercy and asking for someone to step-in. This has been the experience of people with Black and Brown bodies in America. 

Mike believes we are seeing a new Civil War in America. He feels grief and anger. 

There is a sacrifice to be a polarizing figure.  But he knows he has to be a part of the solution. When he tries to make people aware, the color of his skin effects their ability to accept what he says. He wants to help people see what is still plaguing our country, if he says certain words or phrases he immediately gets shut down. We [as a country] are still in a raw place of denial of racism. 

As a church, Mike believes, we need to not be afraid to be involved in becoming a part of the solution. He knows that there is a personal cost to this work.

He describes the parable of the Good Story of Good Samaritan in Luke 12 [It’s actually Luke 10:25-37]:

The priest was unwilling to engage because it would make him “unclean” and therefore unable to participate in worship at the temple. To help the man he would have also put his own life in jeopardy to help this man because it was a dangerous part of the road. It was going to cost him also time, money and energy to get involved. When the two religious men “counted the cost” to help the man and decided to keep walking by.... 

It was the Samaritan to was willing– he saw the man, cared for him right where he was at, then traveled with him the man, providing for him for the long haul. 

Mike said these are the kind of people we need to be; people who are willing to see the hurt and the harm that is happening and even though it will cost us we need to be willing to share in the hurt and walk with them on this journey. 

When the Samaritan got to the Inn he provided for the hurt man for a long time. The goal is full restoration. We must be willing to provide time, money and energy to walk the road WITH people to see them to a place of restoration.

Jesus’ point was to “love neighbor” and he challenged the religious leaders with this parable by saying your neighbor is one you see being marginalized, oppressed, victimized, the hurting, wounded, weary and cast off. 

Mike says as Christians we have to get back to this: caring for those on the margins.

How can we make a difference? Start by asking questions because you care. Become aware. 

Once you’re aware, "walk with your eyes open." SEE what’s happening, even though it’s not happening to us. Get involved when you see injustice happening. Talk about it. Become aware. And then offer care, even if there is a cost to you. 

When you see injustice, you need to want more than just “Social Justice, ”we want reconciliation and restoration.

The Pledge of Allegiance; When it was first written this did not include black Americans. We say this pledge but “God doesn’t want you make this pledge.”

Mike retells the parable about the two sons- both were asked to go work in the field, one say he would but didn’t. The other said he wouldn’t do it, but then he did go and do it. The one who was considered “righteous” is the one who actually did the work. The message here, Mike believes, is that we are all going to be held accountable for every word we say. So if we say the pledge, then we need to walk it out. 

We need to be doers of the words we speak.

Danielle went back on the Luke parable: The confrontation of white evangelicals with it’s own image and their ability to engage racism and privilege because of access to power money and politics. Church leaders are still walking by, like the two religious leaders in the Good Samaritan parable. Churches aren’t engaging in the community around racism or diversifying their leadership. The church needs to lead the way and provide a safe space and leadership for the community. The church is taking care of dominant culture and asking POC to do the work for them. It’s not a place of healing and care. We are calling for real time assistance not just prayers.

Maggie adds, “We’re called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. It’s actually physical doing. Hope with legs.”

“God Bless America” – This is asking God to bless a country as a people group. 

But when it comes to racist acts they say, “I didn’t do that,” keeping the focus on individualism.

But it’s a double standard because some will call and say “my forefather fought for a free country.” Claiming the positive and not the negative. Mike says we have to claim it all.

Mike mentions a story that he feels epitomizes us as a country--the story of the Levite and the concubine in Judges 19 – People did what they thought was right in their own eyes (individualism). 

He says it's like "we're not learning from [injustice[."

People weren't call out injustice and it lead to a civil war. 

Sin of omission led to destruction.

Prophet word – See the injustice, feel the outrage. We’re seeing division in our country 

We have to hold that God is loving and just. 

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