My own journey to urban mission began in the racially divided city of Atlanta. The contrast between my own "bible believing" church and the obvious contradiction of justice and mercy were more than my theology could bear.
In time, through observation and critical events, God began to open me up to the lives of the poor and to the ministry of reconciliation. The shaping events were often jarring. One clear example was the shooting of black students at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi in 1970. The local pastor of the conservative church suggested that someone should have "lined those niggers up and shot them down." Within weeks of that event I was back in Atlanta in the missionary church that I had been a member of all my life. I stepped immediately into a church split precipitated by the efforts of an African American family to join. These events and the anger and disillusionment attendant to them could easily have forced me out of the church. Fortunately, through the grace of God, others demonstrated the power of reconciliation. Usually these role models were surprises...people who would not fit the radical or political molds of dissenters. Rather they were earnest, quiet Christians and non-Christians who lived out the power of Christ's reconciliation.