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The events in our country and our community make the timing of this DVD and the screenings that have been held in Nashville, Fort Worth, Louisville, Atlanta and now Little Rock perfect for creating a new day in race relations.

Timing

The events in our country and our community make the timing of this DVD and the screenings that have been held in Nashville, Fort Worth, Louisville, Atlanta and now Little Rock perfect for creating a new day in race relations.

The Greeks have two words for this kind of timing: one is kronos, calendar time; the other is kairos, pregnant time. The Apostle Paul uses the word kairos to encourage us in Colossians 4:5 “to redeem the time/make the most of every opportunity.”

From Conversation to Action

That’s our goal for tonight. To have a conversation that leads to action. Mutual relationships and ministry partnerships.

I have asked Bishop Arnold to share his story about what St. Mark Baptist Church is doing.

And before he comes, I’d like to quickly tell you what we are doing.

CBFAR Story

Just over a year ago, I presented our coordinating council with an opportunity to move our office from a non-descript office building in west Little Rock into a condemned house at 1504 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

The plan was for Arkansas Baptist College to purchase the house and finance the renovation, for Charles Ray to plan and supervise the renovation, and for CBFAR to lease the house from ABC.

I told our leaders that we believed God was giving us an opportunity to walk the talk. Our coordinating council voted 20-to-1 in favor of moving.

We moved into our new office in February. Fitz Hill, president of ABC, calls our move “in flight,” as opposed to “white flight.” And he refers to the house as “the house of Lazarus,” because it was dead and now it’s alive.

Personal histories

Our story shows how God prepares people years in advance for the work he calls us to do.

Charles Ray

My colleague at CBF, Charles Ray, grew up in the 1940s in an apartment house three blocks from the ABC campus. In addition to 50 years as a business entrepreneur here in Little Rock, he has invested 40 years in renovating 13 historic homes in downtown and the Governor’s Mansion district. And, he served as chairman of the Capitol Zoning Commission.

Ray Higgins

Fourteen years ago, I came to Little Rock to serve as pastor of Second Baptist Church, which has been a strong and courageous leader among white churches on race relations. And since 1971, it has met annually to worship on Race Relations Sunday, with Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church, Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Lakeshore Drive Baptist Church.

In addition, Judy and I brought our two sons to this neighborhood for their education at Martin Luther King Elementary School, Dunbar Middle School and Central High School.

Invitation

So when my friend and colleague, Pastor Geroy Osborn of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, invited me to a lunch with the new president of ABC a year and a half ago, I quickly accepted the invitation.

While listening to President Hill’s vision for the college and the community, it became clear that we could form a partnership.
And that partnership began to take shape when Dr. Hill showed us the neighborhood and Charles spotted the 1504 house.

Actions—Our office

Since February, our office has become the showcase for Dr. Hill to present his vision to business, community and faith-based leaders. About lunch time, he brings a group through the back door, into the hallway, we talk about the five different ornate metal ceilings that are in mint condition, and he takes them onto the front porch where he talks vision again, and from there I think they go back to his office where they write ABC a check.

Actions—Other renovations

The renovations continue. Three weeks ago, Charles and his crew completed the second house renovation at 1616 W. 18th Street, where the college will put its national mentoring program. The renovation crew is already working on houses No. 3 and 4. The fourth house is on MLK Drive next to Yancey’s Restaurant.

House No. 5 (one block from the college on Bishop Street) is in the process of being purchased. And Pulaski Heights Baptist Church here in Little Rock, pastored by Randy Hyde, is just a congregational vote away from giving ABC $11,000 to purchase the house to be used as a men’s dorm. Other churches can join the parade, can’t they Dr. Hill?

So in one year, our ABC-CBFAR partnership will have produced five renovated houses for the college to own and use.

Actions—ShareFest

In October we were asked to arrange for ShareFest to make ABC one of its 10 sites. Over 300 volunteers from at least 10 different churches invested their Saturday on the ABC campus doing vacant lot clean up, campus landscaping, office and classroom painting and small construction projects.

Actions—Millard Fuller

In the past year and a half we have also brought Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity and now founder of the Fuller Center for Housing, to Little Rock twice. He and Dr. Hill have met and driven the ABC neighborhood. We believe that within a year, we will be bringing hundreds of volunteers from around the country to build affordable housing in the ABC neighborhood.

Actions—The New Baptist Covenant

Last January in Atlanta, former President Jimmy Carter brought 10,000 Baptists of all colors together to form a New Baptist Covenant. Through our Baptist relationships and ABC’s Baptist relationships, we are working together with Wendell Griffen (who was a program presenter at the NBC) to bring the spirit of the New Baptist Covenant to Arkansas.

Actions—Other

Our partnership also includes working together in areas of literacy, poverty, sports, prison ministry, and educating pastors, ministers and Christian leaders.

Closing

CBFAR could not be doing what we’re doing without a kairos spirit that God is creating in our community and in our country.

Or without the people, organizations, congregations and institutions (including Dr. Joel Anderson and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock) throughout our community who are working together to create better people relations and a more just society.

Or without Dr. Hill’s invitation to form a friendship and partnership that glorifies God.

It’s all about each of us loving our neighbors and working together in the spirit of Christ for the common good.

Ray Higgins is coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Arkansas.

Also read:

Little Rock Screening of Racism DVD Prompts Substantive Dialogue

Resource link:

“Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism”

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