Friday, March 9, 2012
FBC and the BBC
It’s been an interesting week here in Mount Olive. The BBC (as in British Broadcasting Corporation) was in town—and in our church—last Sunday to do a story on the Haitian immigration to Mount Olive. The BBC broadcasts its news stories to over 100 countries throughout the world. The link to our story is: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-17039167.
Here's how it started. On January 22, 2012, the Raleigh News & Observer published a front page feature on Haitian immigrants settling in Mount Olive. Last Thursday afternoon I received a call from a reporter with the BBC. At first I thought it was a marketing salesman trying to sign me up for a subscription to the BBC! As an outside observer, the British reporter thought our community was a fascinating story of four cultures (Anglo, African-American, Hispanic, and Haitian) converging in a small southern town. Obviously this happens frequently in large cities and urban settings, but when it happens in a small southern town—given the south’s history of segregation and racism as its backdrop—then it becomes much more pronounced. It becomes a “story.”
It has been a year and a half since the first Haitians stepped through the doors of our sanctuary on a September Sunday morning. Many things have happened over these 18 months. Relationships have been established; needs have been met; many worship services and prayers have been shared. I’m proud of the fact that our church has been willing to open our doors and our hearts to these people of vibrant faith. They are brothers and sisters in Christ. They do have great needs, but they also have great hopes and dreams for a better life.
In Mount Olive we are learning to live, worship, and work together and we do have a long way to go. But it is my hope, and the hope of the gospel, that with God’s help we might become a tiny model of how to live as a community of one. In fact, we also provide worship space for a Hispanic congregation which meets between the Haitian’s two worship services each Sunday. So on any given Sunday you will find two English worship services, one Spanish worship service, and two Creole worship services in our First Baptist facilities. That’s a small town Pentecost!
Of course, there are those in the community who say they would prefer the Haitians “go back home.” They don’t like the new people. If a Haitian is rude or commits a crime then suddenly all Haitians are portrayed as rude criminals. Immigration is clearly an emotional and divisive issue for many people in our society. But the way I see it, in America, we are all sons and daughters of immigrants. Hopefully those who are not so optimistic about the new immigrants in Mount Olive will be won over in time with love and kindness. But even if they are not, the call of Christ compels those of us who are listening to embrace the outcast and the immigrant. This is a vital part of the fabric of the gospel that cannot be torn away or altered by human hands.
Our story in Mount Olive is really one about paying attention to God and what God is doing around us—and sometimes right in front of us! Then it simply becomes a matter of being courageous enough to do something nobody else may be doing… because it’s the right thing to do.
Dennis Atwood is the pastor of FBC Mount Olive. This article originally appeared on his blog.