The founder of an organization whose vision is to empower people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds to experience healing, reconciliation and justice around the world was the keynote chapel speaker last week for Olivet Nazarene University.
Overflow Ministries Founder Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil came to the private, Christian, liberal arts university in Bourbonnais, Ill., to share the message that God has entrusted Christians with the ministry of reconciliation. While government and social programs will give it their best shot, ultimately its God who reconciles people together, and McNeil believes the church needs to lead the way.
Preaching from Romans 12:1-2, Salter McNeil spoke of transformation, pointing out reconciliation is not possible unless were transformed people.
How do we change so we can live for God 24/7? she asked, according to ONU. The first step to transformation is to show up, not worrying about being perfect. When you do, thats when God begins to do His work. The beginning of your change process is when you present yourself a living sacrifice.
Transformation is Jesus choosing to change our story, and link it with his, McNeil clarified. His story ends in heaven, with a great wedding feast. He wants to blend your story into his great story.
Thats why Im in chapel today, its why I show up at Olivet, because college is one of the places where we say to God change my story, McNeil continued. Its one of the places where we begin to see the big picture of who we are.
The speaker went on to explain how transformation and reconciliation are intertwined concepts.
We are transformed, not for ourselves, but so we can reconcile with others as a part of Gods story, she said.
The minister went on to lay out steps for reconciliation.
The first is realization, or the moment when we discover the world is bigger than the limits weve put on it. Its the time when we discover our own limited view.
The next step is identification. Its in this step we begin to see were more than a black person, white person, Asian person, Hispanic person, or international person. Were a person who God loves. Thats our new understanding of ourselves. At this point, she said, we enter the identification step, seeing others as people for whom Jesus died, even if you have nothing in common.
Next, she continued, we need to learn skills in order to communicate with and be a part of the whole family of God. Developing these ministry skill sets are what McNeil calls the preparation stage of reconciliation.
However, its not enough to simply attend a culturally diverse event, learn to clap differently, or enjoy different foods, she added. We have to learn to put those things into practice in the activation stage.
Often, the entire reconciliation process is brought on by what McNeil calls catalytic events, or divinely appointed moments that spark change. McNeils catalytic event came at the age of 16, when she signed on to serve as a summer camp counselor, part of a group of six African Americans and six whites. The group had to scale a steep rock face to reach the pick up point. Since she was not equipped with the proper tools, McNeil kept sliding back down the slope. Bleeding and crying, McNeil had been left behind by the other five African American students, and all the whites, save one. Her catalytic moment came when a white hand reached down over the rock, and pulled her up. Its an event McNeil credits as the spark of her journey to reconciliation, and a turning point for her whole life.
In closing, McNeil encouraged ONU students not to miss the opportunities for change right in front of them, knowing college experience can lead to spiritual and social metamorphosis.
As a result of the catalytic events you have at Olivet, you will be transformed, she said.