On my recent trip to Atlanta, Georgia, a friend and I were walking around exploring the city. Our walk took an unexpected turn when a Good Samaritan requesting spare change asked us if we were going to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. We had not planned to because, for some reason, I thought the memorial was in Alabama. I am not really even sure why I thought it was in Alabama. At any rate, we found out it was there and we decided it was a must-see. It seems that divine providence guided our path.
As I passed through what appeared to be a rundown part of town, we happened upon a pan handler whose only request was food. I always feel hesitant to help out aggressive pan handlers, especially when they open with the line, “Don’t worry, I ain’t going to mug you.” We know he would not be buying booze if we bought him the food rather than give him cash. We obliged his request and went to a little chicken restaurant and bought him food. He led us to the restaurant and, for that reason I did sense danger and was wary. I am in security and I was calculating my risk, continuously. However, with a little prayer and thinking thoughts like Matthew West's song "The Motions" or Josh Wilson's song "I Refuse," we proceeded to serve our fellow man, my neighbor.
After we completed the purchase, we left the restaurant and reentered the rundown neighborhood. In less than a block, the neighborhood changed dramatically. As I entered into the National Park and Preservation area I felt as if I was moving from hostility to a place of peace. The pot-holed, dirty streets and rundown buildings were replaced with well-trimmed lawns, maintained buildings and clean streets. The symbolism of that place and my soul were in sync.
We were exploring the grounds when I saw a very recognizable blue and white sign with the words Ebenezer Baptist Church. I couldn’t wait any longer; I eagerly made my way to the church. I was taken aback when I entered the church. It was such a humble place, simple and small. It had decorations such as stained glass however, the overriding aspect was functionality. It was a humble building that you might otherwise take as run-of-the-mill, yet this church was the epicenter for the civil-rights movement.
I walked into the church and took a seat on one of the pews. I sat there in quiet reflection. Yes, it is a simple building. Then, I realized it is not the building that made a difference, it was a man with a dream that made all the difference in the world. I sat that and wondered what it would have been like one Sunday morning listening to a man with a dream some said was too big.
“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve… You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve… You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I realized this place and, more importantly, a poor preacher from Atlanta are significant to African American history, United States history and Church history. How many people can you say that about? I know Protestants don't have saints, but if they ever do, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. needs to be on the top of the list. I have to admit that I am happy to see that our government recognizes the significance of Martin Luther King Jr.
For me, I won’t forget the day I sat where he once preached the true Christian principles of love and peace instead of hate and revenge. When I see him in heaven someday, I will thank him for his service. He has inspired me, I hope he inspires you.