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KEEPING THE FAITH | Receiving a lesson in compassion

We should approach God in a childlike posture that is always willing and ready to learn something new.
The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin

Compassion not only refers to kindness and sympathy, but also something deeper, something even more profoundly powerful in its meaning. 

Compassion means someone else’s heartbreak becomes your heartbreak. Someone else's suffering becomes your suffering. True compassion changes the way you live and act. 

My cousin Curtis Woods shared a poignant and life-changing memory that continues to influence his outlook and perspective of others.

When I was in the first grade, me and another classmate had the same coat. They appeared to be the same exact coat with one exception. His coat was ripped and had holes in it, and the zipper didn’t operate. One day, the teacher decided to dismiss us by rows to get our coats. He took my coat, and I had to wear his home. I was irritated because we both knew he took my coat. I considered him my friend. 

The next day we get dismissed by rows again, and I got my coat back. Now he displayed the attitude I had the day prior.

The following day I am approached by another classmate asking why I took the other kid’s coat. I told him it was mine, which my mom had just purchased. I shared with the concerned student my plan of how to bring an end to this confusion. I slipped a piece of paper with my name on it in a pocket, so when we get dismissed after school, I can show the teacher the paper and that it is my coat. 

We get dismissed by rows again, and he gets to my coat first and declares it is his. I respond: “Check the inside pocket. There’s a piece of paper in it that I put in there before I came to school. How is it his coat when I did that this morning?” The “concerned student” had shared my plan with the other kid. They then switched the paper to the tattered coat. Frustrated by the constant exchange of crying and arguing, the teacher decides to call my mother.

My mother arrives at the school and immediately recognizes and greets the other kid. I am hyped because my mom had a strong reputation as an advocate, so I know I’m leaving with my coat. Smiling, she says, “Let him have it.” Expecting justice and vindication, you can only imagine the confused look on my face! I could not believe what I heard. Now I am once again crying because my mom just gave my stuff away. While there was little consoling at the moment, this was my first lesson in helping others and extending grace.

The teacher and my mother were aware of the other student’s situation and family’s limited resources. My mother essentially gave him a brand new coat, because she did not want him going through the winter with a tattered coat. Even though we did not have wealth either, she was able to purchase me another coat the next day.

My cousin continued to share that this single “ah-ha” experience allowed him to witness the power of grace, mercy and peace in operation. Within sacred text, children are often used as a symbolism for our relationship with God. We should approach God in a childlike posture that is always willing and ready to learn something new. Just as my cousin discovered through his eyes as a child, God sees the bigger picture. He might not have appreciated the lesson initially, but he gained a better understanding of life and living. Far too many are not willing to learn. When we are unteachable, we become unusable.

If you are earnest about drawing nearer to God, then you must adopt the position of a child. With childlike faith, may you grow in the awareness that God is more than enough. I pray for a reliance upon God that grows deeper today with an assurance that expands wider. May your faith in God increase daily and no longer lean on your own understanding. I invite you to reflect upon the message conveyed by The Mississippi Mass Choir’s Your Grace And Mercy.

Mahoning Valley African American Male Wellness

As expressed in III John 1:2: “Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” Attention to our health and wellness — mind, body and soul — is imperative. We understand the negative impact of an unhealthy community. I am extending an invitation for you to participate in the Mahoning Valley’s annual African American Male Wellness 5K Walk/Run/Cycle. The event will be held Aug. 14 at the Covelli Centre. After shelving the local event last year due to the pandemic, we are returning in full force.

For our neighbors, the walk provides unparalleled access to health screenings, wellness information and access to community resources in a festive environment. They also provide dental services and referrals for other health screenings. There will also be COVID testing and a vaccination clinic on-site.

We have created a 5-kilometer course within our neighborhood to promote healthy family engagement. Do not let the adjectives distract you! While the targeted need remains African American men, it is our practice to offer tests and screenings to ALL persons, regardless of gender, race/ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and faith expression.

Worthy of honor

This year’s honorary event chairman is Youngstown native Bradley Smith. Brad received a business degree and was working on his master’s degree in economics when he was drafted into the NFL by the New York Jets. Aside from Brad’s many football accomplishments, he excelled academically and demonstrated integrity and leadership abilities. 

He has established the Brad Smith True Foundation, which has allowed him to give back to Youngstown and other communities. Brad continues to host football clinics for boys and girls age 7 to 18 at Youngstown State University through his foundation.

Stop the Violence

Dear Lord, the New King James Version of Ezekiel 7:23 declares: “Make a chain, for the land is filled with crimes of blood, and the city is full of violence.” We pray that You would break every chain of violence and murder that has bound our country. We come against this murderous and bloodthirsty spirit in our country. We plead for Your peace and that every assignment of the enemy is canceled! By faith we speak righteousness, reconciliation, peace upon our cities. We pray that You would raise up godly men and women to watch as well as pray on every street within every community.

Yard signs with the message “Stop the Violence, Pursue Peace” are available for pickup. While the signs are free, donations are appreciated to help purchase additional products. T-shirts are also available for $10. You may contact New Bethel Baptist Church at 330-747-2125 to obtain signs or order shirts.

In pursuit of peace

The 2 p.m. community prayer walks, guided by the vision given to Pastor Kenneth Simon, will be held each Sunday in August. Persons with mobility challenges are welcome to participate in a prayer gathering at the following locations:

  • Today: Wilson Middle School, 2725 Gibson Ave. In the event of inclement weather, the gathering will be held in Martin Luther Lutheran Church, located at Clearmount and Hudson Avenues;
  • Aug. 8: The area of Boston and Glenwood, with parking available at Bethel Church of God in Christ. In the event of inclement weather, the gathering will be held in Christ Center Church, located at Parkcliffe and Hudson Avenues.

I often cite I Corinthians 3:6, when Paul notes that while one may plant, another offers water. It is ultimately God who yields the increase. That said, the recent prayer walks and marches are not new to our community. I was pleasantly reminded by a colleague that my late mother-in-law, Pastor Eleanor Felder, would take a band of her members every Friday night and prayer walk among the streets. Her prayer efforts were once acknowledged in The Vindicator as she touched many lives with a message and presence of love and hope.

We have also been blessed by the prayer ministries of Rev. Monica Beasley Martin, who advocates for the stewardship of our environment, and Pastor Monica Philips, who has reinstituted her Drive Thru Prayer experience at locations throughout the city. Their presence and commitment offered much needed hope. Most recently, Pastors Rusty Wills and Raphael Cruz have regularly prayer walked with teams in our neighborhoods with a prayer focus on the needs of the area.

All of these efforts are part of the rich land God is cultivating. Keep planting, watering and sowing. As Galatians 6:9 affirms: “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Let’s keep the faith!

— The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II serves as the lead pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, chaplain for the Youngstown Police Department, president of the Baptist Pastors Council and the local coordinator for the African American Male Wellness Walk of the Mahoning Valley. He resides in Youngstown with Dorothy, his partner in marriage and ministry. They share the love and joy of six children and seven grandchildren and their mischievous canine, Sir Winston.

— All biblical citations are New Living Translation unless noted otherwise.

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