My twin brother and I were crammed in the far back a Peugot 505 taxi making our way back to ACS (the American high school in Monrovia, Liberia) from our home in Yekepa, when the taxi stopped at a check point. A soldier meandered up, looked inside, and his eyes stopped on us, “You white boys, get outside!”
“My man, I’m not getting out just because I’m white,” I retorted. Yes, I was a bit of a punk in high school.
“I say, get outside now!” He demanded. “You are an alien.”
Now things got really confusing, because I had never heard the term alien used as an immigration status, I only knew of aliens from movies like Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind. But he had a gun, so I capitulated and climbed out. All the while complaining and mumbling, “I’m not an alien, I’m not an alien.”
But I was.
I grew up in Africa as a minority. And so maybe I’ve felt, in just a small way, what it feels like to be biased against, singled out, treated differently. It never feels good. But it still happens now, in this country, in this city, and that’s not good.
So I say this, of all the places in the world where people gather, the church has to be the place were ethnic diversity is celebrated and promoted. The church is meant to be filled with people from every background. The church (Christians) reflects God best when we follow Him with people of other ethnicities, race, gender, nationality, and color. I fully believe the more ethnically diverse a church, the more it reflects God’s intention for his people.
Sometimes we give a lot of attention to getting doctrine right—when how we live every day is not right.
I think heaven is going to look a lot like Havana.
I say this because on my first visit to Havana, what struck me most was that people of all background mixed as though they saw no race or color. People of every ethnicity walked together, laughed together, sat in outdoor cafes together, and worshiped together.
On one trip to Cuba, I took a basketball team to play five games against the Cuban Olympic team. One of their players, over dinner, asked one of our players, “Why do you have so much racial tension in America?”
How do you answer that?
If I were to answer him today I might simply say, “It’s not supposed to be that way. But I will tell you this, Heaven is going to be a lot like Havana.”
One of the reasons I say Heaven will be a lot like Havana is because I read that in the New Testament. John writes, “They sang a new song with these words... ‘Your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.’”
And so I tell the people of The Grove, if heaven is going to be a lot like Havana then so must this church.