Growing up (from childhood until late teens), I was only in direct contact with a predominately African American context! All my schools, social outings, churches, sports, and any other activities were always around peers that looked like me… In fact, I wasn’t exposed to REAL diverse relationships until my mid twenties (sad to say).

Was anything wrong with the way I was reared? No. It was natural, and the area where my family lived reflected my race, culture, history, and background. However, I believe growing up without REAL diversity can impair you a little (no matter what race you are). A lack of diversity does two horrible things:

1) It creates stereotypes about other races – Stereotypes and negative imagery creates a negative lens through which people are seen. Of course, cultures are different (ALL SHOULD BE RESPECTED), but negative prejudices, stereotypes, and assumptions can cause people to not see the beauty in all cultures. The sad thing about stereotypes is that most of them could be totally FALSE (you have to get to know people for yourself).

2) It creates distance between cultures & races – When stereotypes are formed, it accompanies opinions, judgement, dehumanization, and ultimately distance. It saddens me that segregation still happens more than intergration on Sunday mornings in the South. In fact, the horrible thing about distance is that it causes coldness, numbness, and a lack of sympathy and respect for other cultures.

Why does this bother me? Because I love diversity and am an advocate for reconciliation. Of course, there is a negative history that haunts us all, but I believe love is greater and will be the only way to bridge the gap in the present. I didn’t grow up with much diversity, but have a heart to bridge the gap between races & cultures.

Will this be easy? NO! But, I can model and reflect it as much as I can in my own life (I’m learning too)…

That’s why “diversity” is a core value of #lovebeyondwalls. It is important for us to accept, embrace, and respect people from all walks of life. Everybody has a story!

I was recently asked, “Why did you choose the name #lovebeyondwalls?” And my response was simple,

“At any given point, political, race, class, religious, and cultural walls can separate us all… Keeping us from solutions to problems, togetherness, and the main focus, LOVE! In fact, I believe God’s love is the only thing that can roam pass those walls and reach people where they are with the good news.”

This morning, I am joining my brother Carl Nichols (pastor of Relevant Church), to discuss my homeless journey, but more importantly to reflect a diverse picture of God’s larger family. As we interview to talk about God’s mission, we are indirectly destroying walls that exists between cultures & races (especially as it pertains to the church world).

Our coming together shows two ways to close the gap on the distance,

1) Come together. The first way to destroy walls is to take a step toward reconciliation and toward a conversation.

2) Partnering. By partnering you get a chance to work along side each other and understand each other’s background, story, history, and how each person sees the world.

I am excited because the earth is a Mosaic full of cultures, and so is the God we serve! I am grateful for the diverse relationships God has given me in my life. Here’s a thought, “Destroy Walls, Embrace Diversity…”

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Terence Lester

Author Terence Lester

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