Let Justice Flow

Summer Leadership Training small group!

Earlier this month we had Summer Leadership Training (SLT). It was a three day training for all the potential and past student leaders in our ministry. (Most of it was held online with the option of some social distancing in person.) Since we couldn't take our students to SICM (Student Institute of Campus Ministry) up in Seattle, Washington like we normally do we developed this three day training as a replacement! Students learned new ways of walking with God, what servant leadership and discipleship is, why we do core, how to ask good questions and more! Each day we got to discuss with our small group what we had learned that day. Over 100 college students dedicated three whole days investing in their growth as leaders and disciples. This is not normal. I often forget how countercultural it is to value something like SLT. Yet these students have caught the vision. They are fired up and excited to spread the good new on their campuses.  

My fundraising team (featuring two Sandras!)

Every year we fundraise our salaries. And each year we get a fundraising coach and team. God has been so gracious to provide to each one of us on my team this year. We are all on track with goals and people have been so generous despite COVID-19. I am so blessed to get to work on a team that loves me and fights for me.

Summer Focus streamed on twitch! Come check it out: twitch.tv/utdfocus (7:30 on Thursdays)

Summer FOCUS has been in full swing. We have been streaming the service on twitch while simultaneously running zoom meetings for each campus. The zoom meetings allow for interaction and discussion at points throughout the service. I am so thankful for the ways God has used technology to keep us connected to Him and His people.

On a separate note, FOCUS came out with an official statement on the current state of racial injustice in our country. I wanted to share the statement with you here. 

But let justice roll on like a river,  righteousness like a never-failing stream!
Amos 5:24

I have been mourning the state of our country and racial injustice we have been witnessing the past few weeks. I have also deeply struggled with what to say about it.  I knew I wanted to say something about what has been taking place but I didn't want to be divisive. My prayer is that you would give me grace as I attempt to humbly share some the things I have been wrestling with. I am aware that this may cause tension. However, the following Martin Luther King Jr. quote has made me realize that true peacemaking involves pushing for justice and restoration not an avoidance of uncomfortable conversations for a false sense of "peace": 

"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season." (Letter from a Birmingham Jail)

I believe we follow a God who is heartbroken over injustice and oppression. Throughout scripture we see him responding to such things while holding his people to a high standard of how they must treat the widow, poor, and oppressed (Exodus 22:21-27, 23:6-9; Leviticus 23:22; Deuteronomy 15:11, 24:17; Amos 2:6-7, 5:1-27; Matthew 25:31-46; James 1:27). What happened to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery was inexcusable. These were not isolated racist acts, they are a part of a system of injustice that devalues black bodies and has devalued them for hundreds of years. 

There is a lot of emotion and defensiveness wrapped up in all of this. It hurts to confront the sins that have been lying under the surface that we were unaware of. We become defensive because we didn't own slaves, we didn't create segregation laws, we didn't create the system that disadvantages Black people. Peter Ueng who is on FOCUS staff at UTD puts its well in a sermon he did on racial reconciliation: When Jesus came and died for our sins on the cross he was taking responsibility for sins he didn't commit. If we are to follow Jesus we must do the same and this applies to systemic racism. My prayer is that God's people would be able to humbly look at the current situation and look for ways to bring God's kingdom here on earth now. In Revelation 7:9-10 John sees people from every tribe, tongue, and nation worshipping God together. There is unity and equality. God's love and gospel is for everyone and we get to be the hands and feet that step out to bring that to those around us. Racial reconciliation is part of the good news and a part of God's kingdom vision. 

This is the start of a hard conversation around the sin that is racism and it is going to be painful to work through but so worth it. And I am still figuring out what it means to be disciple in this context! My prayer is that God would give us the eyes to see this injustice the way he does and hearts to feel about it the way he does and feet to go out and serve as he did. May we be sheep who feed, and clothe, and invite, and visit, and look after rather than goats who do not. May we be willing to suffer for others as Jesus suffered for us. May we seek justice and righteousness where there is none. May God use this to shape us to make us more like him. May his spirit guide us and heal us.

As always, check out the student testimony below!

Many Blessings,
Emily Umstead


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