Jackie Robinson – a name that we instantly recognize as a national icon, symbolizing the beginning of an end to racial discrimination in professional baseball.
But he didn’t make it to the major league because of his athletic ability, or his character and determination to make a difference alone.
Jackie Robinson became a Brooklyn Dodger because an old white guy had the courage to stand up and say ‘we’re not gonna do this anymore.’
Branch Rickey is a name we’ve been less familiar with, until Harrison Ford portrayed him in the movie 42, an inspirational film about Robinson’s introduction to major league baseball. But it was Branch Rickey who made history by breaking the code. The code that refused to allow African-Americans to play major league baseball.
Rickey’s decision to partner with Jackie Robinson in 1945 wasn’t without risk. He put his own name and reputation on the line when he made that decision. And the risk, the conflict, the turmoil that ensued wasn’t resolved in the course of an hour and a half, as the movie would have us believe. Rickey and his family lived with that conflict every day, for a long time after.
But aren’t we thankful for the courage of one old white guy who was willing to take a risk because he believed it was the right thing to do?
About a year and a half ago I got an email from a preacher at a church in Dallas that said,
“I can’t get you or [CenterPeace] off my mind. Call me.”
So I did.
After we talked on the phone, the preacher and the executive minister of this church drove over to Abilene, where I was living at the time, to talk to me about moving CenterPeace to Dallas.
“We believe in what this ministry is doing and we want to support you in that. We’ve got an empty office space in our building – it’s not very big, but we’d like you to be in it. We can’t put you on staff and pay you, but we can be supportive by letting you use our office equipment to make copies, whatever you need, and use our building for events.”
I had no desire whatsoever to move anywhere. Abilene was my home. I loved living there.
So I asked them every hard question I could think of to make them back down.
But these guys didn’t bat an eye when I told them my heart’s desire to help churches and families become safe places for conversations about faith and sexuality. To create a spiritual environment in which men and women who have felt abandoned by family, ostracized from church, and cut off from God, could come home. To be a place where people seeking to reconnect with God could do so, wherever we are in our journey.
Where people still steeped in shame could lay that down and know we are welcome and loved.
In a church.
When I said, “you realize what everyone else will say about you, don’t you?” neither one of them flinched.
Leaders from my home church in Abilene came and talked with these guys, too. And my home church committed to continue their financial support if CenterPeace moved to Dallas.
When they left that day, I knew I was supposed to go to Dallas and office out of the Highland Oaks Church of Christ. I knew I was supposed to move to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and watch the Lord open doors out of this community and beyond. The last eight months have been a whirlwind of transition, getting settled, learning my way around, but I couldn’t feel more energized about this work.
I didn’t want to go, but I’m oh, so glad that I did.
Aren’t we thankful for the courage of one old white guy who was willing to take a risk because he believed it was the right thing to do?
Or in this case, a fairly young one?
For more information about the Highland Oaks Church of Christ in Dallas, TX, visit our website by clicking here.