Note: As we work to build out our Peace and Justice Center, we are sharing voices from our community and letting them tell you why they need a Peace and Justice Center. Today’s post is from Rhoda Yoder, an Open Door Elder. – Pastor Hugh
Living in Jackson, Mississippi, we learn to navigate potholes. If you drive anywhere, you go slow, and stay watchful to avoid bone jarring, tire popping, suspension breaking potholes. Why can’t we consistently keep the streets repaired? Yazoo clay. Decades of neglected maintenance. Decades of people and businesses moving out of Jackson into the newer suburbs. Plus, under the pothole-riddled streets are crumbling water and sewer pipes. They fail routinely, creating water outages, and further damaging the streets. The potholes are just the most visible signs of a huge, complex, expensive issue.
The potholes of injustice that riddle our social infrastructure are even harder to navigate. Hunger, inadequate schools, mental health needs, racial inequities, the lingering effects of our cruel history. I am deeply hopeful for what Open Door’s Peace and Justice Center of the Deep South will become. I want to establish the Center to connect our neighbors with the resources to steer around those treacherous potholes. To invite them into a community that follows the way of Jesus. That welcomes the marginalized. That gathers around God’s table and forges bonds that create a better future. That helps us all build stronger lives together.
In addition to our local work, we will open our doors to welcome service learning groups from around the country. Over the past few years, we have hosted six groups from across the U.S. who came to learn more about peace and justice work in the context of the Deep South. Our state-built Mississippi Civil Rights Museum anchors the experience, along with tours, speakers, and hands-on service.
We are a small group at Open Door but have built strong partnerships over years of working on these issues in Jackson and across the South. We know many other visionary people with established resources. The PJ Center will be a place for us to help our neighbors find resources and create a vibrant community that “does not accept the world as it is, but works for the world as it should be.” (from Open Door’s Affirmation of Community)
I was a founding member of Open Door way back in the 70s. I have seen it go through many shapes and stages. Through them all, what Open Door has consistently done best is live out the radical hospitality of Jesus, a Christian community fellowshipping around food, caring deeply about each other’s daily lives, calling on God’s power to change us, and working to help us each realize our best potential. When my parents planted this church, it was as much the hundreds of meals my mother served around their formica-topped dining room table as much as anything my father preached across the pulpit that crossed the barriers and brought people together.
Open Door is still that kind of church. And with your help, we can build that sort of place.
To make a donation to help us build the Peace and Justice Center, please go here.