For three intense, and at times, emotional days, twenty-five leaders from across the USA recently met at the Iglesia Comunal Cristiana (GBC in Tampa, Florida). This first-ever Ethnic Leaders’ Roundtable created a safe space where they could pray, laugh, fellowship and dream together. As one participant observed, “I have never seen so many brown-skinned faces at a gathering of the Grace Brethren Church (USA).”
For many, it was their first opportunity to seriously address the need to cooperate in reaching the growing ethnic population of North America. Co-sponsored by GBIM and the Grace Brethren Investment Foundation (GBIF), the goal of the Roundtable was to encourage key ethnic leaders to create fraternal networks and to begin dreaming together about ways to make more disciples among the 120 million non-Anglos living among us.
In the end, something much deeper occurred. Many of those present experienced a kind of inner healing. As a American Indian leader commented, “I am tired of broken promises and shattered dreams. If this works I have a core group of supporters. My dreams become our dreams.” And as another leader observed, “This is a first step. This was the most memorable week of my life. I am 36 years old and this is the first time in my life I slept in a house that wasn’t Haitian.”
But like all special gatherings, the hard work begins as the participants return home. “I’ve been to too many conferences,” a Latin American participant observed. “History is not made by intentions, but by facts.”
So where do we go from here? At the encouragement of the organizers, the group decided to take the important first step of organizing into ethnic coalitions (African American, American Indian, Haitian, Hispanic, and other). Each coalition will work to promote unity and teamwork among its members. Representatives from the coalitions will meet to plan future nation-wide gatherings.
“GBIM is committed to reaching the nations, and that includes the nations among us,” comments GBIM Director Dave Guiles. “We plan to offer our expertise and resources to help our ethnic brothers and sisters reach their goals of making disciples among the people groups of the USA.”
As an African American leader observed, “I came to broaden my scope and shake me up. Mission accomplished!”