MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION
It was a historic moment. Over 200 local leaders, two-thirds clergy, one-third business leaders, had gathered at Primos Northgate, Jackson. They were there because they had accepted an invitation by two local businessmen. Lee Paris and Victor Smith had a vision for a city-wide crusade involving national evangelist Tom Skinner and author Pat Morley. But God had even greater plans for this gathering on this November day in 1992. A few months earlier Pat had communicated with the Christian Businessmen’s Committee (CMBC) a burden he had for Jackson, Mississippi. There was a discussion concerning the possibility of bringing Pat and Tom into Jackson through CMBC for the crusade. The CMBC felt it was outside their mission statement to sponsor such an event. However, the vision had already been irrevocably birthed in these four men. The luncheon hosted by Lee and Victor provided the best opportunity to share this burgeoning vision for the city with influencers who had also shown a similar vision.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN…
As Pat and Tom shared their hearts with this racially diverse crowd, something else began to occur, like a Divine stirring. When the floor was opened for response, there seemed to be a growing sense of excitement that Pat, a White American, and Tom, an African American, were demonstrating in their friendship one of the great social needs in Jackson: racial reconciliation. In fact, one leader noted that if John 17:23 (“May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved me.”) was true, then there would be no effective evangelistic outreach if the church was not in unity, even racially reconciled. As Tom and Pat stood before these spiritual leaders, their love, friendship and camaraderie proved to be a prophetic picture in exposing the racial division in the city. The local leaders present that day saw both the possibility of and responsibility for tangible racial healing. So the decision was made that an evangelistic crusade should be organized, but with an overt commitment to broach the social and ecclesiastical segregation that had kept the church so racially divided on Sunday mornings. The sponsoring ministry would be called Mission Mississippi. Over the next several months, this structure formed into a dynamic board, committees, subcommittees, sponsors and prayer teams. But then something else began to evolve. More and more leaders began pointing out that this commitment to reconciliation was going to demand more than an event and take longer than a few months.
“I remember Tom Skinner and Pat Morley talking about their relationship and friendship. Tom- a black man from Harlem, New York- and Pat -a white man from Orlando, Florida…completely different backgrounds! But both of them said that they would be willing to die for each other.
– Neddie Winters
This revelation, sometime between March 1993 and that summer, led that first leadership team to develop a 20-year vision for Mission Mississippi. It was in that context that the vision of Mission Mississippi found it’s genesis: to be the leading resource and catalyst for Christian reconciliation and racial healing for Mississippi and the world, and to encourage and demonstrate unity in the body of Christ across racial and denominational lines so that communities throughout Mississippi could better understand the message of Christ. Mission Mississippi took shape, individuals began emerging from their prayer closets, out of the shadows of inner-city ministry, from the confines of a few close relationships, and coagulated around the Mission Mississippi movement. It became obvious that Mission Mississippi was not only a God-ordained event for the moment, but was, in fact, the consummation of the prayer and labor of many intercessors over decades seeking to see the evil of segregation defeated, not just socially, but spiritually. Mission Mississippi became the gathering point of these believers. When the prayer teams began, they were easily staffed because so many had already been praying to this end and rejoiced in finding like-minded believers. Pastors found the joy of connecting with other pastors who carried this same burden. Business leaders discovered a place to share their insights and concerns. It was as if Mission Mississippi had become a clearinghouse for those who were committed to doing something, anything, to confront racism and segregation.
Celebrating 20 Years of Reconciliation