There is a song by Sam Cooke that says, “It’s been a long time comin’, but I know a change gonna come.” When I reflect on how God brought me into the Christian Reformed Church over fifty years ago, I think, “Who would have thought that God would use me to be part of promoting so many challenges and changes!” Nothing has been easy, whether the transformative work of the Holy Spirit within me or the external circumstances, opposition of fellow believers, and struggles, but God has always been faithful.
There have been times when I have wrestled with God, wondering why the world is nicer and kinder than the Christian family. The challenges have come from “you’re not wanted here”, not being good enough, to not being the right race, age, or gender, but through it all God had a plan. His plan allowed me to know and understand a culture not my own. Despite the circumstances and challenges that came my way, God pushed me to stand firm and trust in Him. The biggest challenge in leadership is dealing with people who hold tightly to controlling their ways or traditions for fear that empowering and trusting your ideas will not go their way. If only people would understand that God is in control—we all have to learn to daily submit everything we are to Him.
His plan allowed me to know and understand a culture not my own.
It has been the grace of God that brought me through the excruciating pain of recovering from how detrimental fearful people can be. He has placed many upstanding, loving, and encouraging leaders in my path that were there to keep me from falling and directing my path. I thank God for each one of them. A few who encouraged me to stay the course were Rev. Stanley Vander Klay, my pastor, confidant, and friend who was always willing to support and accept a challenge; Rev. Paul DeVries and Rev. Jochem Vugteveen, coaches who were determined to share their best for me to stay God’s course; and Rev. Reggie Smith, who was willing to pass on denominational opportunities for me to get involved. There are many others but God used these guys to encourage me not to give up even when going was hard. Sam Cooke’s song says, “There been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long, but now I think I’m able to carry on. It’s been a long time comin’ but I know a change gonna come.”
God has blessed me and used me as a blessing to not only be the first African American female Minister of the Word in the Christian Reformed Church but also to serve on the Home Missions Board, several Synodical study committees, and the Board of Trustees as an executive officer and President of the Board, as well as serving as executive officer of Synod. I haven’t participated in these things in order to gather a list of accomplishments but to be an ambassador of change within the CRC and, more importantly, so that those who have joined this denomination from all ethnicities may realize that God has a plan and he wants to use all of us as the body of Christ. We need each other to be challenged in seeking God’s desire for the Kingdom of God. We must be willing to step out in faith that change will come. It is not enough to have good feelings and emotions. We must be willing to struggle, suffer, confront, and comfort one another with love in the battle of God’s righteousness. The battle starts with the spiritual powers within ourselves and then reaches outward. My brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to be open and honest enough to wrestle together in faith that the Holy Spirit will transform and make us new creations in the body of Christ. It is not about what we want but what God desires. I’m not just another Black face but a warrior for the Kingdom of God.
We must be willing to struggle, suffer, confront, and comfort one another with love in the battle of God’s righteousness.
Being President of the Board of Trustees of the Christian Reformed Church of North America was not my “swan song” but an avenue to challenge many to come on board in building God’s diverse kingdom in this denomination. We must be willing to deal with challenges of walking together in love and unity, even when it is painful, because God has empowered us to be different in every sense of the word. I’m looking forward to the challenge because I believe, “It’s been a long, a long time comin’, but I know a change gonna come. Oh yes it will.”