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The Faith of Charleston African-Americans

Charleston is a city of grace and giving.  I know this from being reared on a Johns Island vegetable farm  only minutes from the city of Charleston. I watched my hard-working, generous father interact with many local African-Americans who worked on our family farm. My eyes filled with tears when listening to the family members of the Charleston shooting victims talk to Dylann Roof at his bond hearing. The only way these African-American families and the rest of us can possibly forgive this young man is through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the way of forgiveness; it is not of our flesh.
There are so many tragedies to mourn: the senseless loss of lives, the horrific behavior of Dylann Roof and wondering if this is the killer’s first experience with being shown the unconditional love of Christ.
Charleston is a city of grace and giving.  I know this from being reared on a Johns Island vegetable farm only minutes from the city of Charleston. I watched my hard-working father interact with many local African-Americans who worked on our family farm. As I watch and listen to the news, I realized that our world in Charleston is reflected in the values we are seeing in the lives of many hurting individuals.
I have many memories of my father’s giving spirit and love for so many who worked on the farm. I remember the day when Daddy came into the house for his middle of the day meal.  He put head down on our kitchen table and wept. “Alonzo has diabetes,” said Daddy referring to one of his tractor drivers. Daddy loved Alonzo Pinckney and he was heart-broken. I remember another time when Daddy asked my mother to take James, another farm worker, to the doctor to help him with his hearing loss.  There are so many occasions when my parents spent time and money trying to help. What a blessing to be taught lessons of love, giving and respect.
Another instance was when a woman we all loved, Wilhelmina Simmons, lost her home to a terrible fire.  Daddy actually built ”Menia”  a new home on our property at the head the dirt road. I would ride my bicycle to her house on Saturday mornings and listen to gospel music and preaching on WPAL, a local Charleston radio station.
In January of 1996, my Daddy suffered a massive heart attack and died.  As I stood in the receiving line at Stuhrs Funeral home, the line of African American men and women seemed endless. They shared one story after another about my father’s many acts of kindness.  I was so proud to be his daughter.
You see Charleston is not only a beautiful city but a city with heart. I saw it as a child and see it more than ever with this horrific act of violence by Dylann Roof.
Healing hearts and minds come in many ways. I am very touched by the outpouring of love and forgiveness in the midst of this horrible event from so many and especially from the Charleston African-American community. But I am not surprised.  The African-American community I know, love and grew up with are beautiful people of faith. They have been my family for many years, especially since the death of my mother almost six years ago. I worship with them, share meals and love telling stories.  When I drive to “Anna’s Store” they lovingly greet me saying “that is Mr. Benjamin and Miss Eleanor’s daughter.”
Thanks be to God that so many across this country see the outpouring of God’s love that has been the heart of the Charleston ever since I can remember.  Now the world is seeing the beauty of the African-American community I know and love and how big OUR God is…who sees no color.

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