Guest Blog – written by Mike Parks (associate/youth pastor at First Baptist Quincy)
In 2010, our church – First Baptist Church Quincy, FL – had the privilege of hosting the Daraja Children’s Choir from Kenya. Thinking that this was going to be just another summer event on our church’s calendar, I was not at all prepared what God was going to do in our church and community through these incredible children. To understand just a glimpse of the catalytic ministry, you need to know some things about our church and community.
Quincy, FL is a quaint but beautiful town in the central panhandle of Florida. Though less than twenty miles from the state capitol, Tallahassee, Quincy is a rural and predominately agricultural community. The area is dotted with rolling hills century-old farms – a reminder of the prosperity once had through a prevalent shade-tobacco crop. The land now produces a large amount of the country’s tomato crop continuing the community’s reliance on agriculture.
Though the heritage of agriculture has brought much success, it has created its share of challenges. The most notable challenge has been the demographic shift within the community. A predominately white community in the early and mid 20th century, the 2004 census revealed a now 65% African-American population. This seismic shift in demographics was not without issue. City riots and a contested move to desegregate the schools (1960’s – 1970’s) pitted many residents against one another solely on the basis of race. This slice of city history is still existent today as many current Quincy residents among that era are still alive. On both sides of the aisle, there still seems to be an unsettled tension when it comes to race relations and racial reconciliation.
This history has affected much in the Quincy community: schools, government, social clubs, and yes, churches – including the First Baptist Church of Quincy. First Baptist Church Quincy has been a vital part of this community since the late 1800’s. It has provided much for this community, but it is not without its past deep and disturbing sins – racism being chief among them. It has not been too long since an African-American was ushered out of a worship service simply because “his kind” was not welcomed. Thank God for his amazing grace to forgive our past members for their horrid sins. Thank God for a people who have recognized the wretchedness of their past mistakes. And while the sins of our churches fathers are in the distant past, their haunting affects still echo in much of the city.
Knowing this tainted history of our church is essential in seeing the radical move to host, highlight and promote an all-African choir hitting the stage of the church’s sanctuary. With great nerve, our Children’s minister Connie, planned and promoted the concert to all parts of the Quincy community. Word was distributed through newspapers, radio, and television to all in Quincy – despite the color of skin or side of the tracks. When the concert night approached, staff hoped to see a “good” crowd to support the children and their ministry. What transpired was a God-moment.
Nearly an hour before the concert began, people began taking their seats. With thirty minutes left, the entire floor of the sanctuary was full, and the balcony was being accessed for the first time in nearly a decade. As I stood up to welcome the crowd, I was nearly speechless – a full house at First Baptist Quincy made up of nearly perfect 50/50 crowd of African-Americans and Anglos. For the next 1.5 hours, a Quincy community united in worship of Jesus Christ. Black and white sitting and standing, lifting hands and bowing heads, clapping and laughing…together. Reconciled. Unified. Undivided…because of the Gospel and because of Kenyan children who showed the creativity of the Creator.
Little did we anticipate the results of that night. Immediately following the concert, our staff was flooded in the foyer by people of all colors expressing their deep appreciation for the night. Every comment the same: “Thank you. What a night of worship! It’s about time to see our community come together like this.” It was as if the community was just waiting for the moment that would be the catalyst to healing. The comments continued to pour in for the next several days. Emails and phone calls came to the church expressing the greatness of God experienced on that night. We realized God was up to something big in our community and our church.
Just a month after that night, I was contacted by the city of Quincy’s Community Redevelopment Agency. They had received word of the success of the night and desired to see our church and their agency partner together for future endeavors. We agreed an almost unheard of government-church relationship began. Since that summer night in 2010, our church has partnered with the city in multiple events.
1. Movie on the Square: With the city’s sponsorship, our church (and another sister church) hosted nearly 500 people on the courthouse lawn to view the movie, “The Blind Side.”
2. City Christmas Parade: The city asked our church to create a float for the annual parade and were nearly insistent that it be a Bethlehem scene to focus the community on the true meaning of Christmas.
3. Back to School Bash: The city asked our church to host their annual back to school bash for city jr. high and sr. high students.
4. Rock the Block Halloween Festival: The city partnered with First Baptist Quincy and another sister church for city’s Halloween festival. Our church ran carnival games and welcomed city residents to the event with full permission to have a prayer tent in which we prayed for residents and shared the Gospel with them. Every booth had a Christian there to share and show the Gospel with the nearly 5000 residents who came.
In 2013, the Daraja Children’s Choir returned to First Baptist Quincy. And once again, God has used them in a mighty way as the concert was even more well-received the second time. More relationships are forming and more barriers are being broken. This ministry has a resonating influence in every place it goes. For one community in the panhandle of Florida, its eternal effect is immeasurable. Thank you God for the children and leaders of the Daraja Children’s Choir; you are a picture and ambassador for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:26-28…You are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
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