A few weeks later, God revealed to me His heart for this mission. I was being sent to Atlanta as an intercessor. My role would primarily be to pray, bless and release His heart over the region and especially for our entire nation. God shared with me that His heart for the United States of America is to be reconciled, healed and united, especially across all racial divisions. He showed me how there would be a movement of brother and sisterhood returning amongst the American people. I saw a vision in my mind of an interwoven piece of fabric. And I saw us, person-to-person, reaching across our differences with compassion, understanding and a desire to do what is right. Bridges were being built. In so doing, I saw God miraculously healing our hearts and bringing reconciliation and restoration to our nation. In this encouraging vision, we the people of the United States of America were one nation, under God and interwoven together as a tightly knit and strong fabric. We were also restored to our influence, dreams, design and future that God intended for us. Please pray for our nation, our leaders, our neighbors and ourselves!
So, I just returned from the trip to Atlanta! Here are some highlights of my journey with God these past few days...
God reminded me that Atlanta was the birth place of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, an expression of God's own heart for justice and freedom. I knew immediately I was to visit and pray through the MLK monument there and then along the route of his funeral procession. In obedience and anticipation, my first afternoon in Atlanta was spent at the Martin Luther King memorial, arriving just 20 minutes before they closed. The lady at the information desk quickly handed me a map and directed me to a few highlights, other buildings along the street that were also about to close. I went immediately to the "dream room" which held the wagon that carried Dr. King's casket for the funeral procession through Atlanta. A screen was playing as I watched King giving his last ever speech "I have been to the mountaintop". An older gentleman and I locked eyes as we both shook our heads in amazement at this courageous man and period in history. Bobby Kinney, I would soon find out is an 80 year-old black gentleman from Atlanta, who was a friend of Dr. King's and his family. He shared that he was behind the casket in the funeral procession 50 years ago as he pointed to his young self in the exhibits photographs. Bobby often comes to visit the memorial and share with visitors.
I ended up spending the next few hours with Bobby as He basically was my tour guide sharing stories of King, the funeral and other important events in the struggle for justice. He took me to King's birth home, gravesite and other monuments in that area of "Sweet Auburn" where King grew up and is laid to rest. It's was such an honor to be with Bobby that day and share moments that I hope I will never forget. One thing I remember after I prayed with Bobby was him saying that he has been wanting all this time to write a book about King and that time in history. I encouraged him that even if he never writes, each time he shares with someone he is writing a story. He is impacting and touching so many lives. He brings to life God's heart that was displayed through the man Martin Luther King Jr. and many others in the civil rights movement. Bobby was so encouraged. It seemed to me that I found him with somewhat of a heavy heart as he visited an old friends grave but he left glowing as he set off to share with another group of visitors who were walking by.
After this, I drove the 5 miles through downtown Atlanta praying along the route of King's funeral procession 50 years ago. King's casket pulled by mule and wagon was followed by around 200,000 people that day, a route which started at his home church where he also pastored, Ebenezer Baptist. The procession then detoured to go past the State Capitol follows by several miles through downtown Atlanta to King's alma mater, Morehouse College. I made several laps around the Capitol building praying for our leaders for wisdom, compassion and to live out justice. As I rounded a corner that opened to the Mercedes-Benz stadium, I saw in the large icon what resembled a peace symbol illuminating the way. Actually, this stadium was built after Kings death and runs straight through the route of his funeral procession. I can't help but see God's hope and peace covering the trail of Martin Luther King Jr.'s blood.
I was surprised to see only one white man all day, amongst hundreds of my black brothers and sisters. As I found drove along towards the end of the route, I lost my way and passed through several run down neighborhoods with people lying in the sidewalks and gathered on the steps of condemned convenience stores and homes. I prayed for full healing and restoration of hearts, relationships and destinies. I thought of how I might even be afraid, a single white woman, had not God's grace and peace been so tangibly surrounding me all day. I ended the day as the sun set over the stadium at Moorehouse College, a predominantly black campus, filled with hope as I prayed for some of our nations future leaders. What a beautiful day.
I continued to ask God what was next for He and I in Atlanta. I had found through a quick Google search that there was a branch of my own church and ministry school (Bethel) in Atlanta! So I visited both of these. I enjoyed conversing with the students, listening to speakers, worshipping and praying with them for this new year. I happened to sit next to a student who in the beginning of class began to speak what God was putting on his heart...he shared about those who had gone before us for generations who prayed and prayed for justice, even those at ebenezer baptist church before Martin Luther King Jr.. He said their prayers are being answered today even as he and I sat next to each other and could legally converse (because he is black and I am white). This was so confirming to me since it was the same thing God had put on my heart and sent me to Atlanta for, prayer for racial reconciliation and healing for our nation!
I also went to an intercessors meeting at the Bethel Atlanta church. It was a time where God released such joy and peace to me, something He had encouraged me to speak over myself for this trip. It was my birthday so it felt like a gift! While the group was sharing what God had put on their hearts to pray for, Darlene, another visitor, shared the same two things God had also given me the night before! It was in regards to God digging deep wells of faith and creating an unshakeable foundation in the church family there at Bethel Atlanta. We came to find out that they had just this Sunday stepped out in faith to start services on their new property without a building or tent yet. And that God provided a miracle with their sound system that broke just as the service was starting. What a blessing to partner with these faithful ones desiring that their city see the love and face of Jesus!
I believe God was directing my steps as I obeyed His voice. Every day I had several encounters that I believe were divine and timely set ups!
For example, I ended up staying with my old friends from graduate school who happen to live near Atlanta. I attended church and small group with them and was so blessed to be a part of their family and community for a few days. As I learned about their beautiful little town of Newnan, an hour outside of Atlanta, God showed me that even this specific town was rooted in healing and justice. It is nicknamed the "town of homes" because it actually is one of the only towns in the South that the Union army wasn't able to burn down during the Civil War, so many old homes are still preserved. The small town of Newnan was also a medical town in the Civil War as it had 7 of the South's hospitals, including a large one operating both inside and outside of the Coweta County courthouse in the downtown square. This hospital treated the confederate AND Union soldiers that had been wounded. What a beautiful picture of unity, healing and restoration! Also, that court house was the first in Georgia to stand for justice by way of accepting a black man's testimony as evidence to prosecute a white man (who had senselessly murdered a black man).
This year, 2018, happens to be the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, the 500th year of the Protestant reformation Martin Luther initiated (MLK's namesake) and the 150th anniversary of Moorehouse College (Kings alma mater). By God's design this trip also happened to fall on Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and my 38th birthday. It seems like a chairos moment.
It is just like God in His perfect timing and ways, to bring me in that moment to...the heart of the South (Georgia), to the heart of the Civil Rights Movement (Atlanta), to a center of healing that encompassed both sides of our country during the Civil War (Newnan)...with the purpose of blessing and praying for God's very heart of healing, reconciliation, unity and restoration over our entire nation! He is just so beautiful.
As I was leaving to catch my flights back to California, my friend shared with me what happened the morning after I prayed for her husband to clearly hear God's voice. He opened his Bible for that days portion of the reading plan he was reading through. The passage of the day happened to be in John 10:3-4 when Jesus was teaching about Himself as a good shepherd to us, His sheep. “To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” The next day my friend (a prudent man who was skeptical that He could actually hear God) heard Gods voice to give me the exact amount of cash that his wife happened to have in her purse. They were so encouraged to hear from God and see the confirmation. And I was blessed as well!
I ended up changing my flight last minute due to work responsibilities so there was one place on my heart that I didn't make it to. It's a small town called Macon. But God did show me his heart and how to pray for that area and other small towns so I have done that from afar.
Though I believe prayer is powerful from afar, There is something about actually being on the ground, interacting with people, hearing stories, seeing what God shows me in my spirit and blessing every place that my feet walked or car drove. I love that God chose to make His home in us, that we can be carriers of His presence.
Once again, God truly wrote the story of this trip and it is to Him that I give all the glory. May His kindness, hope and restoration be experienced as He is known in our nation and world.