Day 6: Memphis, TN (Abbey Combs)

June 17th, 2016

This entry is not so much to reflect on this particular day, but rather the tour as a whole (thus far) and the themes that have been laid heavily on my heart for the last 6 days. We have seen so much this week and yet every day the same two themes have been overwhelmingly present: hate and love.

It was the hate that first stunned me. We’ve seen and heard of undeserved beatings, Emmett Till’s murder, children in jail, firehose attacks, Selma, the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist and signs that read “No negro or ape allowed in building.” I can’t begin to wrap my head around how human beings can first feel so much hate, and then act on it. It’s unfathomable. This week has awoken me to the reality and magnitude of hate in our earthly world. I’ve been forced to confront this hatred, not only in our history, but also in the present. The mass shooting in Orlando and my recent studies of migrants’ sufferings in Mexico make it very evident that hate is alive and well today.

At first, this new awareness of hatred consumed me. It discouraged me. Yet, I’ve increasingly found that wherever hate exists, there too, love seems to dwell. Hearing the personal accounts of those who lived through the Civil Rights Movement has given me more hope than I originally expected to find. They have consistently spoken of pain and fear, but their focus has been love. Listen to any of Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermons and you will find that love exudes from every word. In the face of terror and tragedy, he led the masses to respond in LOVE… that’s powerful.

And not just any ol’ love, but God’s love. The church was such an integral part of this movement; faith led every step of the way. Mrs. Juanita Abernathy, despite her hardships, repeatedly proclaimed that GOD IS GOOD. He knows what He is doing and she is grateful to have been where He placed her in American history. Carolyn McKinstry, who lost four friends in the Sixteenth Street Baptist bombing, prefers to focus on “what matters” when she shares her story. The bulk of her message was not about the horrors of September 15, 1963, but rather reconciliation and how we can show our love to God by loving others. Lisa McNair, sister of Denise McNair, admitted that hate will always be here. Yet, praise be to God, so will His love.

It’s amazing that those who have experienced the most hate in the world seem to be the ones who best understand love. This has been a humbling week… how amazing to be filled simultaneously with such great despair and great hope.


“All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the lifetime of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetimes on this planet. But let us begin.” -John F. Kennedy.

“Hate is too great a burden to bear… I have decided to love… He who hates does not know God, but he who loves has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

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