JACKSON, Tenn. – Jan. 22, 2013 – Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 21 marked a day of service and learning about the history of racial tension and reconciliation for a group of Union University staff and winter term students.
The university’s Office of Spiritual Life staff organized service projects at four local non-profits: Birth Choice, the Dream Center of Jackson, the Care Center and the Regional Inter-Faith Association.
Nathaniel Magnuson, a freshman theater and English double major, joined a group of Union students at RIFA, unpacking and organizing food to be used for a snack backpack program for children at risk of hunger.
For Magnuson, the project served as a reminder of the needs of the Jackson community.
“(RIFA) can use all the help they can get,” Magnuson said. “They are very willing and happy to take volunteers.”
Lee Wilson, director of discipleship at Union, said the holiday is an appropriate time for students to serve in the community because King advocated for actions centered on others.
“(Service) was one thing that Martin Luther King Jr. talked about a lot,” Wilson said. “It is something that anybody and everybody can do. Service is essentially an embodiment of the love of God toward his neighbors and enemies. … You’re living out the love of Christ by serving.”
For the first time on MLK Day, a group of students and staff traveled to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn. The museum, located at the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968, depicts key aspects of the American civil rights movement and its legacy.
“On a day like Martin Luther King Day, it’s so appropriate to go learn about the history of a movement that is essentially his legacy of pursuing and achieving justice for an entire group of people who were horribly (treated),” Wilson said.
Before taking the group to the museum, Wilson said a chapel service in the morning reminded him that Christians should be compelled to be reconcilers.
Roland Porter, pastor of Agape Christian Fellowship Church in Jackson and a leader for racial reconciliation, said in his chapel address that he knew and was influenced by King.
“Roland Porter’s message was about the reality that the gospel demands that we do something about racial reconciliation,” Wilson said. “Racial reconciliation is about more than just changing your mind; it’s about more than just thinking differently about a group of people.
“Racial reconciliation is about taking action — actively working to love people who suffer under an unrighteous system. And in the South, especially, I think that there are more gospel demands on those who follow Christ to take action for racial reconciliation.”
By Samantha Adams (’13)