It was 7 AM on Sunday morning when I walked into New Mount Calvary Mission Baptist Church in South Central Los Angeles. The woman at the door greeted me with a mixture of curiosity and hospitality. An understandable response because, as my friend Carol Houston joked with exaggeration, I might have been the only white person for ten miles.
Overcoming her initial surprise to see me, the greeter handed me a little toolkit on a keychain as my welcome gift. Why the toolkit? “Because we equip you with the tools to change your life!” Clever!
Reverend Sonja Dawson had invited me to speak about PathLight to her congregation of around 1000 people. It was a great opportunity to share the PathLight story, make new friends, and help them connect to the global Church. And of course it was a wonderful learning opportunity as I experienced the rhythmic beauty of the African-American church traditions.
This is a church that’s got it going. There are over 25 ministries to the community, including feeding the hungry, outreach to children, recovery programs for addicts, regular prayer meetings throughout the week, free legal clinics, an orphanage in Haiti, neighborhood wellness programs, and on and on. It is a model of a church looking outside its walls and loving their neighbors, both near and far.
There were two main services with a Sunday School program in between, plus Pastor Sonja and I slipped over to a quiet room for breakfast with two other leaders. So it was a busy morning and went into the early afternoon. As with any guest speaker, a few stared at me awkwardly and wondered why I was there. But everybody had a smile and warm greeting.
My short presentation of 5-10 minutes seemed well received. At one point I had the congregation laughing at the story of their pastor nervously climbing up the Mayan temple when we visited Belize together. But the focal point of my presentation — that hope stems from the integration of faith and learning — resonated deeply in this community.
New Mount Calvary could not have been a more welcoming place. I shook more hands, received more kind words of affirmation, and was blessed by more people than I can count.
Thank you to all my new friends, and I look forward to visiting again!