RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Fifty percent of all children killed by firearms are African Americans. The leading cause of death among African American males, age 18 to 34, is gunfire. Thirty percent of African American children live in poverty.
“We are under siege,” said Debra Berry, a national Woman’s Missionary Union ministry consultant. “It is an assault that we cannot surmount or overcome alone. We must be restored.”
Berry, who works with African and adult audiences on behalf of the Southern Baptist auxiliary, led a class titled “Be Restored: God’s Power for African American Women” during Black Church Leadership Week Aug. 5-9 at LifeWay Ridgecrest (N.C.) Conference Center.
Based on the book by the same title, the course sought to show African American women the parallels between their lives and need for restoration and the life of the Old Testament character of Nehemiah.
“Restoration is the recovery of that which is lost,” Berry said. “Just as Israel was told to restore their nation, we must restore our lives to be right with God. That restoration may be economic, physical or spiritual. We have lost our focus and we have left our first love. We must recover that.”
Berry traced the steps of restoration through three phases.
“Restoration is a ripple effect,” she said. “If we are personally restored, then that restoration branches out to our family, then our community.
“Restoration must begin with you,” Berry said. “You must return to God and seek his ways, obey his commandments and respect his authority.”
Women feel a void in their lives today which they try to fill with men or possessions, Berry noted. “Women have become so obsessed with stuff and relationships that we’ve allowed these things to block the way of a right relationship with God.”
At times, African American women get feelings of unworthiness, Berry continued.
“People will tell you that you aren’t worthy,” she said. “But it doesn’t matter what they say as long as you listen to what God says. People thought Nehemiah wasn’t worthy, but see how the Lord blessed his ministry?”
Several participants in Berry’s conference expressed concern over the state of the African American family. “The gates around our families are under siege,” Berry responded. “We must teach our families the Bible at home, and instill in them a deep respect for the church.”
Restoration will not come easily, Berry acknowledged; those seeking restoration must be serious about their commitment to God.
“Restoration only comes through the will of God,” she said. “We must be the embodiment of a person who is desperate for God as we labor in prayer and fasting for our families, communities and churches. We must also be people of patience.”
If feelings of restoration don’t surface immediately, don’t give up, Berry counseled.
“When we pray, God gives us one of three answers: yes, no or wait. We must be willing to wait if that is his answer,” she said.
“We live in a godless nation, full of materialism and disrespect for God,” Berry said. “We must stop trying to figure out how to keep up with the Joneses and start trying to figure out how to be like God.”
Approximately 1,300 people attended Black Church Leadership Week. The conference was sponsored by five Southern Baptist Convention entities — LifeWay Christian Resources, International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, Annuity Board and WMU. For more information about the conference go to www.lifeway.com. To learn more about “Be Restored: God’s Power for African American Women,” visit www.wmu.com or www.lifewaystores.com.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: RESTORATION NEEDED.