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Church stands by missionaries through interracial marriage

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (BP)–When members of Robertsville Baptist Church in Oak Ridge, Tenn., heard “their” missionaries were hurting, they rushed to embrace them.

Bill Thompson and his wife, Susan — International Mission Board missionaries to Taiwan — were confronting an issue more and more missionary parents are facing: Their daughter, Christina, was marrying a man of another race.

Though the Thompsons struggled with the idea at first, they did not doubt Charlie Walker, an African American, was God’s choice for Christina.

The pain came from family and friends who opposed the marriage.

Bill had told several pastors of his daughter’s engagement before he called Michael Prince, pastor of Robertsville Baptist, but Prince was the first to congratulate him on his daughter’s upcoming wedding.

Prince quickly volunteered to help make the wedding a happy one, promoting the marriage of “their” missionary kid as part of the church’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. It was a natural role for him and the members of Robertsville Baptist. For them, supporting the Thompsons is just part of their job.

Bill grew up at Robertsville, and when he, his wife and their children — Jeremy, Christina and Bekah — moved to Taiwan, the church kept in touch with the family through e-mails, letters and frequent updates from Bill’s parents, who still attend the church. They pray for them regularly, write letters and, when they have hurts, lend support.

As church member Ruth Kiser said, “We just hold him in our arms no matter what.”

Prince knows all believers are responsible for the Great Commission. “The world is larger than Oak Ridge,” he said. “We are mandated to reach out.”

And loving their missionaries is part of how they reach out to the world.

Every Christmas, Robertsville members leave Christmas cards for each other in a “post office” at the church — and give the money they save on stamps to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. This year they had another Lottie Moon mission — making their missionaries’ daughter’s wedding a joyful one.

Robertsville women gave Christina a bridal shower. And on Sunday evening, Dec. 15, the church was decorated with candles and flowers, and Christina and Charlie were married. Robertsville members joined Christina and Charlie’s family and friends to witness their wedding.

The ceremony wasn’t a typical Southern Baptist service. Bridesmaids wore Taiwanese clothing and carried Taiwanese fans — traditions Christina incorporated from the country where she grew up. An African American choir sang.

After the couple was officially married, they “jumped over the broom” to celebrate their new union — a tradition traced back to slavery, when African slaves were denied legal and religious marriage ceremonies.

At the reception, guests left notes for the bride and groom in red envelopes — traditionally used to give gifts of money at Taiwanese weddings.

Christina and Charlie — the Walkers, now — realize they will face challenges as an interracial couple. They’ve already encountered opposition from acquaintances and even extended family members.

What’s surprised them, though, is that some of the strongest opposition has come from the Christian community.

Some believers have said the Walkers’ children will be “half-breeds.” Others try to prove biblically that interracial marriages are sinful. They often site 2 Corinthians 6:14, which, in the New King James Version, begins, “Do not be unequally yoked….”

But they fail to recite the entire verse: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”

The Walkers make a point not to condemn, though.

“We love, show them grace — bless them, don’t curse them. If not, bitterness sets in,” Christina said.

Charlie says he understands prejudice. “I was one of those people — very militant,” he said. “Racism is pride. Growing with God changed me.”

“Prejudice in any form is wrong,” Prince said. “There’s no room for it in the church.”

Christina and Charlie both are vibrant Christians. Christina is self-employed in music and children’s ministries, while Charlie’s job as a fitness center manager and personal trainer gives him daily opportunities to share Christ.

And they believe, through their marriage, that God will expand those ministries.

“It’s a ministry of reconciliation, unity — that’s what our wedding is all about,” Charlie said.

And he emphasizes that, for him and his bride, the mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” is a twofold calling. They hope to have their own children, but they also trust that God will multiply their ministry, too, and allow them to give birth to a diverse family of Christians.

“Part of our ministry is going to be traveling to the nations — no boundaries,” Christina said. “This whole world needs Jesus.”

And, she emphasized, when Jesus comes back for his bride, he will be looking for one that’s unified — not one that’s divided along lines of race and denomination.

“Someone is always watching,” Charlie said. “God sees it all. Nonbelievers, too. You’re the testament of who Jesus really is.”

He challenges believers to search their hearts and ask themselves: “Is what’s inside put there from generations past or based on the Spirit of God and what his Word says?

“If you have Christ in your heart, you’re a different nationality in yourself,” Charlie said. “That’s the nationality that should be joined — those who love Christ.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: VOWS, TAIWAN TRADITION, WELCOME, LAST MINUTE, LIVING TEMPLES and JUST FOLKS.

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  • Manda Roten