This past week, Janet, our daughter, Kristin, and our grandson, Connor, took a trip down south. I hadn’t been in the deep south, states such as Mississippi and Alabama, for many years. So I decided to put together a trip during spring break that included stops that I made with my parents more than 50 years ago.
We travelled from Carmel to Memphis, TN and stayed at the Peabody Hotel, famous for the ducks that march from their rooftop home to the elevator, down to the first floor and then into the lobby fountain where they swim and play until 5:00 pm each day. Then the march is reversed back to the roof and the whole thing repeats the next day. While we were in town, we also visited the Civil Rights Museum, adjacent to where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel 50 years ago. Although Janet and I lived through most of the the civil rights movement, it was informative and educational to go through the museum. We also stopped on famous Beale Street, visited Graceland and had dinner at a well known barbecue place.
It was evident that we were in a different part of the country as soon as we entered Tennessee. The accents were different and we experienced southern hospitality at its finest. Then we were off to Vicksburg, MS, where we spent the afternoon at the Civil Was battlefield museum and toured the site after watching a film on the war. We drove through the union and confederate cemeteries – a real sobering experience that crossed time and distance – bringing to life memories of those who lived 150 years ago.
We stayed the night at a southern plantation built in 1840 and the innkeeper gave us a personal tour the next morning. Once again, the past came alive and we experienced people who are, in many ways, far different from the way we live in central Indiana.
As we left Vicksburg for our next destination, Natchez, MS, we moved even farther south to see more antebellum mansions and plantations. We toured two different homes from the mid-1800’s and stayed the night in a grand mansion. We met many folks and it was the first time that Kristin and Connor had really seen how people down south live and work. It was fun to see the social etiquette and the difference in language between our respective regions of the country.
After leaving Natchez, we drove to Huntsville, AL where we toured the Rocket Center that houses, among other things, a Saturn V rocket as well as the Apollo 16 capsule that went to the moon and back. In fact, this is the facility where Space Camp is held for kids around the country and we were there on graduation day for one of the groups. Once again, we saw a different style of life and how people from another area spend their time and live.
The drive home was uneventful and we arrived very late Friday night. In discussing the week, it was clear that wherever we went, we were treated with dignity and respect. We were exposed to different folks from every walk of life. We saw things that helped us better understand the race problems of the ’60’s and how life was in the south. And everywhere we went, we met believers who acknowledged their faith in Jesus. So here we are, 1800 miles later, back where we started – a bit more educated having been exposed to things far different from our daily lives.
Our verse for this evening is the last verse in the Bible. We are told, in Revelation 22:21, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” This simple verse sums up a promise of God to believers across geographical regions as well as throughout time. Because wherever we are, we are surrounded by God’s people who profess their faith in Him. Even those soldiers who were killed during the Civil War were, for the most part, believers.
God’s love for us transcends time and space. We worship the same God our forefathers did and we certainly share the same faith as our brothers and sisters down south. My encouragement this evening is that God loves all of us, even if we talk differently from one another or have been brought up in vastly different styles. My prayer is that we will all exhibit tolerance for those who are unlike us or who exhibit traits that we don’t understand. After all, we all have our comfort zones and it is good for us to experience other cultures from time to time. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…