Giving Thanks and Pressing Ahead

On behalf of everyone at the St. Louis Reconciliation Network (STLRN), we just wanted to pause and say a huge “THANK YOU” to all of the many sponsors and participants who helped make this year’s second annual “Race for Reconciliation” such a fun and wonderful event (see the photo-collage below, based primarily on the expert photography of Bronwyn Voth). Many new cross-cultural relationships were kindled.

To those who weren’t able to join us, it was a delightfully crisp and sunny Saturday morning (September 30) at Tower Grove Park, with about 100 participants (runners, walkers, and volunteers). After the race, medals were given to the top three female and male finishers in each of four age groups. Special awards were presented to our top female (Kellie Julius, 22:01) and top male (Chris Noda, 17:48) finishers. We were also blessed by encouraging remarks from a very distinguished participant and 5K finisher, Mark Mantovani (candidate for St. Louis County Executive).

For all of this we are very appreciative, but we also recognize the immensity of the challenge that still remains before us, in our continuing mission “to heal the broken race relations of the St. Louis region by harnessing the potential collective power of its diverse faith communities.” To paraphrase the Apostle Paul, “forgetting what’s behind us and reaching forward to what’s ahead, we press on toward the goal.”

Pursuing our mission has taught us that learning how to live the “multiethnic life” is a key first step in the regional healing process. We have now provided such training (we call it Jn17) to hundreds of participants in churches throughout St. Louis City and County over the past three years. But we’re happy to report that three entirely new “doors of training opportunity” have just opened for us!

The first newly opened door is in St. Charles County, where Assumption Parish (O’Fallon, MO) has just approached us about bringing Jn17 to their parish. This would be our first foray across the Missouri River, and we are excited to be pursuing it.

The second opportunity is with a local middle school, which recently approached us (for the second time, we must confess!) about the possibility of co-developing a new version of Jn17 for a public-school setting. For those familiar with Jn17 (a format suitable only for churches), this is obviously a major challenge and one that we initially resisted. However, we now feel clearly called to pursue this idea – given the tremendous positive impact that such a program could have as it is first prototyped and then propagated throughout St. Louis schools.

The third open door is in Ferguson, where we have been connected with individuals serving on the Neighborhood Policing Steering Committee. Discussions continue on how to best tailor and target a version of the Jn17 training for this community. A generous grant was made specifically to support the Ferguson efforts and we are being mindful to carefully steward these funds for the greatest positive impact in a part of our region that has been through so much.

Please join us in praying that all of these new doors of opportunity will remain open and that STLRN will be empowered to move ahead through each of them – all resulting in important progress in our mission to bring the healing that our region so urgently needs.