In the summer of 1993, as I was a rising 12th grader, I attended the Youth Theology Institute (now called Youth Theology Initiative) at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. That is the place where my ideas about race were challenged. It was the first year of YTI, and I really did not know what to expect except I was looking for a challenge in that month-long experience.
I knew I had been called to vocational ministry around the age of 12. I had always thought that I would be a missionary or something. I was attracted to the religious aspect of YTI. And my time there lit the spark for many of the things I stand for today.
The course that I chose to take at YTI was about liberation theology. I had never heard that term before that time. That was one thing I learned about. Another was our trip to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birth house and the Center for Nonviolent Social Change. I first heard of the Koinonia community, and their struggle for civil rights. I attended various churches of all denominations. But most importantly, I met other students, the same age as I was, who were passionate about serving God and changing the world. Of course, I don't think I was so focused on changing the world at that point, but my worldview did change during that month.
I remember sitting in my home church after my experience in Atlanta. I wondered why we couldn't let a woman preach. I wondered how many members in that congregation had ever been to a black church for worship. And I realized my own life had been changed. Things started to bother me with our "ordinary" worship. Suddenly, it was not a foreign mission field that needed my attention but the mission field that was my own local community.
And, by the way, my future husband started writing me letters when I was in Atlanta that summer. I do not think that we would have started dating if I had not gone there. It wasn't the letters. He was Chinese. My own views about race had changed. I could look beyond skin color and see him as a child of God.