"A great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem . . . . Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." - Acts 8:1-4 (NIV)
The church I serve is located in Stone Mountain, Georgia—one of the last places in which I thought I'd ever be found.
Upon my re-location to the Atlanta metro area in 1978, I was promptly informed to steer clear of Stone Mountain, because at that time it was the home of the resurgence of the KKK. In fact, the KKK held yearly rallies at Stone Mountain Park - a popular Confederate Memorial.
About fifteen years ago, when our church was compelled to look for a larger facility that could accommodate our growing membership, I adamantly refused to look anywhere in Stone Mountain, though I was advised that a facility was available there that might meet our needs.
After more than a little hesitation on my part, the church officers and I found the facility in Stone Mountain to indeed be what we'd been looking for. Today, the Victory United Church of Christ in Stone Mountain, Georgia, is one of the most progressive churches in the region.
And while we are located about five miles from the Confederate Memorial that once served as a rallying point for the KKK, I am proud to say that we publicly embrace all of the people that the KKK persecuted - including blacks, Jews and LGBT persons.
It's amazing how God uses us in places we never intended to be in.
American culture and society would certainly be much poorer today if our nation had not benefitted from the gifts, energy and contributions brought to us by many immigrants who were forced to flee persecution in their native countries.
Lord, we thank you for progress in unlikely places. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.