Amazing Grace

Every once in a while, something jogs my memory and a flood of emotions sweep over me from our trip to Ghana. Today, it was in the hearing of an old familiar hymn.

Standing in the Slave castle on the Ivory Coast, our guide was describing to us the events that had taken place here, within these walls. His description left our minds imagining the African women, standing chained to a lead ball, naked, buckets of cold water thrown over them as the white officers stood on the balcony above, picking out the ones that would be sent up the secret ladder to their bed. Or the others, left behind the big iron gates in the suffocating heat and humidity, several hundred women in a 20 by 20 room, many sick with malaria or TB.  Tears welled up in my eyes at the time but I quickly blinked them away, feeling as though if I gave in to the temptation to weep, I would open the floodgates and not be able to contain my emotions at all.

We walked the halls with stone floors where hundreds of thousands of barefooted people had worn them smooth and we stood in rooms where slaves were left to die. The weakest were weeded out through sickness and limited food, the strongest surviving men, bringing in the best price.

It couldn’t be blamed on pure racism, white against black or some other tangible reason for the horrific injustice, it was pure and simple, basic greed had set in. Our tour guide was very good, he was telling the stories with reverence and respect while at the same time, giving us the factual events. At first, it had been the white Dutchmen, the English as well as the Americans who bought and traded the slaves but just as true was the fact that it was often tribe against tribe, enemy against enemy, the Africans selling each other into slavery. The events truly displayed the wickedness of the heart of mankind.

While touring the upper floors, we stood in a chapel which had ironically been placed directly above the last room through which the slaves would pass before walking the plank to the waiting slave ships just outside the castle.  A wooden sign with “Psalm 132” carved in it, hung above a window through which those very same ships would have been seen. I felt repulsed by the thought of people who could come to this place, my stomach physically churning to even think that somehow, they believed that they were praising God and worshiping our Savior while with their own hands, they were also committing such atrocities.

At the very end of our tour on the castle door, we were shown a sign which had been posted as a reminder to all who came to visit this place, “In Everlasting Memory of the anguish of our ancestors, May those who died rest in peace. May those who return find their roots. May humanity never again perpetrate such injustice against humanity. We, the living, vow to uphold this.”

I stood looking at those words, rereading them. Yes, I would vow. I would vow to continue sharing stories of hope and purpose on iamviable. I vowed to forever cherish and love those with disabilities.  I will do all that I can to educate people and share the truth about those with Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, etc. hoping to shed the light in a world which often only conveys the darkness. This society sanctioned business of selling human beings may no longer continue in this same vain and yet, we encourage and accept very willingly, the termination of any “imperfect” life. I will do all that I can to change the injustice that is still being shown to these, my dearest friends.

History is full of grave reminders, the enslavement of the Jews in Egypt and Moses leading them out of captivity, Christians fed to the lions in Rome, Aktion T 4 which began the Holocaust with Hitler first trying to rid the arian race of all people with disabilities who he deemed, “less than human” after which, he moved on to putting all his efforts into eliminate the Jews.

I left that castle with the somber thought of, ‘How and why do we get to this place of destroying and devaluing human life?’

So today, I watched the video by Wintley Phipps which is going around on facebook. Wintley tells the history behind negro spirituals and a “white spiritual” which is the well known and loved hymn, “Amazing Grace.”  John Newton wrote that song well over 200 years ago. He had been the captain of a slave ship but came to know the Lord and was later instrumental in abolishing slavery. Wintley says that John Newton probably set his words to an old negro spiritual and makes the point, that we all are connected by God’s amazing grace. Then, Wintley sings Amazing Grace as if it was sung by the very same slaves who came out of those ships. I don’t think I’ll ever listen to Amazing Grace in quite the same way, it’s the most beautiful and moving rendition that I’ve ever heard. I’ll let you listen to it for yourselves on the video below.

I realized in those moments that it is often through our greatest failures, our deepest suffering, our most shameful deeds that God reaches out to us as we surrender and He extends His greatest mercy, his most undeserved grace. It’s through the death of self that God brings new life in a way that can touch generation after generation whether it is extended to one individual or perhaps, to an entire nation.

It is also through people like Joni Eareckson Tada, who as I am writing this, is recovering from surgery for breast cancer, that we see such tremendous life changing hope, such inexplicable peace and we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, God has performed an incredible work within her.  After losing the use of her arms and legs, she could have become a bitter, angry, resentful woman but instead, the Lord has used her to change the world.

So whether it be through our own grievous mistakes and failures or through the innocence of being a teenager on a hot summer day who makes a dive into a shallow lake, we know that what God can do through his transforming power is nothing short of miraculous.

No one is beyond his reach, no one is ever beyond his healing and restoration, we all can be the recipients of his marvelous, Amazing Grace.

Comments

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  1. Kara, that was awesome story and the video at the end was great. You are amazing. Love you. J

  2. Wow Kara – I was SO touched and moved by both your article and the Video. AND that sign really got to me too. Thank you for sharing your heart with the world and that we ALL are connected by God’s Amazing Grace. Amen. Love you, Karen

  3. Kara: How much we need His “Amazing Grace” for just our daily living! Thanks for your inspiring insights and sharing. Marv

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