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  • Jane Wheeler

Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia that is where I was last week, it almost seems so long ago. Richmond is a large city of 220,000 people. We were surprised at how many businesses were closed down, gone, in the area around the conference center. We talked with a couple of people about the economic situation, it is not good. Their wages are not high and we toured a grocery store and noticed food prices on par with ours.

It is a beautiful city, the weather was amazing 24-29 while we were there, but it can get cold there too, we walked over to Belle Island, a 2.2 km island, on the banks of the James river, lined with walking trails. There were remnants of old metal buildings. We read on a sign that the island had had several uses, once a nail factory, another was a fishery and most notorious as a POW camp for up to 30,000 Union soldiers in the civil war 1862-1865. A lot of soldiers froze to death over the winters apparently.

Richmond was the first capitol of the USA, the first legislative assembly sat there in 1631 – the city has history. History is one of those things, you cannot go back and change, if the past is not good, you would be better to use the past to enlighten the future, educate, guide and direct but you cannot change it.

Biggest graveyard I ever saw was there, we drove through it and were amazed at the size, it went on forever, we certainly did not see all of it. One small section has 18,000 Confederate soldiers buried there.

It is this city that had the riot over their historical monuments a while ago. They have a lot of statues and monuments all over the city and they have one street called Monument Avenue, this is where all the action happened.

The city’s mayor: Levar M. Stoney, an African-American had this to say about the riots and statues:

“As I said in June, it is my belief that, as they currently stand without explanation, the confederate statues on Monument Avenue are a default endorsement of a shameful period in our national and city history that do not reflect the values of inclusiveness, equality and diversity we celebrate in today’s Richmond.

I wish they had never been built.

But context is important in both historical, and present day, perspectives. While we had hoped to use this process to educate Virginians about the history behind these monuments, the events of the last week may have fundamentally changed our ability to do so by revealing their power to serve as a rallying point for division and intolerance and violence.

These monuments should be part of our dark past and not of our bright future. I personally believe they are offensive and need to be removed. But I believe more in the importance of dialogue and transparency by pursuing a responsible process to consider the full weight of this decision.

Effective immediately, the Monument Avenue Commission will include an examination of the removal and/or relocation of some or all of the confederate statues.

Continuing this process will provide an opportunity for the public to be heard and the full weight of this decision to be considered in a proper forum where we can have a constructive and civil dialogue.

Let me be clear: we will not tolerate allowing these statues and their history to be used as a pretext for hate and violence, or to allow our city to be threatened by white supremacists and neo-Nazi thugs. We will protect our city and keep our residents safe.” Mayor Levar M. Stoney

Racism is not dead, it is still a small ember that keeps getting ignited all over the country, we need to pray it gets totally snuffed out.

It is interesting to note that in the midst of all this we were there. 5,000 people from all over the world, people from over 2/3 of the worlds countries were meeting in the center of all this. It was the Aglow International Conference. We were there to band together in unity – color, country, cultures. The women and some men wore their traditional dress, beautiful, colourful and impressive. I could walk up to anyone there and know I had acceptance and they knew they did as well, it was like being at a very large family reunion. It was totally awesome!

The 5,000 people represented the leaders of Aglow in their country. I learned a lesson about the power of God inside a person. I could just walk by some of them and feel a power surge coming off them. It was a new experience for me, I tested it several times. I would get close, feel this power and then back away and resume. It was extraordinary.

I went up to one lady from Cameroon, commented "you are a power house for God aren't you?" She looked incredulously at me and replied "Of Course!" Another from Kenya had an air of royalty about her as she sat and told me of her life journey and her deep deep relationship to God.

That is the difference, these folks knew who they were or more importantly they knew "whose" they were. Their life amid, chaos, poverty, strife was founded on a deep and solid relationship to God, unshakable faith. Some of the people I talked to were persecuted for their faith, life was not easy, and yet their deep faith flowed out of them. I was humbled.

The whole conference was amazing as was the trip and I am so blessed and thankful to have been able to go, to be part of something so much bigger than me and my small corner of the world.

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