Posted by: Andrea Mullins | 25 July, 2010

The Fields Are Not Always White by Ann Reese Chapter One, Part 1

The year was 1964. The place was Birmingham, Alabama, a city in the fire storm of the Civil Rights movement. The bombing at 16th Street Baptist Church where four young Black girls died in 1963 had provoked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed.

Churches across the South were shaken as the assumptions about race, color, and language were tested. Ann Reese, founder of the Jackson Reese Endowment for WorldCrafts, decided to write a book about her personal experience as a member of one of these churches. In a recent visit to her home she allowed me to bring home the original typed pages she has keep to herself these years. She also agreed to let me share her unpublished book, The Fields Are Not Always White, on my blog. Throughout the next few weeks I will be sharing excerpts from each chapter. I have left some of the names blank for privacy reasons and the content is just as it was written in the 1960s.

Ann’s title, The Fields Are Not Always White, isn’t hard to grasp when we realize her church was just blocks from 16th Street Baptist Church.  She explained the premise of her title in the preface.

We feel it is not blasphemous to say

The fields are not always white unto harvest.

Sometimes we labor in an unproductive area.

But surely the Lord of the harvest

Still calls us who are busy in His vineyard

To yet another work which is plenteous—

BUT NOT ALWAYS WHITE.

 

Ann’s book is a glimpse into the awaking of believers to an active concern for people who were not always “white.” Her story is our story, as we allow God to move us to see His love is for all people.

Chapter One (Part 1)

THE SILVER LINING

It was a Sunday morning much like any other, when I spied a friend in the hall, talking to a tiny Japanese lady and her two small children. How surprised I was to learn that they lived in sight of the church. From Osaka, Japan they had come to Birmingham so that Dr. ___ might do advance study at the medical school. He was quite busy, but his family was lonely day after day in a strange land. When I asked Mrs. ___ if she would like to come to the Community Ladies Club, she responded eagerly in the affirmative. Having spent nearly 40 years in the Orient, Mrs. Adams was excited that one of her dear Orientals was almost on our doorstep. She volunteered to accompany Mrs. ___ and the children to the church the following Thursday.

For a number of years with increasing frequency we had seen various Internationals in the Birmingham area. Sometimes in the Medical Center one would see an Indian couple, he in Western dress, his wife in her native sari. Occasionally in a restaurant, a table would be filled with Oriental people noisily chatting in their own tongue. The sight would provoke natural curiosity, but one can’t just march up and say—“hey there, I’d like to be your friend.” But at last one of them had come to us. Kosue ___ was a Christian and she had sought a church. It was like the dawning of a great light upon us—here was our ministry. Instead of looking around in frustration at the empty lots where the poor no longer dwelled, or looking back with nostalgia to the “good ole days” at Southside, we should open our eyes and our hearts to the growing number of Internationals all around us. After reading helpful suggestions on working with the foreign-born, we equipped ourselves with bi-lingual dictionaries and Bibles. For Kozue had several Japanese friends whom she brought. They had other International friends. That first year ladies from Ecuador and Argentina, Norway and Cuba, Taiwan and Japan came to sew and cook and talk each Thursday.

Each is a story in itself. There was the vivacious little bride, Machiko ___, who was to stay in our midst nearly three years. She was a graduate of the famous Dosheisha University in Japan and a devout Christian. Immediately she joined a Sunday School class and a Circle. Her delightful personality endeared her to all of us. Our former assistant pastor’s wife took her under her wing and taught her to cook American style. As their friendship grew, Machiko’s husband was drawn into the circle of love, and they visited often in each other’s homes. Almost a year after their return to Japan, Dr. ___ came back from a convention in San Francisco and on to Birmingham for a few days. Machiko could not come for she was expecting. Imagine the happiness that filled us all as he told us, “We shall send you word of two births soon—our new baby and mine.” For Dr. ___ had opened his heart to the gospel, and had experienced the new birth of salvation. Perhaps all of us could take a lesson from Machiko. Patiently and lovingly she had waited for her husband’s acceptance of Christ—with her prescription for all Christians: “Share your joy.”

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Responses

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