Would it Be Possible for God’s People to Transform a Trail of Tears?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about this phrase: transforming what was meant for evil into the salvation for many (Genesis 50).  I’ve been wondering, “God does this.  So, in a ministry shaped in the image of God, should we be doing this too?”

When we turn towards historical injustices in order to transform them, we attempt to repair the past.   But how exactly is this done? Repairing the past for the sake of the future is a complex matter and likely never finished.  Primarily, there is a spiritual element with which we must reckon.

In his book on God’s passion for ethnic diversity, Cherokee pastor Randy Woodley courageously discusses our stained American past and reflects on the nature of historical injustice.  Reflecting about a stretch of land once stained the blood of a Cherokee-British battle, he notes: “In one particular area we noticed that the trees were deformed, even gruesome. Not one of us could explain it, but I believe it was a visible result of the battle that claimed so many lives.”[1]  Elsewhere he outlines the systematic removal of his people from their lands, forced to march over long stretches of trail.

It makes me wonder.  Do we have to just live with these things in our past, or can we somehow engage them.  I mean, we can’t undo the past.  Nor can we really repay it.  But can we transform it?  For example, why have we never organized a mission trip to hike together on one of these trails?  It would be a mission of repentance.  Can you imagine not only how it would build awareness and empathy;  but think about the possible relationships that would be forged.  Done well, this mission trip could be a powerful way for future justice. Not only could we work on repairing the past together, but we could work on transforming it for the salvation of many including the future of God’s people now divided by a wall of hostility.


[1] Randy Woodley, Living in Color: Embracing God’s Passion for Ethnic Diversity (Downer’s Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2001), pp. 154.

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