Home to Memphis: One Incoming Resident’s Story

New MTR Residents and MTR Camp interns are preparing now for their journey into urban education in Memphis. Ayanna McFarland shares her reflections below regarding her evolving relationship with MTR, which began in 2011 when an MTR resident was placed in her classroom at Whitehaven High School. Ayanna would eventually serve as a Campus Rep at Howard University for MTR, as an intern at MTR Camp last summer, and is joining the MTR Class of 2016 in May.

MTR Pre-Residency Reflections
Ayanna McFarland

“Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work” (Jeremiah 1:5a NCV)

It is now my senior year at Howard University and I have five days of student teaching left. In a few weeks I will pack up and start my journey home to Memphis $15 richer (my dad bet me Freshman year that I would not come back home). What has called me home? In the midst of all of the negative press that youth have recently received in Memphis, what calls me to serve the youth in Memphis?

Rewind almost exactly four years ago, to my senior year at Whitehaven High School in 2011.

Mr. Tuminaro, a resident from a program called Memphis Teacher Residency, took an interest in my life. At the end of class, we would talk about literature and grammar and teaching. I told him that teaching was not for me but Mr. Tuminaro told me that not only was teaching for me but so was Memphis Teacher Residency. He recognized that I was book-smart but he also saw my desire to serve others and the passion that I have for my city. He told me that school will teach me some strategies for teaching but that MTR will teach me how to prosper in real-life situations. I was intrigued.

At the same time, another teacher (who later became an MTR mentor), Mrs. Buford, told me that she saw the teacher in me. I said that I wanted to pursue business; I even wrote a fifteen year plan for my life and showed her how I would reach all of my goals. I put at the top of the plan “open for divine intervention”, which made her laugh for quite a while. She encouraged me to be flexible and that God would lead me in the right direction. She emphasized that I would be fine but I cannot plan the future. I thank God that nothing went as planned. God did intervene and my contrary spirit was tamed; I was to teach.

Okay, God, now what?

On June 28, 2011, I felt compelled to reach out to the program that Mr. Tuminaro had told me so much about. Here’s what an ambitious 18-year old “me” emailed:

To whom it may concern:

My name is Ayanna McFarland. I am an incoming freshman to Howard University. I plan to get my certification in D.C. and come back to my hometown, Memphis, to teach. As a senior in high school, I had experience with a resident teacher from another program. He was one of the best teachers that I’d ever had because of his experience in the residency program. I want to also become an exemplary teacher through MTR one day. I know that my application will not come across your desk until 2015, but I felt it important to express my interest before I leave for D.C. Thank you for your time!

I was offered a position as an MTR Campus Rep through which I learned more deeply about the benefits of the program. The community, the Christian emphasis, and the commitment to serving in urban areas were my constant talking points. Each time I talked to students about the program, I was also convincing myself. I found myself again listening to my own promotion for the first MTRCamp.

Fast-forward to my last summer as an undergraduate in 2014. I coordinated a program called Alternative Spring Break Memphis the previous semester and the children of Binghampton (an MTR partner neighborhood) had won my heart. I chose to join MTRCamp instead of teaching in Brazil. It was the best decision that I ever made.

Through MTRCamp, I had a true taste of what MTR is about: Christian love, equal education, community, and fun! Our days were long and some were harder than others but we lifted one another up. I found joy and peace through community in Binghampton. I could not wait to put in my application for MTR along with my new sisters and brothers in Christ.

Back to the present, when I am constantly bombarded with questions about why I want to teach, why I want to go back, why I want to serve the youth, I have but one answer: God has called me to do special work. He did not say easy work or ultra-prestigious work. I am using my gifts and talents to serve and I am not alone. MTR has already been a family to me, which has kept me on my track with God’s purpose for my life. My joy has overflowed and touched even my best friend who will now be joining the Class of 2016 this May! When I think of his wonders and how His plan all comes together for good, I must end by thanking God for allowing MTR to touch my life.

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To Whom Did He Come?

Author: David Montague | MTR President

Below is a portion of what David shared at the MTR Spring Selection Weekend dinner last Friday. He uses elements of Jesus’ first resurrection appearance to Mary Magdalene (John 20) and connects it to the work of urban education. Be encouraged this Easter weekend. He is risen!

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To Whom Did He come?

He came first to a woman.  A women with a “story”… a past… from whom seven demons had been cast out.  A women weeping.

14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

What do we know about women in the first century.  Women were seen as less than.  They did not carry the same rights or value or dignity as men.  Women were not considered valid witnesses either personally or in the court of law. For we know, from Josephus, that the Jews had added to the word of the law (which says that on the testimony of two or three only can anything be established), these words: “But let not the testimony of women be received, because of the frivolity of the sex.” The rabbinical teaching was that the testimony of one hundred women was not sufficient to refute that of one man.  In essence, they were not fully participating legal citizens.  They were marginalized and oppressed, systemically, in a male dominated world.  Add to that formally demon possessed and single with no protection from a husband, and you had someone on the lowest end of the social system.  She was the ultimate “Outsider”

Memphis is a collection of “outsiders”….  We are a “what good could ever come out of….” Type city.  We are a city with a questionable reputation… Routinely ranked in the top 10 of questionable / unsavory rankings of poverty and poor health.  And we are, of course, the city where one of our nations greatest leaders, MLK, was killed.

SCS, too, is a “less than” district.  For example, in a recent ranking of states, TN was rated as the 41st highest performing state putting us in the bottom 25% of all states.  Within TN, SCS is the lowest performing district.  Regarding poverty, approximately 85% of SCS students qualify for FRPL, while more than 40,000 students come from families that make less than $10,000 annually.

Memphis is a Mary Magdalene of cities… the type of people and place that Christ (and his people) come to first.  Not last.

(as an aside… isn’t it interesting that with Mary who was one of the only few to stay with him to his death was the first to see him at his resurrection… quite literally the last shall be first)

How did He come?

He came, nameless (anonymously), as a common gardener. 

14… At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

He broke into history, alive, resurrected… not appearing to Kings or the wealthy or the majority or the powerful.  He announced himself to the world anonymously.  Nameless.  A commoner.  Veiled.  Simple.  Plain.  A gardener.  Just a common man doing a common job.  Although I don’t think it is a simple coincidence that he came as a gardener… as He has come to create and cultivate a new world, and has called his people to also create and cultivate (see theme to MTR yearbook).

In the same way, teaching is an anonymous job.  It is not for the self-serving.  It is not for those of personal ambition.  It is not the place to make a name for yourself.

There are 7,000 teaching jobs in Memphis; teaching 100,000+ students in public schools. SCS is the second largest employer in Memphis with a total workforce of 16,000.  2nd only to FedEx’s 31,000 employees.  Methodist 12,000…. IP 2,200.

In education, you are often known as a 3rd grade teacher, or an Geometry teacher, or Middle School science…. Not as much Emily Tuberville, or Ben Rollins or Rebecca Rhodes.

You are often nameless and anonymous, doing a common job… common in the sense that you share the job/ role with 7,000 others (probably more than any other job in the city) and that the job must be applied to every child in our city, by law.

Yet, uncommon and glorious in that in what other profession can you have the right and obligation to shape and form minds and hearts more than any other person in their life, save possibly their parents.

What did He do?

He called her by Name.  And blessed her with purpose.

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Teacher! 17 …Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

His first word to her (following his question)…. His announcement of His coming as King of the World was not, look at me… it was you, “Mary”.

His first act, encounter, conversation, was appearing to and calling an outsider by her name.  It was saying “I see you, I know you, you are a person and individual.  I see you not as simple a female, or as a person, but as an individual worthy of my time and attention… despite your social status. Despite your issues.  Despite what the world thinks of you.

Interestingly, at the sound of her name, at nothing more than this life-giving dignity, Mary “got it”, she could see.  This value produced an ‘aha.’

So, we remember that we teach children and not subjects.

And you get the wonderful opportunity to go where the children are… to the modern day “well” necessary gathering place for all children.  And while you don’t go there talking about Jesus, you get to go there living like Jesus.  Seeing people.  Many of whom living with issues…  With a vision to see beyond their needs and seeing, knowing, loving them as individuals.

Please be encouraged that your work is strikingly similar and aligned to that most powerful and intentional moment in history… there is a wonderful purpose and story that accompanies your often very hard work.  So, thank you.

Have a great Easter weekend.


John 20:11-18

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.


The Voices Project Tour

Author: Lachelle Robotham | MTR Recruiter

I walked into this experience not knowing what to expect and walked away with one that I will likely never forget. Last week I had the opportunity to travel alongside the Voices Project as they toured four different HBCU’s and six different cities. I must say, I learned a lot and gained valuable insight and new perspectives.


The tour began in Richmond, Virginia with a morning devotional and a team meeting in Richmond’s historical Robinson Theater. This theater represents a piece of African American history and exists to help build healthy community; the perfect place to launch the Tour. We loaded the bus and headed to Murfreesboro, NC where we were met by snow and a room full of eager Chowan University students. From Chowan we traveled to Paine College, made a brief trip to the King Center in Atlanta, GA, followed by a visit to Jackson State University and finally to Dillard University in New Orleans, LA.


Each night we arrived on a different college campus and began the process of setting up a night of worship, spoken word, music, and a panel of African American leaders. Each member of the panel took turns responding to questions pertaining to topics such as: the role of the church in community development, investing knowledge and gifts into ones community, and the power of Christian love. These questions prompted responses such as “Isaiah 68 is for oppressed people all around the world. Not the oppressors. So that we will take the brokenness of the cities and rebuild them in a way that will bring dignity to every human being and glory to the name of our God“.


The goal of the Voices Project is to bring together African American leaders from several different spheres, including music, art, politics and education. Along with MTR, there were representatives from organizations such as Compassion International, the Christian Community Development Association, Mission Year, and Sojourners to name a few. These leaders use their voices to engage in activities and conversation about the African-American community and our role as leaders. As a representative of MTR, it was an opportunity to learn from those who have been long invested in various areas of social justice, each with the mutual goal of giving oppressed individuals and communities a voice.


It was an encouragement to see so many leaders fighting for the same things that MTR staff and teachers work for each and everyday. Hearing all these different voices and unique perspectives in one place affirmed in me the importance of asset based community development and the value that each person holds. When faith and justice collide, every voice has a greater opportunity to be heard.


A Crosstown Update

MTR recently received an update on the Crosstown project and Groundbreaking Announcement that we are excited to share! The renewal of the Sears Crosstown building has long been a dream for many in our city. In 2017, a portion of this huge building will house our new home, along with 14 other organizations plus other small businesses. Below is an email from the directors of the project. Read on to learn more about the progress of the construction and the Groundbreaking Ceremony on February 21, 2015.


Dear Crosstown Community,

Over five years ago, the Crosstown development team began what was considered to be an improbable journey to restore and redevelop one of the largest abandoned buildings in Tennessee.  It’s one of those cliche, underdog stories of passion and conviction confronted by skeptical snickers, laughter, and the predictable response: “you want to do what?!  In Memphis?  Yeah, good luck with that.”  Despite the building’s beloved history, prime location and iconic status, no one believed it could ever be redeveloped, much less transformed from debilitating blight into a community asset.  Admittedly, their doubt was not unfounded and probability was on their side.

Yet, here we all are five years later — on December 29, we closed financing on the Crosstown Project.  Our general contractor, Grinder Taber Grinder, was given a notice to proceed the next day, and we’ve now shifted from demolition work to the construction phase.  Thanks to an enormous amount of work by our design and development team, attorneys, Suntrust Bank, the City of Memphis, as well as your steadfast vision and commitment, miracle has been stacked upon miracle to create the most unlikeliest of milestones.  And the unlikely milestone is the most miraculous part — a one million square foot former distribution center in a severely disinvested area, where the poverty rate extends beyond 20% and unemployment is double the city’s average, will be resurrected not as an office complex, industrial park or sports arena, but as a mixed-use, vertical urban village that brings some of the city’s greatest resources in arts, education and healthcare to a community that needs them most.  A structure that is now completely empty and a detriment to the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses will be repopulated with 3000 people everyday who are going to work, to learn, to shop, to eat, to live, to create, and to heal.  Equally spectacular, this restoration is not the result of a single person or developer; it’s the product of a team of civic-minded individuals who love their city and joined forces with fifteen well-respected, local organizations that believe in the vision and want to be active participants in the new community.

Of course, none of this is possible without all of you and the hard work you have expended over the last few years.  As a result, impossible, jaw-dropping aspirations were achieved in 2014: 1) over 450,000 square feet of commercial space has been leased for a building that is still two years from opening; 2) $200 million in philanthropic, private, and public funding was secured to complete the project, including over $50 million in historic and new markets tax credits; 3) 38% of the apartments were pre-leased; 4) design and construction documents were fully completed and bids came in on budget (and our goal of awarding 25% of the work to certified minority and women owned businesses has been exceeded); and 5) hundreds of new construction jobs were created and economic regeneration in the area is already starting to occur.

This email started out as a simple update to inform everyone about financial closing, but as we considered it more, it felt appropriate to also remind us all of the genuine miracle that we are witnessing and the magnitude of the real estate and community development we are now embarking upon.  We use “embark” because, as we all know, this is just the beginning and not the end.  Much work, planning and implementation is still to be done.  As we’ve always communicated, success for us is not financial closing or even opening day — success is ten years from now when the building is still vibrant and all our tenants want to renew their leases.

All that said, this is a monumental moment worthy of being memorialized.  Here are the details for how we would like to celebrate with all of you and the Memphis community.


On February 21, 1927, Sears, Roebuck & Co. executives came to Memphis to break ground on what would become their seventh retail and distribution center (of ten built across the country).  88 years later — on Saturday, Feb 21, 2015 — we will break new ground for the Crosstown redevelopment.  Please plan to join us from 11:00-2:00 for the ceremony, which will include presentations, the launch of our new branding, exhibitions (including new renderings), an iron pour using old radiators from the building, live music, food, and much more.

We sincerely hope you, your staff, and your families will be able to join us on Feb 21st for the festivities to mark this exciting new chapter of our journey together.

Thanks again and all the best for a banner 2015!

Todd Richardson & McLean Wilson


In Honor of MLK Day


Author: David Montague | MTR President 

MLK was the leader of the Civil Rights movement.  The defining aspect of the Civil Rights movement was the technique known as non-violent resistance.  MLK had to convince blacks that the only way for them to win rights and equality was by protesting… non-violently.

This, of course, was very hard to do.  So he constantly wrote and spoke about non-violence.  In fact, he came up with five points of non-violence and as cities took up causes (for example the Memphis sanitation worker strike) he, and people from his organization, would go to these cities and teach for weeks on non-violence.

I found his five points of non-violence brilliant, powerful and joyfully rooted in the gospel.

It is to each person’s benefit to have read his five points of non-violence.  It is historically and personally valuable.  Very much worth your time to read it.  Ideally today.  I’ve edited together some of his comments from an essay he wrote entitled An Experiment in Love to condense but keep the essence… and added a few of my takeaways.

An Experiment in Love

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Christian Love… imparts value by loving.  What gives man value is not what is in him; what gives him value is precisely the fact that God loves him.

“The guiding principle of the Civil Rights movement is Christian Love.  The Sermon on the Mount is the initial inspiration of the Negroes of Montgomery for social action.  It was Jesus that stirred the Negroes to protest with the creative weapon of love.”

Christian LOVE is the IDEAL (spirit / motivation); Non-violent resistance is the TECHNIQUE.  Protest with the creative weapon of love.

“Christ furnished the spirit and motivation”… and the method (cross).

Aspects of Non-Violent Christian Love.

1. Love leads to ACTIVE non-violence.

Violence would be both impractical and immoral.  This would only intensify the existence of evil.  Hate begets hate.  Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding.

Non-violence is not a method for cowards.  It does resist.  No group must submit to wrong, nor do they need to use violence to right that wrong.  There is the way of non-violent resistance.  This is the way of the strong man.

It is not passive.  While he is not physically aggressive, his mind and emotions are always active, constantly seeking to persuade his opponent that he is wrong.  Passive physically but strongly active spiritually.

2. Non-violence does NOT seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent.

…But seeks to win friendship and understanding.

Non-violence means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent.  The end is redemption and reconciliation.  The aftermath of non-violence is the creation of a beloved community.  The aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.

3. Non-violence is an attack directed against the forces of evil rather than against the persons who happen to be the doing of the evil.  It is EVIL (Satan) the non-violent resister seeks to defeat, not the persons doing the evil.  The basic tension is not between races… The tension is between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and darkness.  And if there is a victory, it will be a victory for justice and light.  WE are out to defeat injustice and not white persons who may be unjust.

4. Non-violence is willing to accept suffering without retaliation.

“rivers of blood may have to flow before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood.”

One may ask, “What is the nonviolent resister’s justification for this ordeal for which he invites men, for this mass political application of the doctrine of turning the other cheek?”  The answer is in the realization that unearned suffering is redemptive.  Suffering, the Christian says, has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.  “Things of fundamental importance to people are not secured by reason alone, but have to be purchased with their suffering.”

5. Non-violent resistance avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. 

The resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but also refuses to hate him.

At the center of the movement is Christian love.

Along the way of life, someone must have the sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate.

This “love” is not referring to affectionate sentimental love.  It would be nonsense to urge men to love their oppressors in an affectionate sense.  Christian love is an overflowing love which is unmotivated, groundless and creative.  It is not set in motion by any quality of function of its object.  It is the glory of God operating in the human heart.  Christian love seeks not his own good, but the good of his neighbor.. It does not discriminate between worthy and unworthy people, or qualities of people possess.  It begins by loving others for their sakes.  LOVE discovers the “neighbor in every man.”  And the best way to determine if you have this love is to love those with nothing to gain in return.

This love springs from the NEED in the other person.

This form of non-violence is also known as GRACE.  And grace has a place in the Civil Rights movement… as well as in MTR, Memphis schools, our city, our nation… Non-violent resistance very much still has a role in our lives today.

20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—

Colossians 1:20-22


Snappy Casual: A Story of How Memphis Changed My Wardrobe

Author: Sam Moseley | MTR Camp Staff ’14 | Blog Post via “The Secondary Source

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“I like your shirt” she said to me.  “You might not be able to get away with that if you were in the residency program, but for summer camp it’s great”.

I was wearing a short sleeve button up shirt and khaki shorts. The shirt was a few different colors and maybe it didn’t have a “traditional” pattern, but I thought it was appropriate. After all, the dress code on our schedule read “snappy casual”. I figured that meant somewhere in between gym shorts and a t-shirt and khaki pants and a polo. My idea of snappy casual was more than casual but less than business casual. Seems fair right?

This episode happened at the opening dinner for the camp I taught reading at last summer in Memphis. While nobody slapped me on the wrist for my choice of clothing, I found out later that the program I was working for had a different idea of snappy casual than I did. I figured this out through interacting with the program’s teaching residents.

Our camp staff had lunch with the residents one day and I asked a girl, “Do y’all have to dress this way everyday?”

All of the gentlemen were in button down shirts and ties, some of them with jackets. The ladies all wore dresses or professional looking skirts and blouses. She kind of laughed.

“Yeah, they like us to dress snappy casual”.

“Wait… this is snappy casual?” I thought in my mind. What about business casual? Did it just get pushed aside? Is it not a thing anymore? If ties mean snappy casual, what is business professional? At this point, I realized that my idea of standard teaching clothes was different than this organization’s idea that hired me. Throughout my six and a half weeks in Memphis I pondered the standard of snappy casual. Here are my reflections on the dress code:

·      Creating a new norm The organization I was working for is creating a new norm for their residents. They are redefining their teachers’ concepts of an acceptable wardrobe. Consequently, when residents leave the program, wearing ties to work everyday will be second nature, almost like breathing (well… maybe not quite that natural, but close).

·      Setting a personal standard of professionalism This program is personally raising the bar for its residents. Sure, some teachers might wear ties or dresses to work already, but this year there are upwards of 75 new teachers in Memphis schools promoting snappy casual. Memphis is seeing a personal standard of professionalism that considers teaching as something to “dress up” for everyday.

·      Showing students they are worth it One of the messages that snappy casual is sending is that students are worth these teachers’ time. How a people dresses is in part a reflection of the value they place on the context they are in. If businessmen are going to a conference meeting, they dress accordingly because they have predetermined the value of the meeting. Snappy casual is giving value to students and indirectly telling them “You are worth getting up for and putting on this tie. You are important”.

If you knew me before this year, you have probably noticed a change in my wardrobe since last year. I wear more bow ties. I wear slacks to class. Many people ask me why I am dressed up. They ask if I am going to a meeting or if I have been at a school. Sometimes I have been in one or both of these scenarios that day. Other times, I am simply going to class. Junior year Sam would have been content going to class in a backwards cap and a hoody. I don’t think wearing casual clothes to class is wrong; I just have personally assigned a different value to how my classes contribute to my professional development than I did before. Next time you see me in Bailey or Palko, you will know that Memphis is largely responsible for the bow ties I wear.

Next year, by God’s grace, I’ll be teaching English at a local high school. I consider this year as preparation for my vocation. Part of that preparation includes figuring out what I want my wardrobe to look like. I have decided to adopt the theme of snappy casual, because I want to create a new norm for myself. I want to create a personal standard of professionalism that conveys to students they are worth my time.

Read more on “The Second Source” from Texas Christian University Education Majors.

Read more about Sam’s vision for teaching on TCU’s website here. (photo credit)


A Word on Ferguson

The recent events in Ferguson, Missouri have been on the hearts and minds of all of us at MTR. David Montague, MTR President, sent an email addressing the topic to MTR staff and teachers before the Thanksgiving holiday. Because of the importance and relevance of the topic to our work in urban education, we have shared the email below.


5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8


In response to last week’s Ferguson Grand Jury verdict, I intend to simply express a few “so that’s” which I think are timely and relevant particularly for the family and community we call MTR. Such as…

1. So that I might publicly express my recognition of and sorrow for a past and present story of wicked injustices African Americans have endured for centuries in our country. And by doing so, I hope to show a measure of respect and appreciation for our African American MTR family for their positive responses to these injustices.

2. So that I (as a white Christian leader), and our organization, would NOT ignore or minimize the deep frustrations of mostly African Americans as expressed in the reaction to the Ferguson verdict through a silence that might imply indifference. And by doing so, I hope to provide some context and understanding (without condoning) for the sometime violent responses to this event.

3. So that I might give some encouragement for how MTR staff and teachers might respond in the most constructive way possible. And by doing so, I hope to provide a renewed vision for a healthy community as our MTR opportunity today.

So, as concisely as is appropriate…

1. I’m Sorry.

Where do we even begin?

Within the slavery era, in 1787, the Three-Fifths Compromise allocated for purposes of a state’s population that slaves be considered 3/5 of a person.

The Naturalization Act of 1790 specified that “any immigrant, being a free white person,” could apply for citizenship, while it excluded indentured servants, free blacks and slaves, who were regarded as “property” and not “persons.”

One hundred years later Jim Crow

Laws began to rule our southern states with legal segregation that reinforced the psychological wounds of slavery, supported our cultural biases and protected majority privileges and positions.

Following Brown v. Board of Education that declared legal segregation in schools unconstitutional (and was largely the death of the Jim Crow era), racism and racial prejudices continued to depress opportunities for African Americans. Redlining and Covenant Restrictions worked to largely remove African Americans from the wealth building opportunities of property and home ownership.

I recognize this is a very small list of unending injustices suffered by African Americans at the hands of white leadership for hundreds of years in America. And it is these injustices (and their aftermaths) that have provided a current dynamic that provides today advantages, privileges and momentum for whites and obstacles, frustrations and skepticism for African Americans.

It is a reality of our very broken nation led historically and daily by broken and sinful men and women.

For these injustices, and the many other stories of injustices executed by the white majority in power, I am aware and sorry.

I just wanted you to know that.

2. Ferguson is about this context.

In A Decision in Ferguson: How Should (white) Evangelicals Respond?, Ed Stetzer writes “For many, this is about an incident. Yet, for many African Americans, it’s about a system.”

The riots and protests following the Ferguson verdict are not simply a reaction to this verdict but a response to the frustration and disadvantages that an unfair system has imposed on an entire race for generations. And particularly galling, African Americans rarely feel as though whites are aware of, or care about, this history.

And particularly in the context of Ferguson, memories of Emmett Till, Rodney King and Trayvon Martin are refreshed… all stories of black boys or men suffering under the violence of white men who went unpunished, rightly or wrongly. These stories are the very personal and graphic faces that serve as the personification of the evils mentioned above to African Americans. And these moments of violence serve to expose the nerves of past injustices.

3. Where do we go from here?

3.a. Recently, I read Martin Luther King’s book Where Do We Go From Here? At one point, he explains the discussion Civil Rights leaders had over the participation of whites in the movement. In strong support of white participation and of the Beloved Community, MLK writes, “Like life, racial understanding is not something that we find but something that we must create. A productive and happy life is not something that you find; it is something that you make. And so the ability of [African Americans] and whites to work together, to understand each other, will not be found ready made; it must be created by the fact of contact.”

So, where do we go from here? I think a unique opportunity at MTR is that we have an intentional interracial community with plenty of “contact”. And, through the power of God and His shared wisdom and desire of a peaceful and diverse Kingdom, we create… we work together for unity as a necessity for the success of our MTR mission and as a display of the gospel of Jesus Christ that unites people to a citizenship and race that transcends our earthly existence. It is a choice and an intentionality that we commit to living within a people set on racial understanding and peace.

But this is not ready made. It is not natural in this world.

And so this is a tremendous opportunity for us to display the greatness of God that allows us to to express repentance, forgiveness, grace, love and unity to one another within a society and nation that more often than not expresses anger, violence, distrust and disunity among races and cultures.

In other words, there’s more going around here than just a pursuit of equal education. 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. -Galatians 3:26-28

There is this opportunity to demonstrate within our ranks a community that lives together and loves one another as one in Christ Jesus, as sisters and brothers…to create this community at MTR and within a nation that more often than not runs from this community. See above.

3.b. Instead of being ashamed or negligent with our privileges, we use them for the benefit of others.

All our privileges, our wealth, status, power, experience, history, cultural or social awarenesses, relationships, reputation… are what they are. They are ours today by God’s grace.

So, privilege (whether white or black) is NOT to be a negative term but neutral that can be used for good or bad.

We use for good through leveraging our privilege for the sake of others and calling out the misuse of privilege at all costs.

And ultimately, we look to Christ as the model of the use of privilege…

Jesus had incredible privilege… but it was not negative. He used it for the sake of others. See Philippians 2:5-8 above.

So may we at MTR.

May our city take note of what God can do among us.


On Careers and Choices and Being Afraid of Both

Author: Daniel Warner | MTR ’14 | East High School

View More: http://gretchenshawphotography.pass.us/mtr2013

Coming back after moving somewhere else awards me a new title. I am the old friend. It’s better than “my friend from out of town,” because with it comes a sense of familiarity, the kind of sweetness friendship acquires only after much time has passed.  Yet I am the old friend, and this sets me apart, and it reminds me that I made a decision nearly a year and a half ago now to leave.

With age comes opportunity, and with opportunity comes choice. Opportunity makes choice necessary, for there is little reason to have many opportunities if no decisions are to be made.

It is the quintessence of privilege to have more than one option—“Which college do I like the most? Which job makes me feel the most alive?”—these are the questions privilege can ask, questions about what is best, not what is simply attainable.  We see options as paralyzing and we function out of fear instead of realizing that meaningful choice is a gift experienced by few. A gift with consequences, but a gift nonetheless.

Choice is the weapon we must learn to wield the most wisely, but too often being “wise” with our choices leads us to fear our choices. We are nervous to close the door on other opportunities, but at its root, choice is saying yes to one thing and no to another.

I think it’s easier to receive orders, to take commands from a superior, than to choose for myself. If I am taking orders, then I can see myself as noble for doing the job even if I don’t like it. But if I choose it myself, then I have no nobility to feel and I have no one but myself to blame if it isn’t everything I had hoped. This is the fear at the heart of decision making.

Being back at Belmont yesterday got me thinking about this. All the “I don’t knows” coming from behind a nervous smile when I asked what’s next after school. There is so much paralysis when it comes to decision making, especially when it’s about our future–the perfect place for an idyllic version of myself to do nothing but what is right and good.

The sooner we embrace that our future, like our past, will not be perfect, the sooner we will feel free to decide. And here’s the reality. If you are following Jesus, honestly praying about stuff and seeking out counsel, there is no wrong choice. Our discernment is not perfect, in fact it oftentimes errs on the side of playing it safe. Discernment doesn’t mean doing the easy thing, neither does “being wise.” Christian freedom means you are allowed to try something out, fail, move on, and try something different. So jump in. You can only stare at the ocean for so long before it’s time to jump in. All the way in. That’s what we are meant for.

We’ve somehow made it okay to live a halfhearted Christian life as long as we speak the right way about our decisions that are really based more on maintaining our safety net than on following the call of Jesus.  The call to come and die sounds foolish to anyone who doesn’t know Jesus. The call to come and die will look reckless to anyone who doesn’t believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain (yes, even Christians who don’t believe this yet). The way we give our money should look silly to outsiders, the way we seek out the least of our world should cause uneasiness, the way we don’t get hung up on getting promoted or being noticed should make people think we are a little off.

And that’s what we are. A little off. A little captivated by a vision of a different kingdom, of a different King. So go follow that King, and don’t worry about if you’re climbing a corporate ladder or if you are making the perfect decision. You’re making a decision, and that’s the first step to going down any path at all, maybe even a path that God has called you to. The pressure’s off, just jump in.

To hear more from Daniel, check out his full blog, “Written Thoughts, Once a Week for a Year”.

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Community Partner Highlight: Streets Ministries

Interview with Kelechi Ordu | Site Director, Streets Ministries – Graham Heights

Streets Ministries-Graham Heights is a Christian youth development organization located on the same block as Kingsbury Elementary, Middle, High Schools

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Kingsbury Schools, MTR, & Streets: Neighbors and Partners

Streets Ministries is an extension of the space available to Kingsbury teachers and students. During the school day, teachers can bring their students to our computer labs. Teachers also use our space for student incentives during the school day and after school. The eighth graders were just here for a mini field day, with competitions between homerooms. The schools have had dance parties here to raise money for sports teams. We partner with our schools for homecoming: We encourage kids to go to the game to support the team and we’ll have a party – a “fifth quarter” – at Streets afterwards. The high school does a college fair here every year. The middle school and Streets partner to do seminars for the students. The teachers ask Streets staff to design curriculum and teach classes to address areas where middle school students need to grow, topics like self-esteem and hygiene.

Building Relationships with Teachers & Supporting Kids Together

Monday nights we open up the gym for teachers to play basketball. It makes my job and my life a lot sweeter being able to build deeper relationships with the teachers. When stuff happens with kids, teachers and Streets staff get to exchange information and help each other out. We had a girl with Asperger’s, and I don’t think her teachers knew about it. Because her mom had told us at Streets about her condition, we were able to relay that information to the teachers. The teachers now understand, so they can provide grace for this child and support her well. Teachers have done the same thing for us: When situations happen at school or at home, teachers will reach out to us at Streets and ask us to talk with students, to connect with them. We can relate better with our students through relationships with Kingsbury teachers.

It’s been a blessing for us at Streets to be able to provide teachers a doorway to meet kids outside of the classroom and for us to have teachers here to love on this community the way they do.

Excerpt from MTR Yearbook: Community Matters

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Education and the Beloved Community

Author: David Montague | MTR President | Excerpt from Community Matters: 2014 MTR Yearbook

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In 1819, Washington Irving wrote a short story titled “Rip Van Winkle.” In it, an idle farmer named Rip Van Winkle wanders across a group of odd men playing nine-pins and drinking moonshine. Rip joins in the fun, falls asleep, and awakens—at first unknowingly—20 years later. As he returns to his town, much has changed, including the sign above his favorite tavern that now features a picture of General George Washington in the spot that formerly held the image of King George III of England. And there is the most interesting point of the story: Rip had, in fact, not only slept 20 years, but had also slept through an entire revolution.

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., would often use this illustration as an image of the many in our nation asleep in the middle of the civil rights revolution, unaware or unwilling to embrace it. Another revolution continues today in the realm of public, urban education. In the past 20 years we have seen an amazing change in the public education landscape with the creation of charter schools, alternative certification programs, school vouchers, Recovery and Achievement School Districts, state standards, the Common Core, and more.

When it comes to public education, the white evangelical church has for years been on the wrong side of history—asleep for decades, if you will. I notice a sort of awakening, however, among Christians of all races and denominations who are returning to an essential of our faith: serving the common good, beginning with the most marginalized. People are realizing that working for excellent public education is a valid response to God’s call to “bring good news to the poor . . . proclaim release to the captives . . . [and] let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18-19). The time is now to respond to the gospel by ensuring that all children, made equally in God’s image, receive a quality education.

As we describe in the 2014 MTR Yearbook, we engage in a gospel-centered response to the unfair differences in academic achievement between children in poverty and their wealthier peers. And our hope is that our work in education in Memphis will not only serve as our personal response to the gospel, but will also encourage the Church nationally. To that desire, I would like to propose an understanding of both the GOAL, or vision, and the MOTIVATION, or mission, for the Christian in education.


“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, good will among people.” -Luke 2:14


“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” -Luke 10:27

[Read the full explanation of the GOAL and the MOTIVATION in Community Matters: 2014 MTR Yearbook]