A Walk in My Shoes: Derrick’s Story

Aug 25, 2016

Derrick DeLain is the campus pastor at the Blue Ridge campus. He laughs easily and makes everyone around him feel at ease, and he has a passion for drawing people to Christ.

Derrick is also black, which was often a challenging experience growing up in a small North Carolina town. His private Christian school lacked diversity and tolerance, and Derrick was constantly picked on. He often got into fights trying to defend himself. Tragically, Derrick grew up thinking that white Christians didn’t love or even care about him.

But there was a white coach at his school who was different. He invested in Derrick and Derrick couldn’t deny that Christ was real in this coach’s life. Through the discipleship of this coach, Derrick became a Christ follower and began to work through some of his past resentment and anger. God had begun to soften his heart.

“In the end, Christ ultimately stands as the bridge between the races,” Derrick said. “He commands us to be agents of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-21) and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31).”

Derrick admitted that many of us come from environments that don’t foster bridge-building, but fear of the unknown. He recounted examples, for instance, of white people responding with fear as he approached.

Derrick wants to see the Church overcome this fear and move toward compassion. “We need to weep with those who are weeping,” he said “Right now in our country, our black brothers and sisters are weeping. Members of law enforcement are weeping. They’re in a great deal of pain.” So instead of saying a passing “Hello,” we should ask our black co-workers how they feel. We should talk with members of law enforcement about their experience. Then we listen without trying to insert our own opinion. We don’t have to know all the information to be able to love someone who’s in pain.

Stepping out of our comfort zone is also key to reconciliation.

“We need to be humble and think about these things through the lens of the gospel. And for that reason we need to have a conversation. It comes down to saying, ‘I hate what’s going on, and I can’t truly comprehend what you’re going through, but I want to know. How can I be an advocate for you?’ If we’re going to build bridges, we have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

By Elizabeth Ashford
Volunteer Writer

Recommended reading: United by Faith by Curtiss Paul DeYoung, Michael O. Emerson, George Yancey, and Karen Chai Kim;Divided by Faith by Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson; Oneness Embraced by Tony Evans