Corporate Confession – Amazing Grace – Mama Jones

by DanWolgemuth on June 12, 2020

1974. I was 19. Just finishing my first year in college.

Roughly 600 miles from where I lived in a dormitory, a young, lovely woman, walked into a Youth For Christ facility in Kansas City, Missouri. She was joined by a few of her family and friends. They were with her, at her invitation to participate in what Judi Jones had been hearing so much about… a youth rally. A place with music and preaching. A place to listen and learn. A place to hear about Jesus with other young people.

Upon walking into the YFC location at the corner of Rainbow and 47th Street, Judi and her group were greeted by an usher. An usher who confidently and firmly announced that he wanted to take them to a special section in the auditorium. Without delay he escorted the group up the stairs to a balcony section. He politely seated them and left.

As the minutes passed, and the main floor of the auditorium filled, the harsh reality of what had just happened sank deeply into Judi’s mind, heart and soul. She watched as polite racism pierced her pride and then her posture with her friends. The group in the seats below them was white. Judi and the others she had invited in her exuberant naivety were black.

As the program began, Judi sat in isolation. She and her entourage, the captives of polished hatred.

I know this story because I heard it from the grace-soaked heart of Judi (Mama) Jones herself. She attended a YFC Champions event in Kansas City a year ago. Alex Matthew and his team were in the process of relaunching YFC in Kansas City. And in a casual conversation after a beautiful meal, I asked Mama Jones how she had gotten connected to YFC. She told me this story. Without malice. Without anger. But honestly. Painfully.

YFC. The organization I love. The organization I represent. The Movement that carries the message of hope and love to overlooked young people… guilty. Hideously guilty.

It was why, Mama Jones had urged caution when we approached Alex Matthew about joining our team. She loved Alex, but a trip to the balcony had informed her skepticism. And amazingly, as Alex pressed forward, Mama Jones provided support and encouragement. She was extravagant with grace.

I’m not sure what I said to Judi Jones that night in Kansas City. I know that in some recoiling manner I apologized. But I’ve come to believe that a single apology to a beautiful sister in Christ simply isn’t enough. The reputational stain leaks. It impacted urban families and communities. The stench of hatred lingers. It hangs in the air like fog on a windless day.

Racism. Call it what it is. The arrogance of the majority at the expense of the vulnerable. And God weeps. And frankly, so do I.

A rogue usher, perhaps.  An isolated event, maybe.  But regardless, as the man who for the past 15 years has carried the YFC USA business card that says… President/CEO, I confess.  This blight.  This hideous act of cowardice.  I confess our corporate sin.

O Master, great and august God. You never waver in your covenant commitment, never give up on those who love you and do what you say. Yet we have sinned in every way imaginable. We’ve done evil things, rebelled, dodged and taken detours around your clearly marked paths. (Daniel 9:4-5, MSG)

“We have sinned…”

Corporate confession. We. Sinned. Daniel owned the sin. And so must I.

I confess to Mama Jones… and to her family and friends, that we, that I sinned. YFC failed her. God didn’t fail her. We did. And as such, I grieve. And as such, I commit to bring to light what has been hidden in the darkness. Because sin, however politely it’s postured is toxic and destructive until it is exposed. As sin.

Such grace from this beautiful soul. Now embraced with confession.

“Judi Jones… Mama Jones, I am so sorry. On behalf of my YFC family, forgive us. Forgive me.”

Lord forgive us. Change us. Propel us.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Bill Cummins June 12, 2020 at 10:12 AM

Very well said. I remember the same thing happening at the Detroit YFC in the 60’s.


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