This Work Starts with You with Latasha Morrison

Jennie Allen
June 18, 2020

Jennie Allen

Bible teacher, founder of IF:Gathering
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Latasha Morrison is one of my best friends in the world. We have been in the trenches together, started organizations alongside each other, and it has been an honor to get to do life with her. From the moment she walked into my life, she has blessed me endlessly. The work Tasha has done has brought those kinds of friendships into my life. I can not tell you how much this work has blessed me. With the state of our world, you might feel overwhelmed. You want to help, but you don't know how or where to start. That's what this conversation is for.


On the other side of this work, you could find the best friends you've ever had. I am the biggest cheerleader for this work and what Latasha has done. She leads an organization called Be the Bridge. It's an incredible organization, and I want to start by asking how it has felt this week with the weight of everything that's going on. 

I think this week has been heavy, but this week specifically has been hopeful. It's been hopeful for a lot of reasons, and I'll even point to our relationship. We're in the midst of a pandemic, and we've had a lot happening the last few months. But this relationship, you've been texting me, and what we have goes beyond what we do. You're someone I can go to with business and ministry questions, leadership issues, etc. What's hopeful is we're not where we were five years ago in this conversation. That's what I'm hopeful about. We're not where we should be, but we've come a long way. I'm realizing this week that there were seeds that were planted in people, and some of those seeds that have planted, there have been some blinders removed, and there is some deeper leaning into the conversation. These are things we have prayed for. Our organization prays weekly for this, we fast for this, and we are putting our spiritual disciplines to work for this issue. We know that this work has to be led through prayer. I think what we're seeing now is the response in some ways that's a fruit of that work. There is a remnant that is getting it. There's a remnant that's not going to be on the wrong side of history this time. There's a remnant that is wanting to be the headlights of this and not the tail lights. There's a remnant that is ready for change and the blinders and the scales are removing from their eyes. That's the hope that I have. We understand that God's movements, a lot of time they don't involve the majority of people, they usually involve remnants. I'm just grateful to be able to see and understand this work. I'm really hopeful.


I'm hopeful too. Partly because I've gotten to live this out for seven years and I think that the best is yet to come, waking up is powerful and yes it's a great moment, but our hope is that you would really lean into this conversation and into this work for the rest of your life. So let's start with just the next steps, because everybody hears that and they're like what do you mean for the rest of my life? Let's start with the person that feels the most helpless. What does it look like to engage this work next?

This is the thing - if you're not in a diverse society or community, this work starts with you. You can do this work without another person, because there's so much happening on the internet, communities you can be a part of, organizations you can participate in, people you can follow, but really this work starts in your heart. You can not lead anybody where you're not willing to go yourself. You want to do this work in an authentic manner. You don't want to just say, let me go and get some words from a book when you haven't put in the work. It's about you being able to lean into this. This is a lifestyle, this is not a box that you check. This is a lifestyle movement and a part of discipleship. This is a part of spiritual formation when we start talking about righteousness and justice. That's the important part we have to realize. This is not just a headline, a trend, or a hashtag. This is the work of justice - seeking justice, doing justice, and rendering justice. We want to make sure we are educating ourselves. It may start with you personally finding a book to commit to reading, finding five people you're going to start following on social media, a movie you're going to watch, etc. I would encourage everyone to watch 12 Years a Slave, and there's also a PBS Series about African American history. That's a really important one. You want to watch some stuff where you're making sure you're looking through the lens of African Americans. Our organization has a lot of beginning stuff to give you some pointers. Don't get discouraged if you're not in a diverse community. Proximity is great, but it's not the only solution because there are people who are proximite to people of color, but have not changed. They have not educated themselves. Enslaved people were proximite to white people, and nothing changed. Even in some situations now, there are people who are proximite with people of color, but they're not listening. Proximity works when you're listening. I would say if you're not in proximity with people of color, start with a book or a movie. Just do the next right thing. Educate yourself through this journey.


I want to add to that just a little bit, because I remember a time where I did not feel like we had very much diversity in our lives. It broke my heart and I started praying, and I asked the Lord to bring me friends of color. I asked that it would happen organically, and sure enough, it did. When we moved to Dallas again, it was the same prayer. One of my very, very best friends is African American, and she moved around the same time as me. I just think we've got to be praying those prayers and God will bring those people. I do think relationships are helpful in this storyline for me personally.

Especially if you're in a relationship with a person who gets it. Just remember, as African Americans, we're not monolithic. Everybody's not well-versed in this because we have grown up in the same type of world that you've grown up in. Many of us have gone to the same type of churches that you've gone to. You have to realize that every black person doesn't want to have this conversation. It's good to have more than one friend. You want to have multiple friends. You want to have people who grew up in different environments. My lived experience is totally different from my best friend who grew up somewhere else. We've experienced totally different things. Even some of my cousins, our life has been very different and how we see things and our perspectives are different. I think that's important. You can probably relate to that because you think about yourself, and you're not like every white person. No group is monolithic, and we have to approach that with that understanding. Friendships are important and valuable, and I think that is the thing that has helped me as it relates to my life, having been exposed to all different types of people, having conversations, and developing cultural intelligence. That's a key thing in how we see the world and our views. People of color are very collective. Those are some things as you pick up books and are trying to seek change, God will meet you right there. I've seen too many people like yourself Jennie, who didn't have any friends and began to pray and something would happen.


One of our values at IF:Gathering is that "we work with God" and when you do, miracles happen! We couldn't have humanely strategized all this stuff and brought the right people together, but he can. I want to get to the circles, because that's how our friendship began and deepened. It was the first Be The Bridge group! You passed around a little elephant and whoever had the elephant could talk, and everybody else had to listen. You knew how to lead that in your bones. You just knew what the room needed to succeed. It was so amazing to watch because I would've never thought to do that. But that's exactly what made our group bond - the listening that was involved in the first several months. Talk just a little bit about our group and how that led to thousands more that now exist.

A lot of times we don't know each other because we don't listen to each other. We have to create an environment that can be restorative, be brave, and be heard, especially voices that have been marginalized. What happened in that room, because we're all leaders, we would've talked over each other and overpowered each other. The talking stick created that space that we needed so that everyone had an opportunity. So those who had different personalities that wouldn't typically speak up, they would fall in the background, had a chance. Culturally, there were groups that would not do that unless you create space for them to speak and that's what the talking stick does. It creates space for everyone to speak if they would like to. So we did that and what was restoring about that community that we built was the white people who came there to listen. It was therapeutic for us to not feel challenged on our experiences or our thoughts. I know this doesn't happen in every group, but that was a gift that was given to us in that group. Many of us, as people of color, had come into that group and never had the space to talk openly about what happened to ourselves, our parents, or our grandparents that we felt was unjust. We also had freedom to talk about how we experienced the world. Our experiences are not universal. You gave us space to do that. You didn't center yourselves. You listened. I was talking to another woman of color from that group the other day, and she said it was so therapeutic because those were things we had never shared outside of our family or our race. That was a gift. I encourage people to get involved in some of these offline groups. Get connected with people, get connected with people at different churches, find out who your neighbors are, download this discussion guide. We didn't have a discussion guide! But we showed up and did this work early on, and now out of that, we were able to build what we now have, which is Be the Bridge.


Those groups are happening everywhere. There's now discussion guides and a book called Be The Bridge. You've got to get it! I'm kind of giggling over here because I experienced something most people can't even imagine: a reluctant Tasha Morrison. I say that because you knew it was going to cost. I think that's where a lot of people are. I want you to speak to that person who's just kind of tired. The world is kind of falling apart and we just want our people and tacos. Let's talk about those people and what would you say to them? Because you also have been there. You wanted a comfortable life. You didn't know if you wanted to do this work, because look at the history of the people that do this work. It's not positive. Some have lost their lives because of it. Talk about that reluctance and talk about why it's worth it.

Yeah, who signs up for discomfort? Nobody really wants to do that. Nobody wants to sign up for pain. A lot of this conversation around race is so painful and has so many layers. There's so much that we haven't repented of. Who wants to sign up for that? But for me, my conviction was, look what Jesus signed up for, when we were imperfect, when we were broken. In the midst of that, Jesus gave his life so that we could live and have relationship with God the Father. When I think about that, where did Jesus ever find comfort? When I signed up for this, I felt like there was a part of me identifying with Christ. You have this marginalized person that came from Nazareth - what good comes out of Nazareth? It is the upside down Kingdom of God. Every step that Jesus took and every person that he engaged with, he saw them. He stepped into their brokenness and stepped into their discomfort and stepped into their sin, and he offered life and redemption and a new way. I think for me, that's the thing that keeps me going in this. I know there's a lot of people doing this work, but I could not do this apart from Jesus. So Jennie, I do this work because I love God. I do this work because it's a part of my faith - an extension of my faith. I'm compelled to do this work. I didn't sign up for this - who chooses this? Who leaves their job with no health insurance, no nothing, moves to Texas, and your family is looking at you like huh? Who does this? But when you feel called by God and he shows you every step of the way to trust him. I remember you describing this - it was either in your books or I heard you when you were teaching. It's like stepping off onto the next rock, then another one is revealed to you and you step on that one, and you keep going. It's a trust thing, and that's what I've had to do every step of the way. In human terms, God has enough credits with me over my life that I can fully trust and surrender my life to God. I think that's what I do daily. Even this year, I told my team that even when it feels like people are not supporting your work and you're grinding and you're taking every resource you have and you're squeezing it as much as you can to help God's people. You just feel like that's not returned to you, but God will reveal another step. 


Man has he revealed one right now. All that work, it was preparation for a moment when the world would be watching and listening. You were ready and you can put these tools in their hands and I just get so excited, because think of how many groups have already been built. How many restorative conversations have happened?

This conversation through Be the Bridge is happening in every state except for two. I don't know about a group in Montana or Hawaii, but I'm willing to go to both places to start a group. I was amazed to see people that are having these conversations in Utah. These groups look different - we're not chapters. We're lead by people, communities, churches, neighborhoods, and schools. It's just a group of people who downloaded something from our website and are going through it together - BTB 101, BTB 2.0 discussion guide, or a discussion guide from my book.


I think a great step is reading through the Be the Bridge book and doing it with a group of friends who want to take the next step. The more diverse you can make that circle, the better, but start with who you've got. Whoever is interested in the conversation. Whoever wants to take the next step. I'm telling you - we both are saying it - God will bring the right people. God will cause the next right step. That rock will show up when you're standing in the middle of the ocean, and you'll know. 

I think that's a discipline to get you to pray to this specific need and space - to ask God to show up. 


I know all of you are wondering, okay, what do we do? The whole premise here was what's next and what do we do? You really believe that this is Kingdom work. This is the Kingdom being built on earth as it is in Heaven. We want to be people that do it all - to pray and yield our spiritual weapons that God gives us and it talks about in 2 Corinthians 10 - we have been given divine weapons to destroy strongholds. We fight these spiritual forces of evil that have held us for too long in this place. Part of that is also action. We make choices that change our world and that change our families' world. My kids are better racial advocates - Kate Allen has been leading her peers if you follow her on Instagram - have your teenagers do it! She has been giving resources, telling people what to do next, and that's because of Tasha's investment in our lives. That's because Auntie Tasha and Auntie Faith and all of the aunties she has! 

We were giving Kate an earful in Rwanda! Because she's a leader.


She is a leader. That's because we've done this work and it's bled into our family and into our conversations with our small group and into our church and into our greater world. I want to encourage you - I know it feels like this work is slow and wondering if it's really going to make a difference. It starts with us making a choice. It starts with us praying. It starts with each one of us in our places asking God what next, what do we do? What I love about Tasha and why I had her on specifically for this is she's built a lot of tools. If you're a college student, if you're a high school student, if you're 80 years old, there's something for you. Just take the next step, whatever that looks like for you in your place. I want to close with this - if there's one thing that would encourage you, what would it be? You're giving up time in your work day to do this, and you want it to count. What would be something that this little hour we had together did in the kingdom, what would your hope be? 

I have a few things, but I think I want people to commit. Even when it's not in the headlines. When the headlines are gone, it's not on social media, it's not on the news, people are not talking about it, you're still in the trenches doing the work. Even if you mess up and you stumble, you get back up and continue to do this work. I want people to commit to personal change and transformation first. Because you can't lead people where you're not going personally. You can't lead your children, lead your family, or your cousins or nephew or friends if you haven't gone there first. You do it first and then others will look at your life and ask what is going on - they'll want to know more. Commit to educating yourself. Commit to amplifying black people and their voices. If you have platforms, use that time to turn it over to amplify those voices. We want to make sure that we're not silent when atrocities are being committed. You want to use your voice. Also commit to investing financially in people that are doing this type of work. If I could see that fruit, we're going to move this needle closer. We're going to move this baton closer. We're going to create a pathway and a bridge for those that are behind us - the next generation - to take this thing over the finish line. I believe change can happen, but it's how we seize this moment. If we can get out of the way and let God do the work and not do this based on an ideology that alienates, but embrace the Kingdom of God, the systems of God and how they function and operate. Remember we are ambassadors here. We are not of this world, but we have to participate in this world. I want to see a little bit of Heaven on earth. If we can get out of the way of ourselves and shut down these unhealthy ideologies and listen to the voice of the masses and think about all the people who shut Jesus down. The very people who should have listened to Jesus. They should have known, but they held onto the law and they missed it. But there was a remnant and we're a part of that. We wouldn't be here today if that remnant had gone another way or had shut Jesus down. So we're products of that. Think about the legacy that your commitment could do for the future of generations to come. 


I want to address a few things Tasha just said. First of all, the grace that this is going to take. I know there's a lot of ways people are doing this online and some of it does feel hurtful and hateful, but the truth is, there's reasons for that. So there's grace for that. There's also grace for people that don't get it, because that was me and all of us at some point. There's grace for the leaders that are doing this imperfectly and making mistakes. Again, that would be me, and Tasha would attest. I have made many mistakes. I was apologizing to a friend of color this week. This is the way this goes. We do it imperfectly, we do it believing that the power of God is with us, that we don't do this in the flesh, we do this with the Spirit. The Spirit covers so many gaps you guys! That's the thing Tasha and I felt through this. We have felt The Spirit bring restorative healing to the places and the cracks we didn't even know needed to be healed. We didn't say the right things, so we shouldn't have made it. But the Spirit participated with us and he's still participating with us. I've heard it said that the church is the very best team to lead the way forward on this, and I believe it because of those things. We understand grace and we have the power of God. We don't go with a futile hope, we go with the power of Heaven. Be the Bridge launched out of IF:Gathering - our second year- right after Ferguson. It blew up and tons of you downloaded the free guide. Why I say that is because we're the best team to support Tasha right now. We've grown from Tasha for years, so if you're not supporting Be the Bridge, go to the website and become a monthly donor. I'm telling you this work is changing the world. There are people that will be saved because of the credible witness of what this work has done in the lives of people throughout the world in the church. Tasha always says, we want to be a credible witness. We don't want this to be a stain on the church. We want this to be part of the redemptive story of the church - that we are about this healing and we are about the Kingdom.



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