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Pastor commemorates positive changes to come from hate crime
MARYSVILLE The Sunday service at the Jesus Is Lord Life Tabernacle took on an extra significance March 30, when Pastor Jason Martin led his congregation in reflecting upon the aftermath of the cross-burning that occurred on his front lawn four years ago.
Martin and his flock were joined by representatives of the Arlington School District and the city of Arlington, where Martin lives, as well as KGNW 820 AM, the Seattle-based Christian radio station which was broadcasting Martins services that day.
Martin cited scripture not only to condemn racism and prejudice, but also to advise those in attendance how to respond to racism as prejudice, as he shared the stage with his distinguished guests.
In spite of its divisive intent, Arlington Mayor Margaret Larson cited the cross-burning as an event that inspired unity within the community.
Four years ago, I was starting my first term as mayor of Arlington, Larson said. Id been born and raised Arlington, but I was wondering where its heart was. Well, a few months into my first term, I found out what real heart meant. There are too many stories to tell about the emotional healing process that followed, but Pastor Martin set the tone.
Larson praised Martin for his uplifting messages in the wake of the cross-burning, and credited him with helping her on my journey as a mayor.
Because ASD Superintendent Linda Byrnes could not attend the service, due to prior commitments, ASD Public Information Coordinator Misti Gilman arrived in her place, to read a letter aloud from Byrnes to Martin, likewise commending him for his response to the cross-burning.
Looking back at the newspaper articles during that time, I was impressed once again with your compassion and strength of character, Byrnes wrote. We are so grateful that you chose to embrace our community and continue to be such a powerful influence in our lives. Your inspiring example has continued to motivate a growing and strong youth movement of Respect, that involves hundreds of students at every age level, in every school in Arlington.
Ann Kashiwa, who works with Arlington High Schools Respect program, complimented the churchs moving service, while Chuck Olmstead, director of ministry relations for KGNW, presented Martin with a Church of the Week award from the station, and noted that the Jesus is Lord Life Tabernacle is approaching its 10th anniversary in August.
Martin described it as his mission to bring together all people under the roof of his church, and invited his congregational leaders to share their stories.
Ananda Page is white and had no previous interest in religion, but when a black friend was the victim of a race crime in Lake Stevens, they were referred to Martin through the NAACP.
I wanted legal advice, not a church, Page said. But I became one of 62 people who gave their lives up to the Lord that April.
Mary Ann Miller boasts a diverse racial background of Native America, African-American and Filipino, but because she spent most of childhood years in foster homes, she never felt entirely at home in any one place before meeting Martin.
As a young Christian, I always felt out of place, Miller said. I didnt know what it felt like to belong. I never felt as accepted as I do here. Nobody looks at me and asks, What is she? Im just a sister in the Lord to them.
Luis Cardona came to Martin after ministering in Arizona, where he began seeking a more diverse congregation.
He didnt see my color, and he didnt care that my English wasnt so good, Cardona said of Martin. People who knew me in Arizona call me a traitor for serving under a black pastor, but it doesnt matter.
Ricardo Ayala is of Puerto Rican descent, was raised in the Midwest and moved to the Pacific Northwest through the military, where he attended Martins Tulalip church.
I was raised with prejudice, so I learned hate and deceit, Ayala said.
Ayala and fellow congregation leader Debra Harvey both pointed out how Martin had transformed their ideas about race and life. As a young black woman growing up in gangs in California, Harvey became accustomed to being judged for her appearance and speech.
I didnt fit the criteria of many churches, said Harvey, who admitted that her personal growth has been an ongoing process. Even after the cross-burning, the old-school side of me was saying, What are we going to do, Pastor Martin? He told me, Were going to walk in love. That changed my whole perspective.
Martin quoted a number of Bible verses which he cited as proof that racism and prejudice are irreconcilable with being a good Christian, while urging those in attendance to meet the hatred of others with love of their own.
When you face racism or prejudice, itll make you bitter or itll make you better, Martin said. This is like a class, because there will be a test tomorrow, or the next day. If you say you love God and yet hate your brother, you are a liar. The Lord has no partiality.
Martin announced that the Jesus Is Lord Life Tabernacle will celebrate racial diversity on the Sunday after March 24, the date of the cross-burning, every year.