An Interview with John Perkins | Sojourners

An Interview with John Perkins

Fifteen years ago, in 1960, John Perkins and his wife, Vera Mae, packed themselves, their kids, and their belongings into a 1955 Chevrolet Sedan and a small U-Haul trailer. They were leaving their home in California, their large house, their jobs. They were returning to their place of birth, the state which had killed John’s brother and many other black people: Mississippi. Not very many folks thought it was a wise decision to return. But since committing himself to Christ in 1957. John had nurtured a special burden for his people at home.

For the first half of their ministry, the Perkins did little besides preaching the Gospel in schools, under a tent that they bought for $400, in homes out in the rurals. As the ministry grew, they began to deal with people’s felt needs through which they could also preach the gospel. A buying club, a tutoring school, a co-op store, a housing development -- all became expressions of God’s visible love for poor black people.

There were many obstacles. Lack of money, lack of skills, human violence that almost . took John’s life, floods that threatened to wipe out the work.

This interview was made during a historic time. The day before, the Voice of Calvary signed the purchase agreement on a used, fully equipped health center in uptown Mendenhall. It makes real the fulfillment of God’s promises to the small group who began Voice of Calvary. It marks the first time black people have cracked the white uptown economic structure. It moves the health center out of flood danger. It creates countless opportunities to improve the healing message and service of Jesus Christ to poor people, and extends both to the white community in ways never before imagined.

After working for 15 years in the black communities of Mississippi, what do you consider to be the greatest need in the black community today?

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