the district church

What I Learned From Praying at the White House

The closing prayer. Image via Justin Fung.
The closing prayer. Image via Justin Fung.

I got the call on the morning of Maundy Thursday: Would you be interested in giving the closing prayer at the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast?

Uh. Yes. Wow. Absolutely. I actually don’t even remember what my response was, but it was probably something like that.

My feeling upon hanging up the phone — and the underlying sense all through the emotion and significance and spiritual intensity of our Good Friday and Easter Sunday services at my church — was, Who, me? 

I felt the same way walking into the White House with a bunch of leaders whose names and faces I’d seen before on social media or the news but never yet in person.

The other presenters that day were Rev. Amy Butler from Riverside Church in New York City, Sister Donna Markham of Catholic Charities USA, Fr. Anthony Messeh of St. Timothy and St. Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Church, and Pastor Ann Lightner-Fuller of Mt. Calvary A.M.E. Church, and as we met and chatted in the Blue Room while we waited for the President and Vice President to greet us before the breakfast, we shared this common feeling. Who were we to be doing this? At one point, Fr. Anthony said, “I’m just waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and tell me they made a mistake!”

Eight years ago, a 25-year-old, grad-school-student, fanboy-and-campaigner-in-chief Justin would have been unreservedly and unabashedly over-the-moon about an opportunity like this — and please don’t get me wrong, I was excited. There were a lot of things I thought about saying to the President — “Big fan, sir!” or “We’re praying for you!” or “Come visit The District Church — we’re just a couple miles up the road!” or “How about that Championship game last night?”

But all that came out was, “Great to meet you, Mr. President!” And then I had nothing.

The breakfast itself was a fun thing to be a part of, too. From Vice President Biden’s opening remarks to President Obama’s reflections (and jokes, the man’s got a great sense of humor!)to the song by Amy Grant (a childhood musical hero of mine) to the scriptures read from 1 Corinthians and Mark’s Gospel to the homily on having the courage to hope and keep moving forward, the event was a thoroughly Jesus-saturated. It felt like an extension of Easter Sunday.

And I guess that’s what God has impressed upon my heart this weekend and through the prayer breakfast: we all need the gospel and the gospel is for us all. Before the breakfast, I met Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, and we both commented on how even famous people need Jesus, how even nice suits and dresses can’t hide the things that we all have to deal with.

Adoptive Mom Finds Her Family a Visual Testimony to Kingdom of God

Amy Graham, with her husband, Aaron, and their children, Natalie and Elijah.
Amy Graham, with her husband, Aaron, and their children, Natalie and Elijah. Photo courtesy Amy Graham

When people first see our family, they often do a bit of a double take. At first glance, we don’t necessarily look like we go together. My husband and I are both Caucasian, with a quarter Cherokee in me that gives me a little bit of color. Our children are both beautiful African Americans of different shades. When we’re out in public and my son calls out to me, “Mom!” or our daughter calls to my husband, “Dad?” it just doesn’t look “normal.”

The interesting thing that I have learned through being an adoptive parent, especially in a transracial adoption, is that we are a visual testimony to the Kingdom of God. Not everyone might receive us or see us in this way, but the reality is that as Christians, we have all been adopted by God to be a part of his family. Galatians 4:4-6 says this: “But when the right time came, God sent his son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.’”

 

DC 127: Flipping the Foster Care Waitlist

Photo: Chris LaTondresse
Church goers gathered for worship and prayer in Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C. Photo: Chris LaTondresse

Jesus flips things upside down. DC 127 plans to follow suit.

The Washington, D.C.-based foster care initiative created by the District Church seeks to reverse the foster care waitlist in our nation’s capital, leaving parents waiting to foster the 3,000 children currently on the list instead of children waiting to be taken in by families.

“The heart behind DC 127 is to reflect God’s heart,” said District Church Lead Pastor Aaron Graham. “We believe there are no orphans in heaven. And Jesus taught us to pray, ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ And so our prayer is that we would reflect God’s heart, who’s adopted us, by helping adopt and foster kids in D.C.”

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