BY SARAH CARVER, GRACE ATTENDER
The word hope in English is a lot like the word love. The one word is used to convey a variety of things. We hope that rain will not ruin our outdoor plans. We hope our favorite contestant makes it to the end of the show. We hope that we can make it to the party. The problem with the word hope in English is that more often than not, it conveys a bit of doubt.
Biblical hope is an entirely different thing. There are over 10 different Hebrew words used in the Old Testament to convey hope. The most used word is “batah”, which means; confidence, security, bold. sure, trust and without care. “For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth” (Psalm 71:5, NIV).
In the New Testament, there are only two Greek words for the word Hope. Elipizo, a verb, meaning “to expect with an attitude of confidently looking forward to what is good and beneficial”. The second is, Elipis, a noun that means ‘expectation’. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV). There is no doubt hidden in Biblical hope.
For me, I was both pleased and perplexed by the fact that Grace Church had decided to call the month in which we confronted the broken place of hate; “Hope Month”. I was pleased in that I felt that the point was to give hope in the fight, but perplexed because of my previous, limited view of the word hope. I had doubt. I felt doubt that the month and the teachings would live up to my expectations. I had doubt that people would see that people would join in the fight against racism and hate. I doubted that people would see God in this fight. I had hope intertwined with doubt.
Last Friday night, at the Grace Church Fishers Campus, The Listening Table held an event. There was a panel of speakers from the Grace Church community who came to share their personal stories of hate and racism. I did not have great confidence that people would come out on a Friday night, especially on Memorial Day weekend. Around 100 people showed up ready to lean in and be uncomfortable. It was my first glimpse of Biblical hope, though I did not yet understand it.
Our 22-year-old son, Tres’, was a panelist. The story he shared was the one that put me on the path that God had called me to. One of an activist against racism and hate. Tres’ was 17 years old and school had just let out for the summer. He had qualified to long jump at State for Fishers High School and as it was the day before the meet, he was supposed to be relaxing and mentally preparing.
Tres’ and two of his friends, both African American boys, had spent the night at another friend’s home. They had been hanging out, playing video games and basketball. They decided to walk to another (white) friend’s home in another neighborhood, just as they had done countless times before over the years of living in Fishers. Their walk took them past Billericay Park, a splash pad and playground where they had often played as kids.
The boys made it their friend’s house, which was across a busy street and over a bridge that stretched over I69. They were planning on going swimming after they had lunch. My son was in the kitchen making ramen noodles when he saw that there were cops in his friend’s backyard in tactical gear, carrying AR15s. Wondering what was happening, he called his friends over to look just as there was a loud pounding at the front door.
As the door was opened by his friend, the cops pushed their way in and grabbed only the boys of color, including my son. Guns drawn, they snatched the boys outside and slammed them to the ground. As my son lay on the ground with two cops on top of him, their knees digging into his back, he saw approximately 15 cop cars and a multitude of cops, all with their guns pointed at him and his friends. He was terrified. He had no idea what was going on. He had never been in any kind of trouble.
Meanwhile, my husband and I were in Bloomington at the girls State meet with our daughter. We got a call from some detective telling us that they had our son on suspicion of robbery, when could we get to the station so they could question him. That was it. No other information. We were shocked and scrambled to call my sister who got to the station quickly. She was not allowed to go back to be with him for over an hour. By the time she was allowed, my son had been in handcuffs, behind his back, for over two hours.
When my sister spoke with Tres’, asking him what was going on, the only thing that this child could think that of was that he and his friends had played basketball the night before after the park had closed. After finally taking him out of the handcuffs and questioning him for over another hour, my sister overheard the cops talking in the hallway. They had come to the conclusion that they had the wrong people and that the boys had no idea what had happened. They released the boys, keeping their belongings that they had confiscated from their friend’s house and with warnings.
What had happened was that a white woman had called the police saying that she had taken her kids to the splash pad at Billericay, while leaving $10,000 in payroll cash in a bag on her front seat. She then said the window had been smashed and the bag taken. Another white woman had seen my mixed son and his black friends walking by around this time and decided that it must have been them who did it. She took it upon herself to follow my child and his friends in her car while calling the police saying she had the thieves in her sight. In the end, it turned out that the whole thing had been an insurance scam and there was never any robbery. There has never been any apology.
This all happened the same summer that unarmed, teenager Michael Brown was shot by a cop and left in the street for hours. I realized that it could have, so easily, been the story of my son. This is just one of the many acts of hate my son has faced. My husband has stories. My daughters have stories. My other sons have stories. All of the people on the panel had more stories than the ones they told. I had hope going into the Listening Table event last Friday, but I was filled with doubt.
God changed all that. He opened my eyes to what Hope Month had actually been about. The people who showed up to listen to my son’s story and the others that were told were, by a vast majority, white and older. They asked questions and dug deeper, willing to be uncomfortable. They engaged in ways that I had not let myself “hope” for. The Holy Spirit was in that place as eyes were opened to the fact of hate within our own community. Hearts were moved in ways that only God could have done. You, see, it is with Biblical hope that I left with that night. I had an attitude of looking forward to what is good. Bold trust that God can and will use the people of Grace Church to defeat the broken place of hate. I have HOPE.
And for those of you wondering, Tres’ went on to get a second-place medal in the long jump at State and a spot on the national all-star team!
Tres' at State