“And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.”
Isaiah 61:4 NKJV
Flint, Michigan was once a booming motor town that has now gone nearly bankrupt. It has become as one commentator said “forgotten by America”. Forgotten until a terrible water crisis brought this city to the limelight of the nation.
What happened in Flint?
Crippled by a 30 million dollar deficit, in an hasty attempt to cut costs in the city, the city officials also decided to cut corners in an area so vital to each of its residents, its water system.
The water which was previously funneled to the city through Detroit, switched to The Flint River, a much dirtier source than the famous Great Lakes.
Not only did the city officials decide to switch to a dirtier water source they also circumvented the process of purifying the water properly by making sure the water didn’t become corrosive in order to save money.
The result was catastrophic. As the river water passed through old lead pipes into the city, the lead began to lace into the water, poisoning it more and more.
By the time the water reached Flint homes, it was already toxic. A researcher tested the water in one Flint home and found it would be considered toxic waste in a lab.
When residents demanded clean water at multiple town hearings they were dismissed and told the water was safe, and to simply boil the water.
Flint has a population of 102,434 residents. That is 102,434 people that were exposed to lead poisoning (suburbanstats.org).
What’s so bad about lead?
Lead is 100% toxic. It can lead to miscarriage in pregnant women, abnormal development of sperm in men, high blood pressure, memory loss in adults, and developmental delays, constipation, and vomiting in children (mayoclinic.org).
The effects of lead are irreversible and permeate every part of the body, the brain, the lungs, even one’s DNA (CNN).
In 2016 it is tragic to know the Flint water crisis can happen, that those in power can decide the fate of an entire community.
Many have wondered would the decision have been the same if Flint wasn’t a majority Black impoverished city?
It has been said America has transitioned to a post racial society, yet incidents like the Flint Water Crisis, in a city with a population of 57% Black residents, reveal racism isn’t a bygone of the past but still a very present threat to our society.
Ferguson, Missouri, yet another city with a majority Black population of 67% Black residents also experienced a crisis the nation still feels the wounds from today (census.gov).
As Michael Brown was shot to death by a white police officer the city went in an uproar, and an all out war between residents and officers ensued, with images of race riots paralleling those of the King years. Another city reeling with the pain of another slain Black youth at the hands of police brutality.
In the light of the painful realities of cities like Ferguson and Flint, one begins to ask, Where is the hope for Black America?
Where is the security for those who have experienced or seen their brothers and sisters terrorized and killed by the same law enforcement meant to protect them?
Where is the comfort for those who watched thousands of New Orleans residents with their same skin color drown in flooded waters or die on rooftops waiting in vain for their government to come to their aid?
Where is the hope for those who watch appalled as a whole community is poisoned and ignored for two years while their children slowly get more and more ill?
Is it in a presidential candidate? Is it in a student rally? It is in a bill or speech or sermon?
The good news is there is a God who cares about those who are poor, those who are oppressed, and those who mourn, even if those currently in power do not.
There is no greater social justice advocate than Jesus. When He came to earth He came to bring good news to the poor, to free prisoners, to heal the brokenhearted, to comfort all who mourn (Isaiah 61) and He is raising up a generation of those who will walk in that same heart and Spirit.
Those who will not use their power to tear down cities like Flint, but instead will “repair the ruined cities” and “rebuild the old ruins” (Isaiah 61: 4).
I saw a shining glimmer of the hope for Black America last week when I witnessed a nearly all white group of all ages willingly sit down and learn about grueling racial atrocities in our history and learn about how to truly go about racial reconciliation. They listened intently as a powerful Black woman spoke to them of the deep racial wounds of our nation in truth and in love.
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.”
Isaiah 61:1-4 NKJV
Hope is not found in one act or candidate but in every single one of us. It is in me, it is in you. It is in us deciding to be the hands and feet of Jesus. To approach our nation, in many ways a place of racial desolation, and raise it up in love, in unity, and in reconciliation. Only then will we see beauty for our ashes.