When We Stand, Terence Lester (Foreword Father Gregory Boyle). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021.
Summary: Makes a motivational case for mobilizing with other to pursue follow Christ in the pursuit of justice.
We see so many things that are not “the way it’s meant to be.” The problems seem so big. We seem so small. Until we find others to walk together with us, where we are part of a mobilized community where everyone’s gifts multiply our impact. Terence Lester has been there and formed an organization called Love Beyond Walls focused on poverty awareness and community mobilization. He makes the case that we are better together than separate when pursuing justice causes. He writes this book to motivate us to mobilize in community and shows us how it is done.
It begins with getting out of our bubbles and figuring out who is proximate–our near neighbor in need. It requires making more time, doing a reset on our lives and figuring out what our “let go” list is to make space for others. Often we are absorbed with the pursuit of ephemeral success when we have the opportunity to devote ourselves to pursue something real, of eternal value. Lester describes two friends who sold a nice home for one that wasn’t as nice but well-suited to caring for foster children. He calls us to be willing to unlearn our previous notions, particularly around poverty, race, and justice. It may mean changing our way of living or even how we lead.
One of the shifts in our thinking is a shift from me to we, to be willing to collaborate to pursue social change. He notes how such collaboration means a willingness to die to what Dr. King called “the drum major instinct.” At the same time, this doesn’t mean we deny what we have to offer, even if it is the basic skill of cleaning and stocking a hand-washing station for the homeless during a COVID epidemic. Often, it begins with a modest first step, like the beginning of Love Beyond Walls out of the Lesters’ garage.
Lester comes back to the idea of time in a chapter on “living intentionally.” Far from the vision of the harried activist, his call is for margin, for deliberate thought about our schedules and what we do best when. He also reprises the “we” idea, encouraging us to bring others with us, to look for partners, to share the weight, and invite people into community. He urges us to maximize our impact through assessing our “social capital” and to play our part in God’s interconnected world.
Most of each chapter consist of stories Lester relates to share his point. This makes for an easy read and one that is inspiring as well as instructive. He tells a story of a man who stepped out and cared for someone proximate to him. Lester came out of a troubled home, often spending time away, sometimes on the streets. One night, he called a friend, Erik, who checked with his father, coming back on the line, saying, “Yeah, come on over–my family loves you.” He then describes how that love changed his life when he arrived at Erik’s home, and Mr. Moore came out to greet him:
“When I arrived at their family home after a long drive, Mr. Moore came out to my car, carrying food for me. I remember him looking at me and asking me to look at him….
“He looked at me earnestly and called me a leader.
“The word didn’t seem to fit at all…
“But when Mr. Moore said it, he meant it. He said that he saw something in me that no one else had. He’d seen the makings of a leader within me and had decided to speak to this capability.”Lester, p. 28.
A friend’s father who opened his home, who noticed, and who shared what he saw. Someone who came alongside a homeless youth and practiced “we.” It changed a life and launched a young man on a life of community organizing.
Lester offers us stories like this throughout the book in a challenging and inspiring argument for mobilizing together. He leaves me with two questions that I will consider: who is the proximate for me, and who will I join or invite to join me?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.