A Different Life Journey on a Shared Street

We did not grow up in the same home, or attend the same church or school, but yet, if we believe the Bible to be true, then we are the most important kind of family – adopted spiritual kin.

When in a room full of men, as a woman you automatically represent your entire gender. Whether conscious or unconscious, that’s your perception. As a visible minority, when in a room full of White people, you automatically represent all BIPOC. And when you are a Black or Bi-Racial woman, who comes to realize that you are representing so many people, where do you even begin?

That, unfortunately, has been my experience more often than not. I have the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech hanging in my office, and every time I read it, I wonder, how would he speak into our situation today? In our Western Canadian, British Columbian, Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley context — we’re not talking about the deep South or the slums and ghettos of Northern cities as he did — but we are still referring to the fear of what and who remain unknown to us and our consistent struggle.

Someone whose skin tone is different, whose syntax is unfamiliar, whose name is challenging to pronounce, whose food is mysterious, whose look is “exotic”, but who, as our brother and our sister, should still bring harmony to our life.

After all, we are all human, we share fears, tears, laughter and joy. We did not grow up in the same home, or attend the same church or school, but yet, if we believe the Bible to be true, then we are the most important kind of family – adopted spiritual kin. Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 12:46-50 when replying to the crowd: “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

We are interconnected but as unique as the God who made us diverse yet all in His perfect image.

If I am to be honest, there are times when I’ve slowed down long enough to remember that I don’t always fit.

But that’s not the calling God had in store for me, to feel less than because I’m not the same. We matter, I matter, to God and always have.

Since 2010, our women’s basketball program has had the theme of More Than Conquerors and many of our hurdles have often been in human form. But as Mark Batterson writes, “There comes a time when you must quit talking to God about the mountain in your life and start talking to the mountain about your God.” So to the mountains, I’m saying, “Get. Out. Of. The. Way! We will be bold in following God, we will be heard and we know that we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39).

If reading this has made you uncomfortable, and you may be concerned that you are living as a mountain around the issues of injustice, apathy or racism, then I encourage you to let this month, Black History Month, take you on a journey of self-reflection and transformation. We can all do better, we can all be better.

Change of any kind begins with one step in the right direction but reconciliation starts with the uncomfortable realization that we are part of the problem if we exclusively and blindly seek that which is familiar.

There is a big difference between opening the door to a stranger and welcoming them into your home. So I hope that you will open the door, take a step aside, and welcome in the beautiful diaspora of our faith community. You will be amazed at what this step of obedience will teach you about yourself, your neighbor, and those we have been called to serve. Within TWU athletics, we have initiated a group of BIPOC and ally student-athletes and staff, who have come together as the Diversity and Anti-Racism Council (D.A.R.C.) to build our Christ-centered community. We want to enhance communication and education that initiates long-lasting change. Join us, support us, empower us, and watch us all grow!

Cheryl Jean-Paul is Trinity Western Spartan Athletics Head Coach of Women’s Basketball. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Coach Jean-Paul is of Haitian and German-Mennonite descent. She currently lives in Langley, having moved out to B.C. to coach for TWU Spartans.