How much better now?

I appreciated the Feb. 12 articles by Lee Roy Berry Jr. and Joanna Lawrence Shenk, the latter telling the story of Vincent and Rosemary Harding. We still have much work to do in both our peace witness and our racial integration.

Reading these articles took me back to when I was 18 and a first-year student at Eastern Mennonite College in 1959. I joined a college mission group that was starting a Mennonite congregation in Staunton, Va., about 30 miles away. Writing home, I described how we canvassed the neighborhood and invited people to our revival meetings. I raved about how friendly people were, even inviting us in to talk for a while. Then I added, “Because of the segregation issue in the South, we can’t invite Negroes to our church, or no one else would come. So if we come across a family of them, all we can do is talk to them a little bit and then leave.”

Sixty years later, I am shocked that both I and this Mennonite mission group accepted this racial status quo without a protest. Yet, how much better is our church integration record in the Shenandoah Valley than it was in 1959?

Reta Halteman Finger, Harrisonburg, Va.

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