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November 10, 2017

In Birmingham, Alabama, 1963 was a complicated year. There were marches, protests, violence, and deaths. Children took part in the marches, and water cannons were used to disperse the crowds. Now, in the space where much of that activity occurred, there is a quiet and reflective park. The Kelly Ingram Park houses a series of bronze statues that tell the story of a people under oppression. At the height of the movement, in September 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church, located across the street from the park, was bombed. That bomb killed four children: Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, and Cynthia Wesley, who were all between the ages of 11-14 years old when they died.

We walked around the perimeter of the church and, although the church offers tours, it was after-hours and the church was empty except for the choir meeting to rehearse. One of the church leaders saw us outside and came out to investigate. After our group prayed for the church and the ministry and began returning to the bus, the church leader invited us to come inside. There are few things as comforting as a welcoming invitation. We accepted and were given a glimpse into the past via their present-day hospitality. One of the physical changes to the sanctuary since the bombing was the stained glass. The present-day window was sent by the children of Wales, and it tells a story of hope and direction for tomorrow.

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