I’m excited to introduce you all to Kristina today.  Kristina has volunteered for Be the Bridge for a year now as a moderator in our main Facebook group.  She is now transitioning to leading in our Leader’s Group on Facebook where she will coach and troubleshoot with leaders of local Be the Bridge small groups.

Thank you so much for letting us spotlight you Kristina!  Can you tell us a little about your faith background and how you wound up doing racial reconciliation work?

I’ve been a Christ follower for the last 18 years; actually committed my life to Christ on my 17th birthday. I was born into the church as my foundation was set by my grandparents and my mother. I have always had a yearning to know God in my earlier years and a desire to be more like him. I’ve attend BIBLE Churches, Baptist and Non- Denominational churches.

I can share the first time I have a memory where I was faced with my blackness. I was in 7th grade. I had a white girl who I had become friends with. She came to school shortly after the beginning of our relationship and she told me we couldn’t be friends because her mom found out I was Black.  I have always had an awareness of race. I knew what micro-aggressions felt like, but during that time growing up, we did not have the language or terminology as we do now to speak into our experiences of what we were experiencing.

My race work started the day that White professing Christians that I had broken bread with, believers who had watched my children get dedicated to the Lord, watched me get married, proclaim to love me and my multi-ethnic family were implicitly anti- Black.  I struggle that the verses of love your neighbor as yourself was with conditions when it came to blackness. That they would love you if you assimilated and ascribed to their culture. That broke me. Given the dynamics of my multiracial family, anti-racism has always been a priority to me; it was also indicative in how my parents and grandparents had raised me into loving all people, treating everyone equally. It was against my moral code to be amongst White brethren that operated in the disobedience of what God has commanded of us… to see each person as an image bearer. The message wasn’t come as you are, it was come as you are and then become like us.

With that as your background, how did you then wind up being involved with Be the Bridge?

I first heard about Be the Bridge by my own research. I had been pretty adamant about having this conversation in a structured way and was thrilled to come across Be the Bridge curriculum because it gave me the tools to start the conversation in a way that was organized. The great thing is the flexibility to make the curriculum yours according to how you lead, facilitating style, and also to how your group members accept and retain information, different personalities, etc.

You have lead four groups now, which is awesome, but what made you decide to start that first group?

The necessity that we are way over due in having the conversation. I believe being silent and sweeping things under the rug is not beneficial for anyone. It re- enforces a color blind rhetoric of how people see no color so they feel it is unnecessary to discuss it.  I was also hurting from the hurt of the White church on both a racial level but also a betrayal/ lament level. Doing my first group brought me a significant amount of healing, and not just for me but for others.

How did each of these groups you’ve led come about?

My 1st group was a group of women who came together after I put out a PSA on Facebook to have the conversation in my home and invited others to invite their friends if they were interested.

My 2nd group was an online group. My husband and I wanted to reach long distant friends and family and we created a private Facebook group and did a Facebook live every week for 9 weeks. We engaged with our family and friends through comments and throughout the week.

My 3rd Group was we did at a local church. We ended up having 270 people sign up. We started off in the sanctuary with praise and worship time to prepare the hearts of the people in attendance, next we had a topical overview time where myself, my husband, and a few other people involved in planning would lead discussion for the topic of the night. We then broke the groups up after the time had passed for worship and overview, for small group time for about one hour.

We had about 17 groups total. 6 groups of men and 11 groups of women.  My job during the process of the nine weeks, in addition to planning, was going to each group and assisting with two groups per night to see if the facilitators needed any help speaking into certain things, providing extra resources after the meeting, and following up with the facilitators on revisiting certain topics that were brought up that night.  I checked in with the women and my husband, Aaron, sat in with a different mens group weekly as well.

My 4th group formed after I spoke at another local church at one of the para ministry MOPS meetings. The group formed after I and two other friends from my first be the Bridge group discussed our experiences through a panel we were asked to be on by another member of my original Be the Bridge  group. We offered a sign up sheet for women who were interested in being apart of a local Be the Bridge group after the panel was over and so my 4th group was formed.  That group is about 2 sessions away from finishing up the 9 sessions in the guide.

Through leading and volunteering, what have you learned?

I’m constantly learning about myself and about anti-racism and other people: how they work, why they think the way that they do, or have been conditioned to think the way that they have. Humility has been a big word for me, in checking my own humility. Both with others who are new to the conversation but also with myself.

With so much experience leading groups, what advice do you have for others who are considering starting a local group?

Prayer and a posture of humility.  I would personally recommended if you are White being mentored by a Black or person of color during the process for accountability. If you can’t find one in person, Be the Bridge has some potential people who may be willing to start you off online, but don’t rest on that as long term you need to establish friends of color in person. It is collaborative kingdom work to partner intentionally in this way.

For people of color leading, to have the support of an strong ally to carry burdens on weeks that may be too much for you. Also have self care time scheduled out during time of Bridge Building. I remember one of my groups I had something planned for myself every week. Be intentional with taking care of yourself.

How has being involved with Be the Bridge changed you?

Goodness, I’ve gone through such a transformation both in my personal life, but also my spiritual life. Learning to find balance: when to put pressure on things and when not to.   I think overall I always strive to be more like Christ and somedays that is hard when you are subject to racism and also teaching others during that pain. So the balance is interesting. I have made some changes for the better in both my spiritual/church journey, so I’m excited to see how this new change will shift my growth and restore my soul in bridge building work.

As you step into your new role, what are you most looking forward to?

I find value in helping to equip others in facilitator/ leadership roles in anti-racism work. I find value in equipping others to go and be the change they want to see. I truly feel like this is Mark 16:15

“The wise build bridges while the foolish build barriers”. – T’Challa

Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us.  I’m sure many people will be encouraged by your faithfulness!