We Care: Mission Mississippi aims to break racial barriers

Before Mission Mississippi’s January meeting in Aberdeen came to order, former St. Francis of Assisi assistant pastor Susan Sweet fished for advice on how to meet new people in the south Georgia town she was moving to that day. With a 60 percent black and 40 percent white population, the town’s incoming Catholic priest expressed how she wanted the same racially diverse range of acquaintances she had in Aberdeen.

RAY VAN DUSEN/MONROE JOURNALBRIDGING BARRIERS – Coming together for prayer and communication is Mission Mississippi's means of breaking racial barriers. The statewide organization celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

RAY VAN DUSEN/MONROE JOURNAL
BRIDGING BARRIERS – Coming together for prayer and communication is Mission Mississippi’s means of breaking racial barriers. The statewide organization celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Simply put, being herself was the general consensus of the group, which topped off with an attendance of 19 for the morning. Once a month, a group of black and white people come together in Aberdeen to be themselves while getting to know each other, the first strike to breaking racial barriers. The same affiliated organization meets weekly in Amory. The two chapters are among the 20 represented across the state.
“We can all get together to talk about the weather or who will win the Super Bowl, but I don’t think we dig deep enough. If you get below the surface and try to deal with deeper issues of the community, race will show its ugly head. The more I get to know my wife, the easier we can talk about any problems we may have,” said Neddie Winters, president of the Mission Mississippi.
The program aimed at changing Mississippi one relationship at a time celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. An 83-day walk throughout the state with a lighted cross will cross the Lowndes, Monroe County line Sept. 19.
The statewide organization has several similar events planned throughout the year like mixed race church services and inspirational speakers to continue its cause.
“You’ve got to continue that personal initiative. Some groups that met last year, don’t meet anymore. Spend time with each other to learn more about one another so you can accomplish working in harmony together to achieve goals,” Winters said.
The most common goal of Aberdeen’s group is to move the town forward.
“One group over here may not see a problem and this other group may perceive the same thing as racism. As long as the issue isn’t discussed, nothing will happen to improve it,” Winters said.

While the Saturday meetings range from one location to another in Amory, its Mission Mississippi chapter acts on the same premise. While meeting at various churches, the hour-long meeting includes visiting, a brief devotional by the host pastor, time to break up for smaller group prayers and a large group prayer at the closure with special intentions for the host pastor and congregation of the host church.

RAY VAN DUSEN/MONROE JOURNALLEADING THE CONVERSATION – Mission Mississippi president Neddie Winters discussed developments on the state level of the organization and issues hitting close to home during his visit to Aberdeen's recent meeting.

RAY VAN DUSEN/MONROE JOURNAL
LEADING THE CONVERSATION – Mission Mississippi president Neddie Winters discussed developments on the state level of the organization and issues hitting close to home during his visit to Aberdeen’s recent meeting.

When the group meets at a local restaurant, a Dutch-treat breakfast and conversation is followed by a large group prayer outside when the weather permits for the community and other special intentions.

At several of the Amory chapter’s Saturday gatherings, an offertory collection is passed around for donations for the state organization and to help provide
Christmas gifts and food to two families each year.

Mission Mississippi meets in Amory every Saturday at different locations. For more information, call 646-0236 or 256-4793.
Mission Mississippi meets in Aberdeen the second Thursday of each month at Shelaine’s at 7 a.m.
More than anything, the program just needs participants who want to help bridge racial divides one relationship at a time.
For more information about Mission Mississippi, check out http://missionmississippi.org/

About Ray Van Dusen

I've been with the Monroe Journal since Aug. 2009 as a staff writer, but took the role as news editor in late 2012. I'm always looking for interesting story ideas from around Monroe County. You can reach me via email at ray.vandusen@journalinc.com.