When Elwood and Ruby Porter first stepped through our doors, Graceway was not the racially-diverse group we are today. Elwood became disillusioned at their previous church and when his pastor gave no indication things would change, he began seeking a new church home. Elwood’s background made him reluctant to visit a predominately white church, but he didn’t find the type of teaching he craved in the predominately black churches in our area. He called “Through the Bible Radio” and they recommended he give us a try. Elwood’s first experience here was tough – he doesn’t recall anyone reaching out to him, but he admits he likely didn’t reach out either. He sat in the back and left quickly at the end of the service. After checking out a few other churches he decided to give us another try. He began visiting regularly and one Sunday Ruby joined him.
The move to this body held different challenges for Ruby. She attended a predominately white high school and worked in offices where the staff was evenly divided racially. Ruby valued the relationships and traditions of their former church and it was “just different” here. It was painful to leave people she loved and hard to get used to a new style.
Elwood and Ruby found lasting friendships in the Way of Life class. They speak highly of Berniece and James Harrington, remembering how the couple encouraged them to sit with them during worship services. Elwood knew Dilmes Colon from their work at the Post Office and recalls how he and his wife Rosa made them feel welcome. They talk about connections with many people – each one made it clear that they valued the Porters. Ruby’s eyes shone with tears as she talked about a picnic that could have gone horribly wrong. As people arrived at the site she heard words that still mean so much to her: “If Ruby and Elwood will be there, we’ll be there.”
The couple is a reminder that we can’t let other people or past experiences deter us from becoming what God desires. Walls of prejudice naturally break down through open conversation. Expect conflicts, get past the little things, and move on to all God has for you. Trust God to change hearts as you respond biblically. They are Graceway.