As I reflect on the 2019 Sankofa Journey, there are a few things that stick out for me. The idea of reflecting on a journey such as this is in and of itself an exercise that stretches my intellectual and emotional capacity. The African word “Sankofa,” encapsulates the ideas of returning (reflecting), going forward (progress), and seeking for understanding through investigation. This journey took me through all three of these phases — however this was not done in a sequential manner, but in rather in an immersive, abrupt, and sudden way.
There were several profound moments I experienced throughout the course of this experience.
Several of the stops on our journey brought about an eerie, spiritual connection to my ancestors which was initially unsettling.The most profound was that of feeling history versus knowing history intellectually. Several of the stops on our journey brought about an eerie, spiritual connection to my ancestors which was initially unsettling. As we continued, this sensation shifted from eeriness to empowerment as it gave me confidence that the strength of my people who endured these hardships still has the power to be a catalyst for true reflection.
Revisiting the word Sankofa, reflection without progress becomes counterintuitive.
…confidence that the strength of my people who endured these hardships still has the power to be a catalyst for true reflection.At the beginning of our journey we were partnered with another spiritual leader from the Twin Cities area. Initially I did not understand the purpose of this pairing. I took note that most pairings were between individuals with differing cultural backgrounds. As we journeyed, the pairings began to make sense to me. It became clear that everyone processes the reflecting process differently. Due to these differences, I experienced several uncomfortable moments. However, it is through my discomfort that some of the most productive conversations happened in my pairing. It became evident that true progress can only be made collectively and not individually.
As I think about how this trip will affect my ministry going forward, I have noticed a more determined mindset to fellowship with other believers from different racial backgrounds.
This trip demands you to confront those hidden stereotypes and unknown prejudices.Though we have progressed from government-imposed segregation, one could say we have regressed by replacing it with self-imposed segregation. I have been, and prayerfully will continue to be more inclusive as it relates to understanding and experiencing fellowship and worship with all members of the body of Christ – expanding beyond denominational and socio-economic lines.
I would recommend this trip to any leader in the body of Christ. Those of us who have influence in our local congregations need this experience to shepherd God’s people into an era of true love and fellowship. Our own racial biases and stereotypes must first be addressed. This trip demands you to confront those hidden stereotypes and unknown prejudices. At the end of it, you are left with a true sense of connectedness to those you journeyed with. I believe this connectedness is bound in Christ’s love. The journey drives you to ask the question “what’s next?” For the person considering this journey I would encourage you to do so. After this experience, you will be in a place where God can truly use you to build bridges and be a more effective leader in His kingdom – without walls.
Elder Kyle Jeter is an Assistant Pastor at Grace Apostolic Church in Minnetonka. He went on the Sankofa Journey the first week of May 2019 with Transform Minnesota and 38 other Twin Cities faith leaders.