God had been working on Greater Ohio District Superintendent Les Crossfield’s heart in the area of reconciliation, oneness and justice. He did not initially know what that meant or what to do with it. At dinner one evening with Reverend Richard Meeks, he disclosed what God was prompting him towards, and Rev. Meeks revealed that he too had felt the same prompting from the Lord. Together, they began to explore what education was necessary to facilitate open and candid conversations about race and reconciliation.

Rev. Meeks identified that within their own district there were educational opportunities due to the many currently existing or past Wesleyan churches who have connections to the Underground Railroad. He wondered, “What if the Wesleyan Church could capture that history in how we were engaged with the Underground Railroad? What if we could identify stations that are still in existence, and then use that as a platform for a discussion for issues in the church that exist today?”

Together with their wives, Reverend Crossfield and Rev. Meeks hopped into a car for a few days to explore and tour key sites. “Those tours changed ours and our wives’ lives,” Rev. Crossfield said. “When you go and intentionally educate yourself, it was mind-blowing to understand what people went through.”

After their touring, Rev. Crossfield handed over the project to Rev. Meeks to continue to develop. The development process gave birth to the G3:28 Project — named for Galatians 3:28, which states, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NLT).

A Freedom Tour has evolved as the main component of the many aspects of G3:28 Project.

Based off their original road trip, Rev. Meeks and Rev. Crossfield developed a two-day, one-night tour that explores many key sites on the Underground Railroad and their intersection with The Wesleyan Church. In October of 2023, Rev. Meeks led the first Freedom Tour group, beginning at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

From there, the tour explored the John Rankin House, Bethel Long Wesleyan Church and other historically significant locations where Wesleyans helped to aid escaping slaves on their way to freedom. Rev. Meeks reflected, “It’s one thing to hear about it and read about it, but then to stand in the place where it happens is emotionally and spiritually moving.” It is important to note that as the Freedom Tour grows and develops, other locations and historically significant sites are being considered for future tours.

Freedom Tour visits the Coffin House

The inaugural tour ended in Fountain City, Indiana, at the Levi Coffin House, followed by a lunch at LifeSpring Wesleyan Church, Richmond, Indiana. After taking communion together, Rev. Meeks led the participants in open and candid discourse about reconciliation, oneness and justice. The entirety of the tour steers towards this intentional time of conversation.

Freedom Tour participant, Reverend Matthew Tietje, observed, “It is not just a sight-seeing tour, but Richard has another desire for conversation and discussion, to have vulnerable and frank conversations that put people over the course of 36 hours in many of the same experiences, that lead to deep conversations.”

Rev. Meeks was frank: “If it hasn’t touched your heart and changed your life, it was just a fun trip.” These conversations were greatly beneficial to the participants.

Rev. Meeks and Rev. Crossfield sensed that the results of the first Freedom Tour affirmed that the Holy Spirit was calling them to this timely endeavor: “The Wesleyan’s Church’s history needs to be reconnected with and we need to ask, ‘What has God built into us that can advance God’s kingdom?’”

They observed that while Jesus said that everyone matters, many of us do not live that way. Rev. Meeks stated, “One of the things we hope the Freedom Tour brings to people is an incredible sense of humility. The pursuit of oneness and justice calls for deep levels of humility, where we recognize the reality of the past, our contributions in the present, and we realize how much we need God’s help as we chart the course forward.”

They continue to recognize the guiding role of the Holy Spirit in this endeavor: “This is not a political or economic issue. At its core, this is a spiritual issue. Spiritual issues require spiritual solutions. We are praying the G3:28 Project and its components will create spiritual opportunities for heart transformation.”

Rev. Crossfield’s prayer is that “people would at least be open to have some kind of conversation regarding unity and oneness. I sit in a lot of meetings and do a lot of ministry stuff, but I’ve not really sat in many unity and oneness conversations. Be open to it.”

The next Freedom Tour is scheduled for May 2024. You can find more information about the Freedom Tour at g328project.org.

Jacob Gibson is the senior pastor at LifeSpring Wesleyan Church, Richmond, Indiana, and graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University and Wesley Seminary, Marion, Indiana.

 

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