Remembering – Part 25

It was a warm autumn night in the 1993 Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania, an autumn night that belonged more to Pulaski, Tennessee, or Tupelo, Mississippi. By this time in middle October, my family–my wife Karen, my daughters Rachel and Jessica, and my sons Timothy and Peter–was expecting our first snow. But on this night there was only a clear night and the seductive warmth of a gentle breeze.

The unseasonable heat made us uncomfortable. But there were other specters lurking in the pasture on this night. I walked the perimeter of my 9.5 acre sheep farm that my family had hopefully called “The Shepherd’s Glen.” This night I walked in silence, without a flashlight, feeling more and more the stranger, the intruder on this land rather than its proprietor.

With great anticipation my family had purchased this Pennsylvania farm. I had accepted a call to a downtown church only eight miles away. I had my urban church and my wife Karen had her country home! Until this night came we were so very happy.

But the beauty of this night belonged to my Caucasian neighbors. To the Jewish family living nearby, to the interracial couple living a mile away, to the gay couple on the hill, and to my family–with three interracially adopted children–it was a night of terror.

Over the horizon a glow of light kissed the horizon. In the distance I could hear a moving rendition of “America, the Beautiful.” The comforting glow and inspiring melody was disarming. More comfortable with the drone of crickets and the ubiquitous hum of distant automobile traffic, my Suffolk sheep, however, obviously did not appreciate the harmonic offering. Perhaps they saw the fear in their shepherd’s eyes or felt another nameless fear but my Suffolk herd was uncomfortably on this abnormally pleasant fall evening.

The music came from a neighbor’s farm where over two hundred members of the Ku Klux Klan were singing patriotic songs and the glow on the horizon was reflecting three burning crosses. It came from the voices of my neighbors, it came from a poor, confused man on whose farm this KKK rally was held, whose father had been led to Christ through my efforts. But to me it came from Hell.

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