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Longtime Friends and Christian Ministers Discovered a Disturbing Ancestral Link, Now They're Tackling Racial Tensions with New Eyes—and a Dream

Josh Shepherd : Aug 14, 2018  The Stream

Bible teacher Will Ford had long ministered alongside prayer leader Matt Lockett. When Ford discovers Lockett's ancestors once owned his forefathers, they both grasp for what it means.

[Stream.org] One year after white nationalists clashed with opponents in Charlottesville, Va., societal tensions around race issues continue to flare up across America. (Photo: Christian ministers Will Ford (left) and Matt Lockett/Credit: Jared Olsen/JHOP DC/via The Stream)

A follow-up rally of white nationalists was held Sunday outside the White House, though it drew far more press than participants. Some have lately criticized black pastors who met to discuss criminal justice reform with President Trump. A new hit film dramatizes the story of a black Colorado police officer who infiltrated the KKK. And questions persist about the removal of memorials to Confederate figures.

As differing narratives spark impassioned conflict, two Christian ministers have sought to find what they view as the "narrow path" Christ walked. Their family paths had crossed before.

When a Hidden Past Threatens Friendship

Will Ford, a professor at Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, learned he was linked in intriguing, disturbing ways to his longtime friend Matt Lockett. His black forefathers were owned by Lockett's ancestors. This discovery led them both into chapters of American history often forgotten.

"The story Matt and I carry is a sign of what God is doing in terms of turning this nation around," says Ford. "We're not going to fix issues like racism without each other. We have to move together."

He and Lockett have coauthored The Dream King, a book equal parts memoir, historical records and Biblical teaching. They've begun to share their testimony. After hearing them at an Urban League event near Cleveland, Ohio, one reporter called it "a story too strange to be fiction."

In a joint interview, Ford and Lockett unveil what their research uncovered, address criticisms they've heard and preview two large-scale prayer gatherings they are slated to co-lead in Dallas and Atlanta.

Beyond Their Wildest Dreams

The Stream: Your book uses Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech as a starting point for a journey across centuries of history. How are you two personally connected to that moment?

Matt Lockett: In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered arguably the most well-known speech in human history. Everyone is very familiar with it and knows it. Yet what happened to us is, we found ourselves standing in the same spot 41 years after the fact. We met each other and initially didn't connect it to the speech. Yet now what we've found out is that maybe Dr. King's speech wasn't just poetry—maybe it was prophecy.

In that speech, he stated, "I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood." That statement has become very significant to us.

After Will and me praying together for a decade, we found a connection in our family histories. Historical records revealed that my family, who were slave-owners, actually owned Will's family who were slaves. We are literally a fulfillment of those words in Dr. King's speech. (Photo: Will Ford often travels with an historic family artifact: a 200 year-old cast iron kettle. His enslaved ancestors used it to cook, wash clothes and, secretly at night, to whisper into it prayers for deliverance/via The Stream)

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood." -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.(1929-1968)

Will Ford: To think that two men with that connection were led to the place where Dr. King said those words in his "I Have A Dream" speech, it blows my mind. One, we were both led by dreams to that spot, to a public prayer meeting led by his niece Dr. Alveda King. Two, it was MLK Celebration Day. Three, it was the spot on the Lincoln Memorial where he gave the speech. That's where we were when we first met.

With all the narratives people have shaping America right now, there's a meta-narrative going on where the God of Providence is actively involved. In ways bigger than any of us can realize, God is working right now to heal the racial divide, to release a culture of life and to bring us into the fullness of awakening in this nation...

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