Civil rights leader imparts wisdom on JUTN students

KNOXVILLE — Dr. John M. Perkins visited Johnson University Tennessee as the guest chapel speaker on Tuesday. Perkins later visited with 10 students in Private Dining Room three to answer questions regarding faith, mission work and racial reconciliation.

The lunch with Dr. John Perkins, pictured center, was organized by Director of Urban Alliance, Kenny Woodhull

Perkins is a Christian minister, civil rights activist and recipient of 13 Honorary Doctorate degrees.

Perkins has authored 10 books, the latest of which focuses on love conquering racial issues and conflicts.

The students gathered asked Perkins how missionaries in the inner city can minister to their environment.

Perkins said relocation to the environment is one of the first, and most critical steps.

“I think you have to do something when you relocate,” he said. “I think it opens you up for learning.”

Perkins said that humility is also important to keep in mind before beginning a ministry or mission trip.

“Lower your expectations of what you’re going to give, because you’re actually going there to learn,” he said. “I think this proverb is so powerful: go to the people, live among them, learn from them, plan with them, start from what they know.”

Perkins said that he believes interacting with children is one of the most impactful ways to influence entire families.

Perkins said simple things like taking a child to McDonald’s changes the way they might think about you because it illustrates that you are willing to do what they want to do.

Perkins said that he is encouraged by the youngest generation’s willingness to serve in different cultures and difficult environments.

“That’s what thrills me, that I’m not begging you to come with me,” he said. “I don’t have to, you want to go.

“What you don’t know doesn’t discourage me because I think you’ve got the capacity to have passion. And we’ve got the capacity to enter into other people’s pain,” he added.

When asked which Bible character he most identified with Perkins mentioned Ruth, David and Esther.

“I think friendship is the highest virtue that humans can have with each other,” he said. “I found something in David these days and I think I found it since I’ve been going through a tough time.

“David’s life was a question mark and his deep love for God was based on the fact that he did not deserve it. I really think that we need to know that we’re serving a God that deeply loves us,” he added.

JUTN student Chloe Martin asked Perkins how individuals from different cultures can best enter into an environment they are not familiar with.

Students, faculty and staff gathered around Perkins to pray for him and his ministry. 

“I think that you just have to plunge,” he said. “I don’t think you can get rid of the fear without plunging. That’s what I like about swimming, you really have to get in the water whatever chill goes with it.”

Perkins said that he feels that music is also an effective way to communicate a language of love.

“After you preach they take what you said and rearrange it right then and preach it,” he said. “This generation, they understand the power of music but they understand the power of love.

“They understand the power of embrace, and that’s the word in a world where I judge you first. We’re not judging first, we’re trying to receive each other,” he added.

To learn more about Dr. Perkins or to buy his latest book visit the website of The John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation.

View Dr. Perkins’ JUTN chapel sermon here.

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