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On anniversary of Blake shooting, how faith can help bring healing to the nation

When the mother of Jacob Blake called me, we prayed. As her pastor, I continue to pray that the nation moves more in the direction of faith over fear.

It was supposed to be another typical Sunday afternoon of grocery shopping and preparing to start a new week. But Aug. 23, 2020, is now a day I will never forget.

While driving with my wife, my cellphone rang. I answered to hear a familiar voice. It was Jacob Blake's mother reaching out to tell me that her son had just been shot multiple times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He was 29 and struggling for life. 

Julia Jackson is a faithful member of the church I founded and is also on its prayer team. As we have always done, we believed for the best and instinctively prayed together: “Lord, we pray that Jacob will live and not die, and declare Your works, in Jesus’ name!”

Two days later, and at Jackson’s request, I was privileged to open the national news conference for the shooting of Blake with words of encouragement and prayer. And for just a few moments, our nation was able to publicly hear what we’ve been practicing in private for many years – my prayer and Jackson’s prayer for God’s love and peace to overcome hatred.

Even though our nation has moved on and the news cycle has shifted, one year later, our church family, along with Jackson and Blake, are celebrating an answered prayer – our prayer for Blake to live and not die. Of these all-too-frequent, highly publicized, racialized, politicized and even weaponized deadly encounters between Black men and white police officers, Blake's outcome was different. And very soon, he’ll tell his own story of redemption and talk about his life since Aug. 23, 2020.

The Bible teaches that the things our enemies mean for evil, God will use for good. And while we wish the Kenosha incident never happened, much good has come about because it happened. Today, the American people are more aware than we’ve ever been that we have significant problems to solve. Not just skin problems, but a sin problem deeply rooted in our hearts. Today, more intelligent conversations are happening about how to solve these problems. More prayers are being uplifted by people of faith like Jackson and me and others.

It may not always seem like it, but I believe America is getting better. Why? Because awareness always precedes awakening. A much needed revival cannot come without revealing, followed by repentance. Exposing our national sins will force offenders to give an explanation of their actions. To me, that makes Jackson and her son modern-day heroes and agents of change in our society.

But all of this didn’t just happen. Our response to injustice was premeditated. For many years, we have preconditioned our hearts and minds to overcome any injustice in life by faith and with a different attitude. 

Faith is always greater than fear. Jackson will tell you that she is not a victim. And despite the hardship he has endured and the health challenges he faces every day, Blake is preparing to one day tell the world that he, too, is not a victim.

One year ago, our nation was in a very dark place. Today, I believe things are a little bit brighter, but we still have a long way to go in addressing problems rooted deep in the hearts of people. 

My wife and I were recently invited to spend time at Holly Knoll, the historic home of the African American educator and second president of Tuskegee University, Dr. Robert R. Moton. Holly Knoll was also the center of strategy discussions between African American thought leaders during the civil rights movement.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is said to have spent time at Holly Knoll the same year he led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where he delivered his famous I Have A Dream speech. 

King had a dream, and like him, we also have a vision.

It is my hope and prayer that one year from now, America will be awakened into the vision of God’s mighty flood of justice – one that brings equity to everyone and that causes the nation to move in the direction of faith and unity over fear and division. 

James E. Ward Jr. is pastor of Insight Church. He is the author of "Zero Victim: Overcoming Injustice with a New Attitude." More information can be found at