HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (WBTV) - Pastor Mark Evans of Jonahville AME Zion Church in Huntersville reached out to several white churches right after the tragic shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. June, 2015 Dylan Roof shot and killed nine African American parishioners after Bible Study. His motive was hate.
Evans was troubled by those murders and wanted to reach out to predominately white churches to start the healing process.
"One of the things I wanted to do was to make sure that the people of Jonahville understood that we must love one another," Jonahville AME Zion Church Pastor Mark Evans said. "That what happened was an act of hate and that the perpetrator does not embody all those who are white, so we wanted to come and have a hard conversation."
Pastor Todd Marlin from Independence Hill Baptist Church was the only church that answered Evans' call.
"We immediately started looking at what are we going to do with our congregations to bring them together," Independence Hill Baptist Church Pastor Todd Marlin said. "And so we moved right from - is there anything in between us - realizing there wasn't - lead our people to understand one another better."
The two churches began their mission to do their part to help tear down the walls of racism. The pastors believe this was God's assignment for them. The two churches started bridging the differences with their congregations. They worked together and have addressed racism by having hard conversations. Independence Hill Baptist Church and Jonahville AME Zion Church have even participated in activities together to strengthen their bond and to show two different denominations and races can live peacefully together.
"We call it the Hill and the Ville depending on who's doing what," Evans said. "What we do is respect one another."
The two leaders say they will continue the conversation with the young people at their churches. They want to start meeting with them regularly to start that hard conversation about race so history won't repeat itself.
"It's easy to have misconceptions and to hate from a distance," Pastor Marlin said. "And I think what's been powerful about what we've done is - it wasn't just a onetime thing - four years ago we intentionally followed that up."
The two churches are still going strong years later and continue to show love. The relationship is so deep, Pastor Evans said Pastor Marlin made a request that is the example of how a relationship of two strangers from different backgrounds and ethnicities can have meaning.
“We were together and he said to me - I told my wife if I pass before you,” Pastor Evans said. “Do my eulogy - that blessed my life.”