All God's Children
The more you understand someone's history, the better you can see their humanity. This is true for individuals as well as for society at large. Race relations have suffered because of the erasure of important Black history and cultural context. As we fill in the gaps of our collective knowledge, communities can grow in understanding, empathy, and solidarity.
Terence Lester shares the buried history of the struggles Black people have faced against unjust systems. He tells powerful stories of courage, injustice, pain, and triumph, including ones from his own history. He also unpacks the sociological and cultural dynamics of unconscious bias and inattentional ignorance that keep us apart, and how they can be overcome. This honest account of what it's like to be Black in America paves the way for the church to move beyond showing support from a distance toward loving one another in long-term solidarity, advocacy, and friendship.
"As I joyfully read through Terence Lester's amazing book All God's Children, I realized this was exactly the resource we need for the wilderness season we find ourselves in. . . . As you prepare to read this book, I invite you to open your heart and view All God's Children as a handbook for navigating the wilderness our nation is in. Allow Terence to pastor you in your quest for deeper formation that leads toward greater sight, greater understanding, and ultimately greater love for God and neighbor."
"We belong in God. We belong with each other. And somehow, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'We must learn to live together,' or 'we will perish together as fools.' Terence Lester has provided us with some of the ways we can take this journey, and it is up to us to respond with open hearts. He has challenged us to carry the teachings here forward into our everyday lives and live like Christ."
"Terence Lester has a long-standing track record of listening to and standing up for those society would rather forget. This book beautifully, and in some spaces hauntingly, weaves together the story of the unhoused while providing crucial racial analysis that did my soul so much good to read. I think this book deserves a space in classrooms and libraries all across this country."
"I love Terence Lester's mission: 'to ensure that no one feels invisible.' He says that to see someone, to recognize their dignity and know them truly, you have to learn their story and understand their history. We White folks have a centuries-old tendency to bury history that makes us uncomfortable. It's long past time to confront the painful truth of systemic racial injustice in our country. All God's Children isn't a feel-good, let's-all-get-along book, but it's absolutely about love—the kind of love that confronts injustice at every turn. I'm so thankful for Lester and this heartfelt, challenging book."
"Many churches in America struggle with the word justice despite its inextricable link to Christ's ministry. Terence provides a crucial invitation and pathway for today's church to take: come back to Jesus and a more just vocation."
"Terence is one of my favorite voices on the topics of justice and faith. For him, they're inseparable. I'm always grateful for his reminder to move past knowledge and head toward movement; as he says in All God's Children, 'It's as we bear the loads of others that we become who God means us to be.' This book is spiritual formation literature at its finest."
"All God's Children is the companion people of faith need right now. It is vulnerable, courageous, honest, and engaging. Finding a way to be at the same time comprehensive, caring, and challenging, Terence Lester weaves faithful insights and historical context alongside his own personal history and helps us break down the ill-conceived barriers that keep us from living out the solidarity to which God calls us. In a time when competing voices seek to incite our outrage and distrust of one another, Terence's work clears a path and invites us into deeper solidarity and unity with all God's beloved children."
"As humans, we are hardwired to assume that anything unfamiliar is unsafe—until proven otherwise. As a result, many of us mistake inexperience for fear, leading us to believe that topics like racial solidarity are daunting, problematic, or unapproachable. The solution lies in what we are practicing. Terence Lester first taught us, through love, how to see those we overlooked. Then he showed us how to stand together in pursuit of justice. Now in All God's Children, he is challenging us to do something. If you desire to participate in the hard and necessary work of confronting what has been harmful to so many of your brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, this book is for you."
"As we continue to pursue a future when human rights are the foundation and not something that is secondary, it is important to seek wisdom from leaders who can hold nuance and recognize that human rights aren't a singular issue. I'm so thankful for the work and the words of Terence Lester as he leads us into expanding our perspectives to hold the both/and. Terence helps us to understand that our legal matters are heart issues, and if we are to change or dismantle the structures that cause harm, then we must turn our hearts toward a vision that is different from the one society implanted in us. All God's Children is a courageous conversation, an honest assessment of reality, and a step toward a future that honors God's kingdom."
"This book is an essential guide as you travel the wilderness experiences of life. All God's Children is a map that will inspire you that there is still a way forward."
"The soul of America will be shaped by the stories that we choose to embrace. In the midst of the largest movement for civil rights in half a century, Terence Lester shares some of his own stories—as well as some of those he has learned from in his many years of allyship and advocacy with and for the unhoused—in demonstrating that true belonging occurs when we honor the testimony of all who have been crafted in the image of God. This volume does more than educate us on belonging; it challenges us to build it."
"Terence Lester has a voice that inspires me to do better not out of guilt or shame but from hope and love. His words—built on a life of activism—open our hearts to God's love for the most marginalized and dehumanized in society. In All God's Children, Terence relates his own story and the collective stories of Black people in the United States—history that Terence himself did not learn until after high school. For folks who want an intro to US racial history written accessibly and narratively, pick up All God's Children and get ready to develop empathy, shed prejudices and fears, and move toward long-term healing and racial solidarity."
"In All God's Children, Terence Lester invites us not just to learn about the fight against racism and racial injustice as spectators but to become active participants in the solution as well. I can't recommend this book enough. Terence writes with a combination of research, history, and personal storytelling that compels the reader with an urgency to be a part of the change needed. Terence asks us not just to empathize with others but to look at ourselves, and he shows us how we can't fully understand others without recognizing our own limited understanding, our own limited knowledge of history, and our own biases—I found myself reflecting on mine as I read. Through Terence's personal story, we are invited to confront our own areas of shortfall and consider how we want to write our story in racial solidarity going forward. This book will change you, challenge you, or affirm the work you are already doing as holy work that must be continued. All God's Children is a book I will be returning to and sharing with everyone I know."
"I love books that tell a compelling story and challenge me to think. All God's Children certainly accomplishes both objectives. Terence's writing on racial solidarity is powerful because he shares from a place of expertise, experience, and empathy. He clearly articulates what he believes but does so in a winsome and engaging manner."
"I live in proximity to people different from my family. My daughter came home from fourth grade saying, 'I now know what it's like to be Norman.' He was the only Black child in her suburban class. My son had his literature teacher ask, 'Why did your people do this to us?' With the history of how we have hurt one another being passed on, living in proximity is difficult. Terence has given us a resource to help us love always and be better in our generation. If you let him, he will help you see—not just the people we ignore but also the person in the mirror."
"Terence Lester and I have something in common that I wish we didn't. We have both been invited to sit at tables only to leave feeling like we were invited to check off the box of diversity. Often those tables don't afford you the opportunity to add value through your gifts or to share the wisdom you possess. For me, I was just the urban Black girl that added flavor to the room. In All God's Children, Terence enlightens, educates, and commissions us all to never forget that we truly are all God's children. This book is a necessary insertion in a world that still doesn't quite understand this truth."
"In All God's Children, Terence Lester shares deeply personal and collective stories of the pain and perseverance of Black folk and the unhoused. While love and faith are action verbs woven throughout, Terence walks the talk and calls us to do the same. This book is an excellent resource as we seek to better love God, our neighbor, and ourselves."
"Read this book! I sit at Terence Lester's feet because his life backs up his words. So when he speaks or writes, I listen. Within these pages, Lester shares thoughts and experiences from his own life as well as aspects of US history—including the contemporary moment—showing us what it means to live like Jesus. Indeed, it is often said that 'hell' is separation from God. When we are separated or segregated from any of God's children, we are separated and segregated from God because only those who love their neighbors love God (see 1 John). It's only in learning to love our neighbors in our communities—neighbors that we have previously not considered neighbors because of our differences in race, class, politics, or culture—that we will learn to love God and demonstrate our love for God. Here Lester shows us the way, and he is a credible witness."
"All God's Children challenges the reader on the importance of meeting people where they are while instructing on how to stand in solidarity with all God's children, no matter their background. Lester educates on the importance of knowing our true history and how that understanding shapes how we see people and the world around us."
"All God's Children is a magnum opus of transparency, insight, research, and passion through storytelling. No other project by Terence Lester accomplishes what this project accomplishes—effectively marrying his God-given talent of advocacy, truth telling, and reflection with his academic rigor and vulnerability. It's precise, honest, and clear. Anyone reading this book can't help but be moved to reflection or action."
"As George Floyd lay dying on the street in Minneapolis in 2020, so too did the presumption of benevolent ignorance of people who call themselves followers of Jesus in the United States. Scales fell from eyes across the country and with that a sharp awareness rose that we are not well, as a nation and as a church. With All God's Children, Terence Lester offers the next generations practical wisdom for the journey toward racial solidarity following in the footsteps of Tom Skinner, John Perkins, Bill Pannell, Brenda Salter McNeil, and me. All God's Children is an excellent resource for small groups and churches who are tired of mere talk and want to experience the power of actual faith to heal our world."
"We are all God's children, equally beloved and unique . . . so why don't we act like it? In this book, Terence Lester draws on his skills as a scholar as well as his own lived experiences to help us understand how racism keeps us apart. The beginning of repair is truth telling. All God's Children tells us the truth about racism and how we can begin to heal."
"Terence Lester has never shied away from confronting the harsh realities of racial injustice, yet he continues to do so with grace, kindness, and compassion. In All God's Children, Terence funnels these truths through each chapter, but he does not leave the reader alone with mere words to reflect on. Terence gives us practical application and teaches us how to make change and engage a world that so desperately needs our voices."
"Terence is not just an amazing storyteller, he's an amazing living story. His life, his work, and his writing are like a trinitarian invitation to a justice-filled life. Yes, I truly believe that All God's Children is an important book for everyone living in these times. So let's read it and reread it together, but more importantly, let's dare to live it as Terence is already living it."
Foreword by Daniel Hill
Introduction: Everyone Has a Story
1. A Past I Could Not Touch
2. A History Few Wanted to Understand
3. God Is Justice
4. Confronting Buried History
5. Unpacking Biases
6. Engaging Differences
7. Engage Your Community
8. Practice Proximity
9. Sit at Another's Table
10. Break the Silence
Conclusion: Be the Solution
Afterword by Vonnetta L. West