Imagine working in Chicago’s infamous Cook County juvie jail. Now try to imagine the bitterness you encounter every day on both sides of the bars. Could a young white male make a difference? Some folks might even label Ben Sciacca as too idealistic for his own good. Certainly change happened; mostly in him, he says now with a chuckle.
Would you ever guess that being a peacemaker involves taking a risk. In fact, Ben states that being a peacemaker always involves risk. Being a peacemaker means stepping out into a place where peace has been compromised. Nowhere is this more clear than when you tie justice to education. He labels those willing to take a risk for peace, Like Dr. Anthony Gordon, as “solutionaries.” Restoration Academy, where Ben serves as Executive Director, was started by Dr. Gordon in response to educational injustice in their community. Ben clarifies that justice and peace are inseparable. Peace-making, as opposed to peace-keeping, happens when justice has been challenged, thus creating risk for those who seek to restore justice.
Out of his experience, Ben created a best-selling book, Meals from Mars, which he calls a parable. I call it genius. He wants us to think past our own skin pigment, grasping a different perspective. Yep, it’s a page turner depicting a well-meaning white guy who delivers food to a kindly black grandmother and her grandkids in a dangerous neighborhood. The oldest grandson, a studious kid, gets slammed into a carjacking situation with the white guy.
Lest you think this is some do-gooder’s fantasy, Ben lives, walks, and breathes desegregation with his family in Birmingham in all aspects of their life, particularly through the justice-restoring education ministry called Restoration Academy. (Interested in a similar school in East Texas? See Promise Academy.)
“At Restoration Academy, we believe that every child in the Birmingham area deserves an excellent, Christ-centered education. Our mission is to provide this opportunity through advancing the two greatest commandments in the life of every student: to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others as ourselves,” according to their website.
On Fireside Talk Radio, Ben shared with me how his preconceived ideas were challenged as a student at Wheaton. We call the episode, Racial Unity, with Meals from Mars author, Ben Scaicca. The young men he met in juvie jail challenged him to think about reconciliation and justice a whole new way.
Ben offers practical advice on how even one person’s efforts can ripple out to create unity in our communities. We call that episode, Racial Unity: Meals from Mars, When Two Universes Collide with Ben Sciacca.
So, what can we do to promote reconciliation? Anything simple and easy that might make a difference on the tough issue of racism? You bet! Along with reconciliation and justice, Ben offers insight on “Shalom, peace that makes harmony and delight in all our relationships.” Ben offers the kind of Biblical peace promised when we discover the secret to seeking it first in our own hearts.
As he shares about the challenge of living in his neighborhood, he enthusiastically lists benefits that his wife and children share because he followed his heart and God’s leading. Eighteen years as an educator at RA have cemented this good man’s love for his diverse community.
If you wonder what you could do to help heal our nation’s schism over race, you will want more practical and perceptive insight from Ben. I suggest reading his book today.
Cathy Primer Krafve, aka Checklist Charlie, lives and writes with a Texas twang. Contact her at CathyKrafve.com.