Black Pastor Bridges Racial Chasm by Reaching North  Carolina's Hispanics

by Stephen J. Litde, Raleigh, N.C.

Garland Hunt-once a fan of Louis Farrakhan-is encouraging reconciliation among pastors in the Raleigh area 

Walk into the storefront church on St. Albans Drive in Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday morning and you'll find about 150 African Americans worshiping alongside a sprinkling of whites and Hispanics in a service that's heavy on music and deep in message. In the evening, visitors would see about 30 Hispanic people worshiping in Spanish and hearing the same message translated by a Puerto Rican elder.

It's the Raleigh International Church (RIC) by day, La Iglesia Internacionale de Raleigh by night. And behind it all is a pastor whose heart beats for racial reconciliation among all God's people. Meet Garland Hunt.
"Our vision from the very beginning was for a multiracial church here-one that will represent the nations worshiping the Lord together and one that will be a catalyst for revival in the area," said Hunt, 38.

Hunt, also an attorney, keeps busy pursuing his goals of racial reconciliation and revival by working as a regional Promise Keepers speaker and executive vice president for Wellington Boone Ministries.

The ministry begins at home with RIC's Hispanic congregation. The church gives needy members free food and clothing and is working to bring in bilingual volunteers to teach English. Separate services are necessary because of the language barrier, but Hunt's goal is to integrate the two congregations. It's a unique ministry, a black church with a Hispanic outreach, but it fits with Hunt's God-given call to foster Christian community among the races. 

Hunt's move to unite races is a huge turnaround from his militant past. As a radical Howard University student, Hunt wanted to change society through social activism. In fact, he once invited Louis Farrakhan to speak at an assembly and prayed beforehand that God would speak through the Nation of Islam leader.

At that time Hunt's perspective focused solely on the black community. "I wanted justice for the African American community, but I was excluding God from the picture."
Even after becoming a Christian he struggled with bitter memories of his Atlanta childhood during the Civil Rights movement and the impact of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death on his mother. "I carried over my prejudice  into my Christianity. I wanted to hear the gospel only through a black voice and turned away from any one white," Hunt told Charisma.

His attitudes began changing after he was baptized in the Holy Spirit. It took more than three years for a hunger for righteousness to replace the desire to protect his race.
"I realized I should be seeking not a road of justice but a road of righteousness," he explained. "So instead of just a ministry for one race, it ended up being a ministry of reconciliation."

In 1985 Hunt hooked up with Wellington Boone Ministries to expand New Generation Campus Ministries, an outreach to black college students. In seven years the ministry grew to more than 50 college campuses nationwide, and the work often took him to Raleigh.
Local ministers encouraged him to start a church there, and in 1993 he began RIC. "We really felt not just called to start one local church. We felt called to the city," said Hunt.
Seven times a day on three radio stations Hunt's Reconciling Raleigh broadcasts are beamed to the city. The 10 minute program exhorts Christians, pastors and lay ministers to bridge racial and denominational divisions.
On occasion he has advised and prayed with Raleigh Mayor Tom Fetzer. It's part of Hunt's call, he believes, to speak the Word of God to those in leadership. "Men of God have to supersede the political and give the Lord's direction for a city," he said.

Hunt's involvement in a pastors' prayer group has been instrumental in bringing more white and black pastors together, said Raleigh Concerts of  Prayer director Don Rayno. With local layminister Freddy Johnson, Hunt took the lead in encouraging pastors to attend the 1996 Promise Keepers Pastors Conference in Atlanta. The conference was a breakthrough in racial reconciliation among the Raleigh pastors.

Out of that came Pastors for Awakening and Reconciliation, a racially mixed group of about 100 Raleigh church leaders who meet monthly to pray. The group recently sponsored the Unity and Harmony 2000 Conference, an event that brought 6,000 people from 150 churches to hear Dallas preacher Tony Evans deliver a message on racial healing.

The conference was an important step in Hunt's dream to see the city's churches reconciled. "We have never had a citywide meeting like that before, he said. "I believe we are seeing the beginnings of revival." 

Reprinted by permission of Charisma. Strang Communications