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Read an excerpt from Still Standing:
CBN.com “Christianity was the white man’s religion. So, I identified more with Muhammad than I did with Jesus Christ and for that reason, I began to embrace Islam.”
However, Derek Grier didn’t always believe this way. Although he wasn’t reared in a Christian home, his mother sent him to a church summer camp. Something happened there that made a lasting impression upon young Derek.
“One day they were singing a song: 'Jesus, there’s something special about that name,'” he recalls. “And I felt a presence. I couldn’t explain it but I felt it. It was something that I’d never experienced before. I remember after that time trying to get that presence back by singing the same song. I never got that presence."
As he got older, Derek’s pursuit of “that presence” was pushed aside by the racism of the early 1970s.
“There were race riots in our high school and that kind of filtered down to the junior high. We lived in tense times. I was very aware of my race: the black kids sat in the back of the bus, the white kids sat in the front of the bus, and we taunted each other. By the time I came to Howard University, I was pretty much trying to find out where I fit in, who I am. During that time I decided that Christianity was largely responsible for the suffering historically of black people in this country and [accepting it] was one of the biggest mistakes the slaves had made.”
Campus guest speakers such as Louis Farrakhan and others from the nation of Islam gave Derek fuel for his belief that there was only one right choice of religion for a black person: Islam.
“When Farrakhan came to the university, he would teach that not only was Christianity the white man’s religion but he would teach that black men were gods and white folks were demons.
“I would debate Christians all the time. In fact, they didn’t do very well typically in those debates.”
But, for all of his bravado for Islam, he never became a Muslim. One morning during class, Derek says that he was overcome by a sensation he was not used to.
“I had a tremendous sense of sin. At that time, I didn’t think in terms of sin. I didn’t understand what sin was but just an ‘undoing’ on the inside. I felt dirty, I felt unclean, and I just had to get away. So, I thought I was really going crazy. I thought, what’s happening to me?
“At the same time, I felt a 'wooing.' I felt like Someone cared and that perhaps He was showing me this because He wanted to fix this. And in that time, I felt the very presence of God.”
Derek hurried back to his dorm room.
“While I was laying on the bed, I saw a man. It blew my mind. I saw a man standing in my room, and He had a long flowing gown. And all He said was, 'This is it.' But, in that moment, I felt that same presence I felt when I was a boy singing about Jesus. Instinctively, I knew that man was Christ and He was saying that He was the way, the truth and the life. Now, I’m very conservative and cerebral. I had to research things, and I read the Bible for about a year.
“It wasn’t so much the miracles of Jesus that inspired me. It was His character. The way He handled storms. The way He handled opposition, the way He handled His disciples, the manhood -- the raw manhood of the Jesus Christ was overwhelming. Over a period of time, He became my secret hero.
“One day during a chapel service, I can’t explain it but a light got turned on. Those things that I thought and were brewing inside kind of clicked. This man was far more than just a man. He was God taking on flesh. He was an illustrated sermon of the living God. I embraced Him as that, and my life has never been the same since.”
Derek went on to earn his degree in business at Howard University. After working for a civil rights organization and doing marketing research for a fortune 500 company, he returned to Howard University as a campus minister for the same Christian fellowship that led him to the Lord.
Derek also met and married his wife, Yeromitou, and started a family. He went on to earn a master of arts in education degree through Regent University and a doctorate in ministry through Wagner Leadership Institute. Derek is now the pastor of Grace Church. He writes and speaks out on issues of faith in hope of reaching others who are like he once was: in search of his identity without God in his life.
“See, when God looks at me, He doesn’t see a black boy -- he sees a son. I recognize that I’m an African American, and I’m aware socially but I also realize that there is a higher truth. That is that I’m part of the family of God. I used to look at folk and I would see white, Chinese, and Hispanic. I’ve learned over the years that of course you notice obvious things about people but underneath it all they’re just human. We’re just people. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the grace of God, and we need a Savior to lift us up.”
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