When asked to describe his calling, Civil Rights leader John Perkins launches instead into a detailed explanation of his long and morphing relationship with the Bible. Perkins’ story moves from confusion to clarity, and ultimately ends in resolve and redemption. Having grown up in poverty, Perkins found hope in the promises of God, and he took them to heart.

But he didn’t just take the good stuff to heart. He also took to heart the challenges and warnings scripture had for both him and his world. In his later years, Perkins demonstrates a distinct comfort with the kinds of tensions we find in scripture: between repentance and hope, justice and forgiveness.

In 1960, Perkins and his wife Vira Mae moved from California, back to Mendenhall, Mississippi to put into practice his philosophy of what it means to minister to the poor. Though he spent much of his energy implementing a daycare center, a church, a youth program, and many other benevolent programs, in his community, Perkins also took a prominent role among ongoing Civil Rights activism. As a result, he built up his community while also running into a host of physical push-back, oftentimes being imprisoned and even beaten for his beliefs and actions.

Along with his wife, he started a foundation dedicated to justice, reconciliation, and community development. Now 88 years old, he’s focused on clarifying and documenting the experience and wisdom he’s developed over the years.

In the final episode of CT’s The Calling, host Richard Clark talks with Perkins about his experience growing up in the midst of unjust laws, the double-edged sword of forgiveness, and his fear of falling short of faithfulness in the end.

In the excerpt from the podcast below, ...

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