An alert on a neighborhood app warned residents to keep their eyes open for a group of young black men suspected in a ring of car break-ins. The post included video of a tall, black teenager wearing an Adidas hoodie breaking into a car. It made Rene Reithel’s heart pound.
Reithel is a white mom of two black sons, and her 16-year-old wears an Adidas hoodie almost every day. Immediately Reithel thought about Ahmaud Arbery, the unarmed jogger who was fatally shot in Georgia by a group of vigilantes.
“That posting had nothing to do with my son, but it described him,” she said. “As mamas of black sons, we live in constant fear.”
Kisa Hoeltke knows that fear. Her oldest son is a football player, a Christian school graduate now in college, but what’s going on in our world affects him and her daughter. She kept her “momma fear” quiet except for family and close friends.
Let’s face it. Talking about hard realities like racism and injustice is risky.
Both Reithel and Hoeltke are longtime members of Southeast Christian Church, former staff members, devoted to Jesus and their families. Both believe what’s happening in our world is more than a race issue. It’s a Jesus issue.
Together they created a website and a podcast called Two Mamas and a Mustard Seed (www.twomamasanda
mustardseed.com). Podcast episodes include “Building Diverse Friendship,” “Fear and Faith-Filled Justice,” “Mamas and Black Sons.” Podcasts are already reaching around the globe from Minneapolis to Uganda, New York City to Germany, Louisville to Denver.
The goal of the podcast is to break down barriers and soften hearts.
“Talking about race is not about politics or power, it’s about trying to be more like Jesus,” Hoeltke said. “We are desperately navigating the road toward racial reconciliation, and we are doing it together as friends and followers of Jesus. We want to be part of heart change in America. We want to see the ugliness of racism and bias destroyed not just for us, but for our children. We want people to take a minute to break away from chatter on social media and breathe in historical and Biblical truth, reflect on it and try to understand people of color in our nation.”
The women know people will react.
“We will not all agree,” Hoeltke said. “But we have to be willing to have relationships, to do more than take a picture of black people while on a mission trip in Africa. We have to be willing to speak the truth in love even if that makes us uncomfortable. I may not agree with you, and you may not agree with me, but we must be willing to learn, be educated and understand how history—even church history—has excluded people of color. We must be willing to have a paradigm shift, to examine our upbringing and history.”
Everyone is invited to the conversation.
Reithel said when she and her husband adopted their sons, they thought they were bringing them home in a post-racial era. Not true. Prejudice shows up in jokes, snide comments, observations and stereotypes. Though race is in the headlines every day and the nation is divided, these women believe change is possible.
“We ask people to talk with their children,” Reithel said. “Train them to keep their eyes open to injustice and to stand up for what’s right. We ask parents to introduce conversations with kids through books, resources and movies. In Joshua 1:9, God tells us to be strong and courageous because God is with us. We all, Kisa and I included, need to be strong and courageous when it comes to talking about race in America.”
Reithel and Hoeltke believe God has called them to this moment, and He will use their voices to make a difference in the current narrative.
“We don’t want people to be afraid of the conversation,” Reithel said. “There are lies ingrained in our heads. We shouldn’t be afraid to confront them. We are a vanilla sister and a chocolate sister with a mustard seed bit of faith who hope that we can change a few people in this journey.”
The Two Mamas and a Mustard Seed podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. For more information, visit www.twomamasandamustardseed.com.