I was a fairly new Christian that Wednesday night in spring 1995 when I attended a new Bible study. I found the group's leader, Marilyn Parks, in the church's lounge, along with the only other woman who'd shown up: Bridget Thomas.
I didn't know Bridget well. She'd married our pastor's son, Tobin, earlier that fall and had joined the church, but we rarely had occasion to speak.
Since there were only three of us at the Bible study that first night, it seemed inappropriate to simply wave "good-bye" and rush out following our discussion, so I took my time putting on my coat and made polite small talk. Bridget struck me as open and friendly, an impression that solidified during our interactions in the weeks that followed.
I soon learned from our Wednesday evening chit-chat that Bridget and I had a lot in common. Not only were we both new to the church, but also both new to our faith in Jesus and hungry to learn more about him. We had similar tastes in music and other entertainment. I also enjoyed Bridget's encouraging spirit.
But as similar as we were, there was still one major difference—our racial makeup. I had no idea how heavily that difference weighed in my mind until Liz Butler joined our church later that year.
Liz had a sincere, welcoming disposition—and she was black. I was immediately drawn to her warm smile and deep faith, and soon I was inviting her to my home for dinner, calling her on the phone, making a beeline for her after church. I was excited about my friendship with Liz, and I ex-pressed my enthusiasm to Marilyn and Bridget one Wednesday night: "Thank God I finally found a friend in this area!"