In the 1990s, Greg Burnett was living in Austin and had come across the story of Dr. J.J. Seabrook’s death being the decisive factor in 19thStreet being renamed on both sides of IH-35 to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. One night he had a dream, and one part of this dream was a vision of God “putting His food down in Austin”, as if He was visiting the city in all His majesty. The location the foot came to rest was the bridge on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. across IH-35. Greg sensed that God was saying, “I have permission to put my foot down in this spot, because of my servant J. J. Seabrook and his death many years ago.”
In late 2004 I was leading the fledgling Austin House of Prayer, whose mission was to build united 24/7 prayer throughout Austin. I learned from Steve Hawthorne of Waymakers about the first Global Day of Prayer (GDOP), scheduled for Pentecost 2005. Upon hearing that it was to be preceded with 10 days of 24/7 prayer, I immediately thought, “We must establish our prayer room to host these 10 days of continuous prayer.” Up until that time, Austin House of Prayer (AHOP) had no prayer room, instead meeting in various churches and locations throughout the city at different times in the week.
So we rented a small set of rooms at the corner of Chicon and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. east of IH-35. We had enough money to pay rent through the end of the 10 Days for GDOP, and just said to God, “We don’t know if we’ll have a prayer room beyond that, but we want to host Your Presence and the city for those 10 Days.” I sent out an email announcing the opening of the prayer room, and my friend Greg Burnett from Charlotte NC responded with this: “God is saying that AHOP will be blessed by opening a prayer room on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., because of the sacrifice of J.J. Seabrook in the 1970’s.” I had never heard of J.J. Seabrook, so I called Greg and he filled me in on the story, which struck me as very important.
When we moved to our second prayer room, a little farther east and one block north of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., we rented a large warehouse with many churches, ministries, and businesses housed in it, all located around a 24/7 prayer room in the center of the warehouse. We named the warehouse “The Seabrook Center”, both to honor Dr. Seabrook, and to ask that his same spirit of sacrificial reconciliation would be upon us in that place. Over the years I have given dozens (perhaps hundreds) of tours of the facility, and each time I tell the story of Dr. J.J. Seabrook. Inevitably the listeners, even native Austinites, have never heard this story; just as inevitably, the response runs something like this: “What an amazing story”, “I have chills running up and down my spine”, “I am very inspired by this story.” One day earlier this year, I received the response “We have to do something about this” from my friend Robert O’Dell.
Today, May 13, 2010, the Austin City Council unanimously passed a resolution authorizing naming the “J.J. Seabrook Bridge” across IH-35 on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd! After the meeting I drove home across the bridge, and suddenly realized that this was the first day of the 10 Days of 24/7 Prayer for the 2010 Global Day of Prayer. I began to praise God because only He could have orchestrated this kind of timing. Six years ago we established a prayer room for GDOP – which led to the discovery for us of the J.J. Seabrook story – which led to the telling of that story – which led to the City Council resolution on the first day of GDOP, six years later. Amazing!
This is only one step in the process of racial healing and reconciliation in Austin. There have been, are, and will be many people who play critical roles in this process. To have God so obviously stamp this with His divine favor as revealed in the remarkable timing of the City Council resolution, should give all of us courage to move forward knowing that His Presence is with us. Let us not shrink back, let us press on to see in our day and in our time the fullness of all God has in His mind regarding greater unity in the city of Austin.