John Perkins was born in New Hebron, Mississippi, in 1930. His family were sharecroppers and he grew up in grinding poverty and intractable racism. In the hot summer of 1946, John’s older brother, Clyde was shot by a deputy sheriff and he died in John’s arms. With a growing bitterness towards whites, he left Mississippi and found work in California. Just before being deployed to Okinawa during the Korean War he married Vera Mae in 1951.
Through the influence of their oldest son, Spence, who had gotten involved with a children’s ministry in a holiness church in Monrovia, California, John and Vera Mae came to faith in Christ. And the Lord began to change his heart. He and his family returned to Mississippi, to share the Gospel and to work for equality and justice for his own people.
He started Voice of Calvary Ministries (VOCM) in Mendenhall, Mississippi, and the focus was on self-help cooperatives. The Lord blessed his work. But then after a peaceful boycott staged in Mendenhall with students from Tougaloo College, near Jackson, their caravan was pulled over on the highway 49. John and all the students were taken to Rankin County jail in Brandon. On the way to the jail and at the jail John was brutally beaten, almost to death. It changed him. “They were like savages – like some horror out of the night. And I can’t forget their faces, so twisted with hate. It was like looking at white-face demons. Hate did that to them. But you know, I couldn’t hate back. When I saw what hate had done to them, I didn’t ever want hate to do to me what it had already done to those men.”
John not only survived, but he threw himself into the work of VOCM, which has taken as it mission the words that Jesus quoted from Isaiah (61:1-2) when He inaugurated His earthly ministry: “The spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19). The VOCM website goes on to say, “We believe that the good news which Jesus proclaims includes spiritual transformation, but also includes reaching one’s full potential economically, physically, and socially so that one does not remain poor. Beyond that, we believe that transformed individuals should work to transform their communities. Verse 4 of Isaiah 61 from which Jesus reads says: ‘They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.’ Our mission statement for VOCM is therefore Rebuilding Lives and Communities through the Gospel.”
In 1976 John Perkins published his story in a book entitled Let Justice Roll Down, taken from Amos 5:24. He is in the embodiment of the Lord’s call to His people through His prophet Amos. This week we will not only hear the Lord roar in threatening judgment, but we will hear His call to seek God and seek good.
Pray: As you begin your meditation with prayer, consider Ephesians 2:8-10. What is the Lord’s design in saving us? Include that in your prayer when you ask Him to speak to you from His prophet Amos.
Read: Read the four chapters of Amos 3-6
Meditate: What was wrong with Israel? What does the Lord want for His people?
 John Perkins, Let Justice Roll Down, Regal, Ventura, CA, 1976; p. 165.