This is what I recently wrote for our Urban Connections newsletter. It’s longer than I usually put on the blog, but needed said. To read the whole newsletter, including current prayer requests, download the pdf file.
There are many characteristics of our neighborhood that we canâ€™t ignore. I see poverty, I see desperation and I see violence. The last one really has been bothering me. On September 18th I was outside when my neighbors and people from a few houses down started bickering. Eventually the police came and broke it up but as soon as they left everyone was back outside arguing again. Again the police came, again they sent everyone inside, and again as soon as they left everyone was back outside. This time they were in the road slapping one another around. I brought the kids in to the house and told them people werenâ€™t making wise choices and we needed to stay in. Again police, again everyone inside, again the police leave, again everyone back outside… this time with bricks to throw. Again the police… well you get the picture. Until at 8:25pm shots were fired. One man died, one woman injured, and the suspect arrested. There were roughly 20 witnesses to the events. Detectives from not only homicide, but also burglary and assault were called in to conduct the many interviews, which went on long into the night. How is a peacekeeper to respond?
Well, online there were many responses to the news story. One comment said â€œWhat a shock, someone was killed on the east side. Time to plow it under and start over only this time no white trash or thugs allowed.â€Â Another said â€œgood thing the cityâ€™s black population is quickly killing each other off at an alarming rate.â€ These thoughts, and how common they are, concern me more than the violence. My response will not be hate.
We have had the response of those that love us, concerned for our safety who question our commitment to living here. This is more than a few people and let me tell you now that Iâ€™m not packing my boxes. My response will not be to flee.
Iâ€™ve wondered if I shouldâ€™ve done more. Should I have tried to stop the fighting? Should I have gotten involved earlier in the day? Shoulds wonâ€™t help me here… my response will not be regret.
Of course there are days when I worry about my children, the students to whom we minister, and others in the community that we love. We shouldnâ€™t ruffle feathers, we shouldnâ€™t walk alone at night and so on. But my response will not be paralyzing fear.
On October 16th weâ€™re hosting ServeFest teams.Â Just about 24 hours after the shooting I got word that our â€œneighborhood cleanupâ€ project had been adopted. My first thought upon reading the email was to question whether I should cancel that project. But the vision of the project is to bring outsiders and my neighbors together to do the cleanup. My response will not be to abandon unity and vision.
Let me tell you another event that happened that same Saturday with less flair, zero news cameras and no glory. My daughter Hope, 7, invited her friends (7 and 5) over from across the street. While they were on our porch playing she asked them if they want to come with her to Bible club on Mondays. They got excited, went home and asked their mom who then came over to chat with me about what Bible clubs are. That started quite a conversation about church, jobs, children, school (Hope is in the same class as their 7 year old) and so on. It was a good chat and Iâ€™m glad that Hopeâ€™s outgoing nature brought my neighbor to my door.
My response will be love, outreach and hope. My response will be to keep building relationships. I will continue to hold out a vision for this neighborhood that goes beyond poverty, pain and degradation. I will hold fast to the calling set before all of us to love our neighbor.
This happened on my street, but what will your response be? We hope you will come and see the changing lives that are part of our ministry and choose to respond by loving your neighbor in our community.