Police helicopters shattered the early morning quiet, and loudspeakers woke up the neighborhood. “Citizens, stay in your home. Lock your doors. Do not go outside”.
Quickly tuning on the news, the TV reported an individual had shot at officers during a traffic stop. The shooter then fled to our neighborhood. Officers thought they had him surrounded in a wooded lot and so, loaded with tactical gear and even a small tank they moved in.
Later in the day we learned the man had taken his life rather than face arrest.
We live in a violent world. Violence that is close is called domestic. The rage that terrorizes a community and locks people inside their homes, called Domestic Violence (DV) and its many different facets, is among the top sources of trouble that officers and citizens face each day.
Domestic violence (DV) is one of the areas we have targeted. For our community to experience wholeness and peace, DV must end. Safe homes, playgrounds, parks, schools, workplaces, shopping centers and churches goes a long way to helping ensure an environment where families and businesses can flourish.
Sam (names are changed) had not met a police officer he did not hate. He grew up in a neighborhood where gangs terrorized the community, men ruled their homes with violence, and took care of their own problems without the interference of the cops.
We live in a vicious society that begins early – training kids with violence and hate rather than nurturing them in love. Many kids grow up being terrorized by family members – beatings, rape, threats. Criminal gangs intimidate neighborhoods to silence any reporting to police. DV is one of the ongoing prayer requests of officers when we meet with them for the monthly pastors and police meeting. Existing laws have not deterred the scourge of DV.
However, we seek to curb the DV that is so prevalent in our community, not by passing more laws but by the gospel that changes hearts.
As Sam began hanging out around the church, he agreed to help with a neighborhood cleanup in conjunction with community partners. As I introduced my group to the officers who showed up, Sam was awestruck. Officers shook his hands not cuffed them.
The officers were actually friendly, jovial, likeable. Sam’s previous contact with officers had him terrified – he had been fearful of an arrest. His home had been a fortress barricaded and ready for a siege with numerous weapons. Sam is no longer a terror to his community, neither is he neglectful of his kids and uncaring for his spouse.
No longer is he a blight upon his neighborhood and no longer is he running and hiding from officers. His culture of DV has been curbed.
One’s formative culture and experience with police have convinced many that police are hostile and prejudiced against them. But after conversion and experience of sanctified love, people are amazed with a new revelation. When a person lives in fear and hatred of police and the culture lives in fear of arrest, a person learns to snarl and curse at officers. Many are raised in neighborhoods that train little kids to treat the officers as enemies. They focus on injustice against them and call it racism or profiling.
Sam now realizes that officers, as human beings, also respond to others as they are being responded to. He discovered, “If you treat a person with respect and dignity you most often get respect and dignity in return”. He is now teaching his kids to have high regard for others and cooperate, answer politely giving respect, not hate.
No longer does he lump all officers or all people into categories of hate. Sam’s culture of domestic violence ended when he met Christ and began to be discipled into holy living.
Lydia’s guilt-ridden conscience of being raped had fueled her fury against men, had hardened her sensitivity to others and closed her mind to biblical teaching. Alcohol dulled the pain but resulted in fighting so that officers were regularly called to quell the rage she inflicted on others. Through one of our urban missionaries she found acceptance to share her story and bring justice to the perpetrator. She discovered forgiveness and freedom in Christ. With guilt, hate, and anger gone, she uses her time to work at a clinic for pregnant women. DV has been curbed in her life.
True religion is local. It has to be personal. Urban missionaries move into a neighborhood to intentionally interact with the neighbors and touch lives. The consistent persistent and intentional sharing the gospel message with the Spirit of love has the power to change a person whose mind had been closed to change.
Lisa was “ready to blow up the school”. She was outraged, offended, hurt, and angry over the way administrators treated her son. She quickly went into plotting revenge and payback – not caring if her actions would result in death of others or prison for herself. HOWEVER, before she implemented her wicked plan, a contact with an urban missionary reminded her that she is a new creation in Christ and that there are other ways to handle outrage and hurt. Lisa was prayed over and put in touch with a network of resources that intervened with the school and the principal called Lisa to apologize for the “misunderstanding”. A shooting or “blowing up the school” was averted. Our urban missionary was present, and a violent tragedy was averted.
Reflecting on the early morning shooter, I wondered what might have been different if an urban missionary CARE team member had been able to befriend the shooter. Perhaps instead of running in fear of arrest and taking his life, he might have been able along with Sam, Lydia, and Lisa to declare the praises of him who calls us from the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light.
As you join us in pray for our work in the Maryvale community and for urban missionaries who are on the front lines, also pray for Jay who is persisting in disbelieving in God. Kicked out of his home, living on the streets – he is still convinced that he is free and living life as he wants. He is another one in our circle of contacts who in his 25 years of living has spent more time in prison than out. We are seeking to befriend him.
Blessings on you. Let us know how we can pray for your ministry to your neighbor – “hood”.
Pastor Dan, Caleb Center Director