This morning as I opened my bible and began my Nehemiah study it brought me to Chapter 5, and I realized this was the morning I would finish a blog entry I started almost a week ago, as I read I came across Nehemiah 5:6, “I was very angry when I heard their outcry and words, (ESV). Now I should tell you that the way this verse struck a chord in my heart, is a little different than what Nehemiah found himself outraged about,however I’ve been struggling for almost a week, with this same sentiment that Nehemiah declares right there in the middle of Chapter 5, struggling for a week with feeling outraged about what is considered normal within my community….
I’ve lived in my community for going on two years now, and things happen, and have happened and will happen, but what happened last Wednesday night pierced my heart greater than anything that has happened in the last two years. I’ve done ministry for almost seven years and I have witnessed some pretty awful things, but no matter how many times you watch violence happen within your community, you’re never prepared to watch a teenage boy freshly shot be rushed by you and sped off in an ambulance.
Last week in the middle of our Pre-Kids Club meeting a mom bursts through the door with her kids and tells us, “Their shooting on the corner down there,” and they were one block over and one block up shooting, and they did indeed shoot a teenage boy, and a ton of our kids live on that block and the block right before it, and a ton of the kids from my block play on that street, so immediately my heart broke, for a multitude of reasons, one because where are all my boys who play there, is it one of them, two because how many of them witnessed this horrible scene. It turns out several of them watched all this happen, and to them it’s normal. In fact later that night as I was talking with one of my neighbors, who is a mom she said to me, “Ms. Colleen it happens, and you just pray and thank God it’s not your kid and move on, it happens so much you can’t think about it too much.”
The reality is that while this outrages me, and sends blood boiling through my body and I want to scream, NO NO NO, it doesn’t just happen, THIS IS NOT NORMAL! She’s right in her thinking and the way she feels, because that’s normal for her, but the reality is that this not normal life, is “normal” for these kids, that less than a half hour after the crime scene is cleaned up and the fire department washes away the blood, it becomes the playground for the kids again, that moms pray that it’s not their kid that becomes the next victim, that our kids walked through a crime scene to get to Kids Club last week, and to them this all seems normal. Last week as one of my boys, who likes to think he’s tough (and in some ways he really is) ran through the door and said, “Ms. Colleen you know that boy was shot up the street,” I looked at him and said yes, and he began to tell us about the entire scene, how he knew the boy and what he saw, and I asked him how he was feeling and for the first time ever, my tough guy, said, “Ms. Colleen I’m scared.”
You know what buddy, I’m scared too, scared that if we don’t stop thinking that this is normal, that if we don’t stop saying oh well it happens and moving on and preparing ourselves for the next time, NOTHING is going to change, and one of these days it might be one of you, I am scared too friend. Almost a week later some of these boys are still talking about what happened on the street they like to play on, a few days later I took this same kid out for the afternoon and we talked and talked about violence in our community, about drugs, about guns, about getting out and doing something bigger and better with your life. He told me he’s begging his daddy to move because he’s scared, he told me that he begged his dad to fill out the application and asked his teacher to write a recommendation to the SEED SCHOOL of Maryland so that he can be put on the waiting list and so he can live at school and learn in a safe environment (So yesterday I did all of the work so all his dad has to do is fill out the paper work, and I even arranged a visit so that we can go visit this school next week), this same little boy shared with me about how he wants to be successful, he wants to go to college and maybe be a police officer.
I have said it time and time and time again on my blog, and I will continue to say it until something changes, I can live in the community, I can love these boys, I can teach them how to treat ladies, how to clean a kitchen after dinner, I can read books with them and do homework, I can share love, and hugs and make cookies at Christmas time, but NOTHING I can do for them compares to what a strong man of God can do for them. And until there are more men, and as horrible as this may sound, until there are more African American men of God who are willing to step out and take on some mentoring roles, some discipleship roles, and be Godly examples in these boys lives not much is going to change, because they are living in a functional dysfunction, and while their moms, grand-moms, aunts are all trying hard to raise young men, the influence of a strong father (male) role is missing.
As I have dug into Nehemiah, I have realized that what he desired within his community was UNITY, and a desire to work together to repair the destruction that happened and was happening around them, Nehemiah’s desires for his community are a lot of what I desire for my own community. As I read through Nehemiah, I’ve pondered how an entire community could rally together to rebuild something they had lost, but it’s a struggle to pull together a community of believers to make change in a community that needs it, why are we living in a world that is okay with functional dysfunction? God loves and values community and UNITY so why is it such a lost art? Why do we live in a world that is so self focused and centered that we’ve lost focus of what’s important to Jesus?
So this week as I have taken my morning (or evening) walks which always end up turning into a prayer walk, I’ve prayed a little differently, I’ve prayed for change, I’ve prayed for each of my kids by name, but I have also prayed for that special man or woman who they may not know yet that is going to pour truth, love, Jesus, Grace and Mercy into each of their little lives and hearts. I’ve also made a point to walk to the spot where a teenage boy laid last week, and I’ve asked for miraculous healing to continue in his life, physically, mentally, and most importantly spiritually, I’ve asked that whomever did this to him, that somehow in the midst of all the chaos that surrounds a crime like this, and that when they are finally caught up too, they will have a long life ahead of them, that somehow in all of this they too will come to know Jesus, I’ve prayed for each house a little differently on my block, I’ve prayed hard for the mom who says, “Ms. Colleen it just happens…” and I have prayed that God will continue to mold my heart and life to be a little more like Nehemiah’s desiring the best for my community, being an influence that will make people within my community think, and ask question and want to know Jesus more, and want to fight and rally and make change happen in their communities, that UNITY would become important to them. Will you my friends pray with me, pray for my community, pray for your own community, pray for your own hearts and how you love your community, your neighbors, you friends?