Reflections on Community Renewal

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Reflections on Community Renewal

Helping Each Other Endure

Here’s a no-brainer — we live in challenging times, and many of our communities are in trouble. The trials and tribulations keep on coming, but for those of us who have read and understand the Word, we already know these things are going to happen. At the same time, we are called to reach out and help each other endure to the end. Specifically, for me, that takes the form of promoting resiliency not only among individuals but also within our communities.

Children Can’t See A Future From Here

In addition to everything else I do, I’m a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. I love my family with all my heart. And it is my heart’s desire is to see my grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up and achieve their hopes and dreams. But when I look around me, I see chaos.

The recent school shootings are examples of how the thief called violence is stealing hope from our children. More and more these days our children can’t see their future from here. I don’t believe it’s supposed to be like that. Regardless of whether violence shows up in group settings or appears to torment individuals, the thief threatens our children, and we must be committed to doing something about it.

A Life Cut Short

A few months ago, I was touched by the story of Mikael, a 26-year old young man who was fatally shot while sitting inside a vehicle in his Chicago neighborhood minding his own business. Early one evening, someone walked up to his car and shot him in the head. He was taken to Stroger Hospital and pronounced dead at 5:45 p.m. The story in the newspaper was very brief – only three simple sentences in length. There was no prominent breaking news feature. One minute Mikael was here; the next minute he was gone. And in spite of Mikael’s death and the deaths of countless others who have lost their lives to senseless violence, business seemed to go on as usual.

The story of Mikael’s death affected me profoundly. I didn’t know Mikael personally. But he was young and gifted and Black and was cut down in the prime of his life by something senseless, and stupid, and evil. That bullet took everything away from Mikael. He missed out on being a lot of things. Mikael was our brother. For all we know, Mikael was an angel, whose very presence announced something ground-breaking to the world or delivered a warning to wake us up! Without a doubt, Mikael was a prisoner of the social ills that affect and infect our communities. We don’t know why Mikael died in the prime of his life.  But we do know that tragedies like this are happening too often these days. And we have grown weary.

Business as Usual?

I run across other stories in the paper almost every day. These reports are typical of the snippets we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in the past few years. Death and mayhem have been condensed to numbers, neighborhoods, and times of the day. Sometimes the names of the victims are mentioned, sometimes not, as if the statistics, as opposed to the humanity, is what matters most.

But, as a researcher, humanitarian, and minister of the Gospel, I’m here to tell you that there’s a story behind every one of those statistics. Until we begin to understand the stories and get the stories straight, we will be doing injustice to those who died and those who are yet to be born.

Time for Change

People are sometimes overwhelmed by the evil that seems to be stacked on top of evil these days. They become frightened. And they tend to go numb. That’s when a crisis of faith begins to set in. That’s exactly where the enemy wants us to be. The enemy would like us to think that the names don’t count. The backstories are irrelevant. And the unjust policies that spawned the violence are business as usual. This kind of callousness affects us all. Even me. I’m here to tell you that it’s time for a change!

Transforming Communities

It occurs to me that, if the present circumstances don’t change, dysfunction in our communities will serve as an incubator for a new set of bad guys more notorious than the last. Our schools will become targets for every troubled soul who seeks to go out in a blaze of chaos that snuffs out the lives of others and leaves trauma in the wake. Our dreams will frighten us, and our hope will fade unless something is done to intercede in the cycle.

Holistic Solutions

I submit to you that a lot of people and groups want to help solve the community’s complex problems.  In their efforts to address community change, groups and individuals are not addressing the whole problem. Sometimes churches take part in the critical conversations; sometimes not. Make no mistake about it. Communities in need of change consist of whole people with mental, physical, as well as spiritual needs. Do the math. If you’re dealing with only their mental and physical needs, you’re addressing only 2/3 of the problem. Transforming our communities requires critical conversations involving a range of people with diverse resources to contribute to the healing. As we begin these conversations, I submit to you that the Church definitely should have a place at the table!

Prayer

Creator God, we lift up our communities to you today. We have so many questions, but we proclaim right now in the name of Jesus that you are in control. We need guidance, strength, courage, and wisdom as we seek solutions. Remove the scales from our eyes. Help us to recognize ways to be in right relationships with each other and heal our communities. In the meantime, we ask that you give us what we need to get through these troubled times. We pray it all in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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