In the past week, three men have died within walking distance of our house. They have each died of gunshot wounds. They have died on streets and corners where I regularly walk with my kids. They have died in close proximity to the homes of people we love. They have died as a result of a new gang war that has broken out in our community.
This month marks the six-year anniversary of the murder of someone I loved dearly in Chicago. He was gunned down, at close range, as was the fourteen-year-old pregnant girl who was with him. He was killed over a territory dispute over drug sales in my old neighborhood.
Three young men are dead in my neighborhood and I do not know their names. But in my heart I imagine that they were like Jamar in some ways; I imagine that their lives were marked by some of the same wounds and much of the same desperation that led him to sell drugs and run with a gang. Maybe, like Jamar, some of them had recently been trying to turn their lives around, looking into schools and lining up employment. Maybe they had been reaching out, trying to get help for what they knew was a situation spinning out of control. And maybe like Jamar, they were simply too late.
I just returned from a Servant Partners meeting where we spent some time looking at a passage in Isaiah 42:4 that says this about the Lord’s servant: “He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth…”
I am still learning what it means for us to be this kind of servant here in South Central. I am still learning what it means to trust and serve this God who says to us: “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth (49:6).” Sometimes I feel like Church of the Redeemer’s light is so weak and thin here. The darkness can be so oppressive and I can struggle with very real feelings of failure and despair and hopelessness.
There is so much talk of what it means to be missional in a given place. And there is no shortage of books and classes and blogs that explore this theme! Yet how quiet and grave the question feels right now as I sit and mourn the deaths of three of God’s children.