“Call me before you come home.”
This was the text I received from Doug during our preschool movie night on Friday. I wasn’t sure what the message meant, but when I felt the phone vibrate a few minutes later and saw that Doug was calling me, I figured I better pick up.
“Don’t come home yet” were his first words. As Ratatouille blared loudly in front of me and four-year olds wriggled on the floor around me, I strained to hear Doug and keep Aaron balanced on my lap. “The SWAT Team is here, there are probably thirty police cars outside, and there are officers cocking their rifles beneath our living room window,” Doug continued.
He knew approximately which house they were surrounding around the corner, and we talked for a moment about what might be happening. Because the movie was only half over, I assured him we would stay put.
Our neighbors and good friends from the next block over were also at the movie night, so I quietly slipped Aaron off my lap to go over to where they were sitting and tell them what was going on in case they had any mind to go home anytime soon. We shared that moment of panic over who might be involved; who we knew on our streets to already be in vulnerable situations that could easily have turned violent; how we should pray.
We finished out the movie and I called Doug again. He wasn’t sure I would be able to get to our house. Our street was all taped off, there were now closer to forty cruisers and officers everywhere, and while the helicopter was gone and people had put their AK-47’s away, Doug still did not know what had happened.
It was late so I decided to give it my best shot, and I loaded two tired toddlers and their blankets and pillows into the van and drove the few blocks home. I tried to talk my way through the police tape on Jefferson but to no avail. I ended up having to park around the corner, illegally, right off of Normandie, and walk with Mercy and Aaron through the police tape and the crowds now gathered and mingling out on the streets.
I told Mercy and Aaron in the van that a bad thing had happened and that the police had come to help the people involved, and we prayed together as we drove home. I was so sensitive about how they would perceive arriving home, much later at night then they are typically ever out, and having to walk into such a clearly distressing scene.
We got safely into the house and I got the kids to bed. Meanwhile in our living room, Doug did his best to conclude the meeting of worship leaders that had started in the same moments as the incident on the street unfolded beneath our windows (our good friend pulled into our driveway right as the officers were tearing down our street and jumping out with rifles drawn). It was still a few hours before we could bring our car in and our friends could get their cars out.
It turns out there was a shooting and the shooter (someone we have known our entire six years here, someone who has spent time in our home and been involved with our church) had holed up in his house which was why there was the whole SWAT Team kind of response. His victim lived, praise God, he is in custody, and we are left to deal with the aftermath of something like this: the fear of being out on the street, the possibilities of retaliation, who heard what threats and which rumors about what gangs are true.
What made this all especially difficult was that we were scheduled to hold our Harvest Carnival on the street just around the corner from where this incident occurred. The two groups involved in the conflict essentially border the block where our event would be to the north and to the south, and because of the threats reported, because of the amount of fear felt by many residents, and because of some very strong words from God to us about the event, we decided, after days of praying and processing, that we would not hold the event on that street as planned.
Pretty miraculously, in the last thirty-six hours we have mobilized to close a different city block a few block to the west, and will hold the event as planned but in this different location.
On October 16th, before any of the stuff happened on Raymond, a friend from church sent me the following in an email:
“I have a few friends that intercede for Church of the Redeemer and one of them just emailed me that as she prayed, she had the sense that God wants to work in a new way through this event. She encouraged us to ask God to open our eyes to see what he’s doing, in whom, and how he’s moving anew with the carnival.”
We are praying for eyes to see.