I walk around my neighborhood and all the terrible things flow back into my mind. I can’t get them out, they are there, images scarred across my imagination. I lived next to it all but witnessed none of it, just the aftermath of sin at its worst.
I walk by the pool in the middle of the complex and remember when the kid drowned—he wasn’t even three years old yet—and the community put flowers and candles and teddy bears next to the pool and we had our students write letters and give gifts to the family. He walked out when nobody was watching.
I remember the blood smeared on the street near the wall in the back of somebody who got stabbed and took his last breath. People got upset and things got violent.
I see the caution tape spread wide around the community as the cops look for someone who had just shot another person. The kids were walking home from school when they were looking for him. We had to cancel program and so instead we walked around outside to talk to people. My brother talked to the guy a little later and he said he just got shot out of nowhere, didn’t know why, just walked outside his apartment and they shot him in the arm.
The yelling coming from the apartments at night as a walk around and pray, I can still hear the yelling. I wonder what life must be like for families who live in a world that is so loud. It is so good for our kids to experience some quiet time—even if it is just for a moment.
The helicopters still buzz overhead as I look over and see one of our program kid’s families talking to the cops, as thirteen cop cars drive down the street. My brother talked to the mom after. It was an incident with her oldest son.
And the wall that they rebuilt but you can still tell where it was torn down. On the night where someone fired 30 rounds from an AR-15 into a moving vehicle.It crashed through a wall and went into the canal. People died. They were so young. After that, cops were everywhere patrolling our neighborhood. If there is one thing that scares people, it’s that. After a few weeks or so things died down, some of our families decided that was the last straw and moved out. And my team stayed.
And there are countless other stories to tell, all are hard and occur all too frequently.
We experience life and Jesus heals us. Jesus is still healing me from my experiences, and He can heal our families too. I know when we lean into Him, He gives us peace and rest beyond our understanding.
It is easy to characterize these neighborhoods by violence, especially when you are living there. What I saw was that for every act of violence, there were plenty more acts of beauty and grace. People came together and cared in ways I never would have thought would happen. I think my view was so small becauseI was blind to what was there. I learned how to deal with trauma from some of my neighborhoods and I learned how to pray more deeply and how to love and care more fully. When I tell these stories, I want the world to see all the bad and the good in truth and all the extremes and everything in between. I want people to know there are bad things that happen in Fresno and that we can create change when we step in to help. On the flip side, I want people to know that my community has changed me probably more than I changed them, and maybe we are the ones that need to change as well. It was me who needed to change, and God provided all the means to do it.
God, heal our communities, heal me, we all want to see a different world than we see now.