Earlier this week, I posted “Harmony and Gunfire”, a post in which I shared the blessings of our amazing MLK Day celebration and contrast it had with the gunfire that erupted just a few minutes after we left the community. It was with fear and trembling that I hit the “post” button because there was this little voice asking, “Do you really want people to know that there was gunfire in the community during the daylight hours so close to an event?, What if people don’t come to Hillside anymore because they are afraid?”
On Tuesday night at 7pm, two women were gunned down in Hillside court, one losing her life. Somehow through this tragedy, God has instilled boldness in my spirit. My petty fears over “What people will think?” or “How it will impact Embrace?”, now seem so ridiculous in the midst of the continued insanity that is all around my friends who live in Hillside court. Three weeks into the new year, three shootouts, three dead. It’s time to get over our fear and seek peace in our city! I am thankful the Richmond Times Dispatch actually did a great write up laying out the detail of the murders in this small 440 unit complex.Read article here for a fuller background.
Janie Walker, our Program Director, led our Hillside community in a reflection Tuesday morning with these words from the book of Joshua, chapter 1:1-9
1 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
We spent some time reflecting on this verse and I could not help but do so with the events of Monday’s MLK day fresh on my mind. As I reflected, I felt God was calling my Hillside friends to reclaim their streets much the way God called the Israelites to claim the land he had promised. Dr. King was a Moses-like figure who set his people free from oppressive systems of authority but like the Israelites addressed in the passage above, too many of God’s people are still wondering in the wilderness of poverty and hopelessness.
On Tuesday as the community reflected on the shooting that happened after our MLK Day celebration, I was a bit shocked at the lack of outrage. No one was injured in Monday’s shoot out, but one of our key leaders was actually caught in the street with gunfire erupting all around him. He very easily could have lost his life that day. Instead of anger, I heard lots of people speaking of God’s favor protecting them from harm. Instead of a demand for safety for their children, I heard peace in knowing God is in control. Instead of a call to reclaim what God has given them, I heard a willingness to remain oppressed.
I challenged my Hillside friends to hear in these words a call to be brave and courageous and to reclaim their streets. I realized that if I did not share with the world the realities facing the Hillside community, that I would be doing so out of fear. I also realized that I could not ask the community to stand against the violence while at the same time not expecting the same level of courage from the Body of Christ. Perhaps with even more bloodshed this week, God will use the senseless killing to raise up a Joshua in Hillside court to lead the people out of the current hellish place of fear and into a land of peace, where God’s reign is supreme in the land of Hillside Court.
Perhaps I am naïve to think that we can make a difference in Hillside court. Perhaps I am a fool for even suggesting that we mobilize the residents to stand up against the insanity. Perhaps I am just plumb crazy to think that God’s will for my friends is safe streets not just the faith to endure the violence. However, I think I stand with many others who were called crazy for what they were trying to do. From Dr. King to Christ himself, those who advocate against the status quo are often met with complacency and resistance. My prayer is that in the passage above, someday, my friends both from the community of Hillside and who consider themselves a part of the Body of Christ, will hear God’s call to possess the land. I pray the Body of Christ would walk with these modern day Israelites reminding them that God has not left them nor forsaken them. I pray they believe that “no one will stand against them.” I pray that we would all be “strong and courageous” and that we do not let fear keep us from the promise land.