In the last 3 weeks I have been exposed to more stories of violence, assault, and destruction than the whole time I've lived in Long Beach. The truth of it is, I'm just having my eyes opened to what has been here always. Over by the rescue mission on Atlantic last week a 14 yr old boy was jumped and stabbed to death by a group of kids his age. They were in opposing Latino gangs here in the city, fighting about territory and who tagged what...the killer's mom drove him and his friends to do it and they're all on trial for murder now. A while back a guy from church was mugged walking to my friend's apartment. Someone tagged our garage here at my house. One of the cooks at work had his bike stolen right outside of the restaurant last night. A friend in San Diego had his phone and some money stolen, possessions of the church he interns at broken...all by a guy who they are trying to love and welcome into their lives and the church. And then this morning Enrique came into COA. He's usually there really early, but he came in around 6:30am. he had just been held at gunpoint while on his way to come volunteer. Volunteer. because the judge dismissed his case finally, no more community service...just on his way to help and be with friends. so at 5:30 in the morning two guys ask him for a cigarette, and as he's reaching for one to give them they pull out a gun, shove the cold barrel into his side and demand he give them his wallet. He pleads that they just take the money and let him keep his id, his papers...they take it the whole thing and run run off, but not before telling him that if he doesn't look the other way they'll kill him. he kept saying, it's not about they money (although I know $248 is significant for a guy like him), but just that he's glad he's okay and that his permanent residence papers to be in the US are at home. He said he was just waiting for the "pop" of the gun to go off in his side. It made me sick deep in my gut. Physically afraid. it reminded me of a movie where the victim closes their eyes and you hear a gun shot, and realize that some hero has saved the day and the gun that went off was pointed at the killer. Except it's not a movie. Enrique said "God forgive me, I'm gonna go get a little something myself...I don't want to go through that again". please no Jesus! I told him to be careful, told him I was glad he was alive...please don't let him give into fear and violence.
he was held up right outside my friend's house. on the sidewalk, right in front of his door. I've ridden my bike there, I've walked to and from bible study there late at night to my car a block away. I've driven down new streets here in long beach and realized I'm the only white person, that my widows are down and people are coming out of their front doors and I really shouldn't be there...but I leave my window down because I don't want to show fear or offend them in my assumption that they will hurt me. I don't know how to respond to all this. I know if my mom reads this I'll be getting phone calls cautioning me to walk with someone to my car, to lock all my doors, keep my widow up and go buy some mace. No. I want to live here. When Jesus says that whoever loses their life for his sake will save it...I think about it most often as a metaphor for the control I try to maintain in my relationships, finances, future...but i think it's a literal statement. I might die. I might be attacked. Maybe in my neighborhood, maybe on the campus of CSULB, maybe in the middle of Belmont Shores or some other nice neighborhood. And I don't know how to respond to these things. and I am afraid. But perfect love drives out fear. Love is not provoked. it's not reactionary, but springs forth from our faith that there is a King and a kingdom reality that we live in, and our hope for the Kindom's restoration. Love bears all, endures all, hopes in all. Love never fails. Josh Swanson preached yesterday on 1 Corinthians 13. He talked about the persistence of love...Oh God teach us to have compassion and mercy on those who attack us, who disrespect and violate our rights...Love is not concerned with our own rights. To love is not just a willing attitude that given x circumstance I will be willing to lose my life. If I truly love, I've already lost my life.
heal this city Jesus.