Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Tragic Death of Another Young Person


When we moved into our neighborhood six years ago, we knew that we wanted to get involved with the neighborhood youth. We live behind a gas station, so there is always constant activity that requires both prayer and action. Yet, we learned that you cannot expect to earn a young person's trust just because you have good intentions. It took three years of saying hello, asking their names, and just smiling at many who hung out on the corner, before we could ask their opinion as to whether or not they'd be interested in coming to a weekly BBQ at our house during the summer. For the past three years, this has proved to be the highlight of our year - hanging out with 15-40 kids (we've had four year olds come and 21 year olds come) every Thursday night. There's been no agenda...we simply spend time with the kids, offer them food, set up game and art tables, show a movie and shoot a few hoops (they're always surprised that this 35 year old white girl can actually jump). Its been a blessing to us and we've had many of our own stereotypes broken.

I'm feeling reflective and a little somber today though. In three years we have known two young people who have been shot and killed and one street worker who died of AIDS. We attended Jamal's funeral two years ago. He was 19 years old and it was only two months before the birth of his son. Billy Jean died this past summer of AIDS. On Friday morning, I read in the paper that DeChe Morrison, 14 years old, was shot and killed. Our hearts broke. DeChe had come to almost every BBQ. We hired him to mow our lawn a few times when he was trying to earn a few bucks. This past summer he seemed harder and more distant. We had difficulty talking to him, but he still came and brought friends. Now he's gone. The sad thing is that apparently there were friends with him at the time of the shooting, but they left him and didn't call anyone. No one found his body for 14 hours. Then when I called one of the teens we know and asked him if it was truly the DeChe we knew, he agreed without emotion, just said, "People get killed." Dano made the comment to me that when you spend most of your day playing Grand Theft Auto and other violent video games it is no wonder that life loses its value.

We know that there are so many factors - its not just a video game - there is the divorce factor, the lack of father figures factor, the gang factor, the poverty factor, the racism factor - but I'm also convicted of our own tendency to not want to seem like we are about the "truth" factor. When kids hear about a God who does love them, when they see they are not alone because adults show them they are valuable, when someone says hi when they pass them on the street and doesn't turn away because they don't look like them or because they might be a "thug", when they learn there is good and evil and that they have a responsibility to choose the good, rather than being told everything is up for interpretation, when they learn that actions have consequences, then I do believe we will lose less children.

Our little corner of Seattle is just one microcosm of our country. I am devastated that this little corner has known two victims of gang violence in three years - this little corner that is surrounded by many middle and upper class families.

Anna was sick today. I held her so tight today as she was crying and I just prayed for her. I prayed that she and her sister would know that they are loved unconditionally, that they would know truth and be able to stand for truth, that they would love other people, that they would be protected from evil. I do believe in the power of prayer and tonight I will say a prayer for the many children in our city, country and world who long to be prayed for and loved.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jen,

I'm so sorry to hear about this. There really aren't adequate words, are there? I wish I was there to cry with you.

Know that you and Dano and doing amazing things in the lives of those kids. Be encouraged that you are changing lives. The crime rate would probably be higher without you guys constantly telling those kids that they have value.

Please pray for us as we're trying to figure out how God wants us to deliver the same message. The sermon on Sunday was on discipling, and I couldn't stop thinking about your Thursday night BBQ's. I don't have an answer yet, but know God is talking.

Praying for you,

Jen